8 Musicians You Didn’t Know Attended Ivy League Colleges

There are musicians out there who have been maniacs with the hooks and brainiacs with the books. Before they were rocking stages, they were rocking semesters at some of the country’s most prestigious institutions. Harvard, Columbia, and Cornell: their halls have laid witness to several stars in the making. Here are 8 musicians you may not have known who received an Ivy League education.

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1. Huey Lewis, Cornell University

One smart cookie, new wave rocker Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News was a stellar student. According to SFGate.com, he not only skipped a grade in elementary school, but he also scored a perfect 800 on his math SATs. Lewis was accepted into the engineering program at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He dropped out before earning his degree but went on to make some pretty brainy music.

2. John Legend, University of Pennsylvania

Pop-soul artist John Legend is another Ivy Leaguer. Like Lewis, he skipped a grade … and then another during his grade school years. He entered high school at age 12 and would be bound for the private University of Pennsylvania four years later. He turned down acceptance to Harvard University and Georgetown University in the process.

“I always wanted to go to an Ivy League-caliber school to do the best I could,” Legend told USA Today, “And I loved Philadelphia.”

3. Vampire Weekend, Columbia University

The members who formed Vampire Weekend—frontman Ezra Koenig, multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij, drummer Chris Tomson, and bassist Chris Baio—all met as undergrad students at Columbia University. The band of brainiacs reportedly performed their first show in the university’s student center.

4. Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, Harvard University

Did you know guitar god Tom Morello has Harvard ties? The Rage Against the Machine member graduated from the prestigious university with a Bachelor of Arts degree in social studies. During his time in those hallowed halls, he along with his band, Bored Of Education, won the Ivy League Battle of the Bands, according to his Twitter.

5. Lauryn Hill, Columbia University

Singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill attended Columbia University for about a year before her sophomore album with the Fugees, The Score, took off and she left to pursue her music career. She would go on to release the acclaimed The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill a few years later, but the title of her solo debut was not a dig at the institution.

“It’s supposed to throw people off,” she told Rolling Stone in a 1998 Q&A. “It’s not anything that my teachers should take offense to, because it’s not really about me being miseducated. It’s more about me finding myself. I think we receive lots of information that’s supposed to be good for everyone, but we’re all unique.”

6. Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Harvard University

Another Harvard alum, Weezer’s frontman Rivers Cuomo had an on-and-off relationship with the university. The artist took a break from music after the success of the band’s 1994 self-titled debut to attend the institution. He would drop out to record Weezer’s 1996 sophomore album, Pinkerton, but would eventually return to graduate in 2006.

7. Art Garfunkel, Columbia University

Another Columbia alum was Art Garfunkel, one half of the legendary folk duo Simon & Garfunkel. One for extracurriculars, his website said he participated in tennis, skiing, fencing, and bowling for the school.

According to The Guardian, he earned a degree in art history and went on to get a master’s degree in mathematics education from the same institution. He also worked toward his doctorate degree but dropped out as it was at Simon & Garfunkel’s peak.

8. Alicia Keys, Columbia University

Alicia Keys was another of Columbia’s stars. The pop pianist graduated from high school as valedictorian at the age of 16 with a record deal from Columbia Records and a scholarship to Columbia University in hand.

“I remember feeling like it was this sign, I mean, this was IT, how could it get any more perfect?” she told The Guardian of that time. The perfection, however, soon shifted for the artist. “I was coming in from the studio at four in the morning and getting up at eight to try and do my homework on the train into my classes—no way,” she explained to the outlet. “I was the worst student ever at that point in my life, and I was so stressed.” She would leave the university after a month to pursue her dreams.

Photo by Ollie Millington/Redferns

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