Famous guitar players who have college degrees

Not every professional musician has a college degree. There’s even a bit of a stereotype that most rock stars are high school or college dropouts – which is true of guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Eric Clapton. However, plenty of successful musicians did go the academic route! 

Here are some famous guitar players with college degrees: 


Thom Yorke 

“Thom Yorke of Radiohead” by angela n. is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke originally wanted to attend Oxford University, but said that he wasn’t even able to apply because he was “too thick”. Instead, he studied English literature and fine arts at the University of Exeter, graduating in 1991 with most of the other members of On a Friday, which became Radiohead when they signed to EMI.


Dexter Holland 

“File:Dexter Holland – 2009.jpg” by opethpainter is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, and founding member of The Offspring, Bryan Keith “Dexter” Holland has a Ph.D in molecular biology from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. Education was always a passion of Holland’s – he said he found math “just as exciting as punk rock” in high school, and even got his nickname “Dexter” due to his academic skills. 


Brian May 

“File:Brian-May with red special.jpg” by Eddie Mallin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Queen guitarist Brian May is a certified star expert. He earned his Ph.D in astrophysics from Imperial College London in 2007. He held the position of chancellor with Liverpool John Moores University from 2008 to 2013 and was a science team collaborator with NASA’s New Horizons Pluto mission. He’s one of the co-founders of Asteroid Day, and has the asteroid 52665 Brianmay named after him.


Tom Morello

“Tom-morello” by Adriangregori is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello said he practiced guitar “six to eight hours a day” while attending Harvard University. He graduated in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in social studies. In college, he played in a band called “Bored of Education” which won Harvard’s Battle of the Band competition in 1986. Chemist Carolyn Bertozzi, laureate of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, was his bandmate in that group.


Tom Scholz

"File:TomScholz.JPG" by Weatherman90 at English Wikipedia is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Boston’s remaining original member, Tom Scholz, is an MIT-trained engineer who built out his own recording studio. He was 21 when he started learning guitar, a skill he originally thought would just be a hobby. But while working as an engineer at Polaroid, Scholz worked on original music that eventually resulted in a record deal. 


Sheryl Crow

“Sheryl Crow at the Midwestern 3” by Cliff 1066 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Sheryl Crow got her Bachelor of Science degree in music education from the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1984. After graduating, she worked as an elementary school music teacher, singing in bands on the weekends. 


Rivers Cuomo

“Rivers Cuomo” by Rickmunroe01 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo attended Santa Monica College and enrolled at Harvard after the success of the band’s debut album, the Blue Album (1994). He had to drop out after recording Pinkerton (1996), but re-enrolled and graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. 



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