Rock musicians with musical education.


I just want to know if anyone surfed through biographies of their favorite rock bands and found out that one or few members of the band have their higher musical degree.

I know a few Irmin Schmidt(CAN) Stockhousen graduate as a conductor. Main instrument is piano. Plays any kind of musical instrument.
Holger Czukay(CAN) Stockhousen graduate. Main instrument is Horn. Also plays mainly on all instruments.

There are the rock bands that I assume that they have such musicians among but I might mistake: ELP, Jethro Tull.

Share what you know.
848a036e efd3 4d69 a7de 31c247c14aadmarakanetz
I recently learned thet Billy Powell of Lynyrd Skynyrd (pianist) was trained in classical music. Don't know if that means he has a degree or not. Actually I am more impressed with musicians who have little or no formal musical education. These are the ones with natural talent. I've seen some formally trained musicians who do everything right in theory and turn out music with no soul or character. I am not against higher education. I think one should get as much as possible however I also realize that the institutions of higher education are a branch in the tree of education.
The documentary "Goodbye Cream" includes an interview with Jack Bruce in which he tells of being a conservatory student, studying cello and composing. He really wanted to be a composer, but his instructors (apparently less impressed with his talent in this area than he was) kept insisting that he should concentrate on the cello. Eventually he dropped out, and took up the electric bass.
Steve Morris a guitar player who founded the Dixie Dregs with a classmate and has played with Kansas and now Deep Purple has a degree in jazz performance.
College/University educted rockers used to be the norm.

KP
Gary Brooker (PROCOL HARUM), Nick Drake....
I heard a story once that Robbie Robertson from the Band was classically trained and, to avoid parental disappointment, required Danko and other members of the Band to initially pay him a nominal fee so he could claim with a straight face that he was providing "music lessons" rather than being a rock and roller. Don't know if its true, but its an amusing anecdote if it is.
Reminds me of the old joke.

How do you get a rock musician to stop playing?

Ans: Put sheet music in front of him.

Cheers,
I remain
Post removed 
Here is a quick short list....

Kenny Aronoff - Drummer for John Mellencamp, Smashing Pumpkins and the who's who session drummer....graduated BM Univ. Indiana.

Aimee Mann - Berklee College of Music, Boston

Elliot Easton - The Cars (guitarist) Berklee College of Music.

Gregg Bissonette (Drums) -Santana, Toto, Andy Summers,, Tab Benoit, David Lee Roth, and many, many more....Graduate North Texas State University.

Vinnie Colaiuta (Drums)- Sting, Zappa, Joni Mitchell, Robben Ford, Chick Corea and just about any artist you can think of.....Berklee College of Music.

Gordon Summnoner...aka Sting....remember he was an engligh teacher before he formed The Police.

Steve Smith (Drums) - Journey, Vital Information, Jean Luc Pontey, Bryan Adams, Larry Coryell...Berklee College of Music.
maybe I should learn how to spell ENGLISH....sorry.
Marakanetz actually asked for musicians whom studied music rather than went to university in general.
In terms of general education the list is rather large,Queen being arguably the most qualified band in the history of rock.
A list of musicians who went to Art college is probably longer than those who studied music.
In terms of studying music I can't think of any who weren't mentioned outside the obvious ones Jean Michel Jarre,Rick Wakeman and Elton John,I'm sure keyboard players are the most common.
However it is not a subject I claim to be an expert on.
What was common in England post-war amongst the middle and upper classes was a general education which involved musical studies either part-time and/or in their leisure time.The post-Elvis and then post-Beatles boom were full of such individuals-Procol Harum,Genesis etc.
Nick Drake one of my favourite artists came from such a background but did NOT study music rather English at Cambridge University.
Thanks for great follow-ups! I belive that Keith Emerson also majored in music studies. Believe it or not Rock musicians also played sheet music while studying and training.
The musicians I mentioned w/ the exception of Sting all went to University to study music...bothe Kenny Aronoff and Gregg Bissonette graduated with degrees in music.
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Still garbage music .
Most of the Rock   guitar gods had little or no formal training.

Beck, Clapton, Hendrix, Page....

While they incorporated formal "rules/techniques" in their playing, it was their ears/soul driving them to greatness.
C.C. Deviile / Poison (I know)  studied at Juilliard.
Fairly impressive
Schubert you mean classical. Right? Nothing worse.
If Schubert don't like it, it's garbage, end of story. Better start throwing out my music collection.... 
A great many musicians and bands among all the various subgenres of prog (avant-prog, Zeuhl, prog-metal, etc) have conservatory musical training.

Rick Wakeman of YES was a student at the Royal Academy of Music, but left to go into rock.

Christian Vander, leader and drummer extraordinaire of French band, Magma, was a classically trained percussionist.

Jazz-fusion violinist, Jean Luc Ponty was classically trained. As is Herbie Hancock.

The original members of Dream Theater all met while students at Berklee School of Music.

Many Italian prog bands are loaded with classically trained musicians. The Nocenzi brothers on keys, from the band Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, violinist from band PFM, violinist with band Deus Machina, leader and keyboardist from Il Balletto di Bronzo, Giani Leoni, just to name a very few.

I could go on. But out of all genres that loosely fall within rock, the avant-prog subgenre easily has the most classically trained musicians. The music in this subgenre tends to be so complex, that it really needs some extremely high level of musicianship in order to play.

The Belgian avant-prog band, Aranis, has 7 members, at least 5 of which are grads from top classical conservatories.

Same with the US band, Thinking Plague, Belgian band, Univers Zero, French band, Art Zoyd, Italian band, Yugen. All have several members with music training and degrees.
   Billy Joel was not one of my favorites back in the day, but then a friend of mine played a CD of piano music that BJ wrote. More impressed with that than anything that I ever heard him play before. I guess it would be in the classical genre. what a difference from what I heard on the radio.
@edesilva: It was actually Garth Hudson---The Band's organist---who was allowed by his parents to join under the cover story that he was providing the other members with musical education for $10/wk each. Garth was playing Classical music in a relative's funeral parlor (! ;-) while the other members were already playing in bars.

Band bassist Rick Danko said when Garth joined The Band he asked Rick if he knew his scales (he didn't). Rick says learning them was the best advice he was ever given. Garth was not a Rock 'n' Roller, but a listener and lover of Jazz and R & B, pianist Bill Evans and Ray Charles particular favorites. To call a superior Rock 'n' Roll band like The Band makers of "garbage" music is not only a display of extreme ignorance, but also of smug superiority, a constant with the utterer of that statement.  
simonmoon, thank you for your mention of “Aranis”. Excellent band new to me. Great musicianship in this very interesting brand of chamber/prog with nods to Piazzola and Glass and some humor for good measure. For anyone interested:

https://youtu.be/NSIFpi4fBQc

https://youtu.be/mJzrFbdthyg
Berklee in Boston has a huge list including John Mayer, St Vincent, Joey Kramer, Aimee Mann, Susan Tedeschi and many more, Google Berklee alumni.

Not clear to me whether OP is suggesting a university degree is a "better" approach to musical education or whether more "complex" (Prog, Fusion) forms of Rock are "superior" to simpler forms. "Musical education" need not be in a classroom environment. 

I've seen interviews with Jazz masters who've lamented that the university path is inferior to the old "apprenticeship" approach, where younger players learned by playing night after night on stage with more seasoned players. 

Clapton's musical education consisted largely of spending untold hours with a guitar and record player, going over and over solos by Chicago and Texas blues masters, laboriously learning their licks, note by note. In his case, given his interests, this was an excellent approach.  

The level of technique in guitar-playing has come a long way. For my tastes, this has not necessarily been a plus. I'd rather listen to someone who actually has something to say play three notes than sit through blizzards of notes by someone who possesses great technical facility but has not learned how to translate their life experience into something universal.

Chops and sophisticated theoretical knowledge are great, in the hands of an artist!

To my ears, the rise of guitar schools has resulted in a surfeit of hot-shot fretmeisters who haven't a clue about art. Needless to say, each to his/her own.  

 

 

 

 

 

... not that young hot-shots can't mature into fine artists... Ritchie Kotzen's a terrific example. Check out his Live in Japan live video on youtube. The chops are now in the service of something much greater. 

There is always the school of hard knocks.

The school of hard knocks will always be relevant.  Actual performance experience is necessary no matter how much innate talent a musician has.  Having said that, while it has become almost "in vogue" to suggest that a formal music education somehow diminishes a player's potential, even a liability, as a true artist nothing could be further from the truth.  Of course, there have been great players who, for a variety of reasons, became successful and reached a level that can rightfully be called artistic without attending a conservatory, a formal education can add immeasurably to a player's potential.  Also, keep in mind that a "formal" education can be pursued without attending a conservatory.  Many great players have studied privately and extensively outside of a "school" setting.  

Since mention has been made of Jazz guitarists, guess what all of the following have in common?  All attended music conservatory.  A small sampling:

Pat Metheny

Jim Hall

Stanley Jordan

Ben Munder

Emily Remler

Bill Frisell

John Scofield

Kenny Burrell

Herb Ellis

Kurt Rosenwinkel

Mike Stern

Al DiMeola

Julian Lage

Larry Corryel

John Abercrombie

Peter Bernstein

Larry Carlton

 

 

 


 

 

 

Schooling can help one develop one’s inate talent, and understanding theory---however learned---can help make a better musician. But remember, Danny Gatton was completely self-taught, as is Ry Cooder. Of course there aren’t many Gattons and Cooders walking around.

Musical taste is a whole ’nother matter. Learning what NOT to play is just as important as learning what TO play. I’ve heard a lot of technically advanced players whom I don’t consider very musical.

To hear the member of a Rock Band who possesses and displays a very deep musical education, listen to Garth Hudson’s extended opening in The Band’s live performances of "Chest Fever" (referred to as "The Genetic Method"). Classical, Jazz, R & B, Blues, Hillbilly, Pop--he knows it all.

Old musician joke: "Do you read (music?)". "Yeah, but not enough to hurt my playing."

Now, name any formally-educated songwriter you care to cite, and compare his or her compostions with those of, say, Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, or John Lennon. Whose songs do you prefer? Education cannot transform modest talent into genius. Studying J.S. Bach's compositions will help one understand them, but not necessarily how to write like he.

All that you write is true, but there is much more to it all than that. Of course, technical ability does not necessarily mean good taste. HOWEVER, extraordinary technical ability opens many doors (musical possibilities) to the player with innate, or developing good taste/musicality. There’s no getting around that. A very innately musical player with limited technical ability may be able to make great use of that limited technical ability in great service to the music, but he will still be.......limited; and, eventually those limitations will be obvious if he ventures outside of his musical comfort zone.

One of the other things to consider in all this is that the genre in question comes into play. This is obviously not at all a comment on or criticism of one genre vs another, but let’s get real. Grasp of advanced harmonic theory, for instance, which is something that requires serious study (formal or otherwise) is not required for the vast majority of Pop and R&R music. Likewise, the kind of incredible technical command necessary for much Classical, particularly modern Classical, and much of Jazz is simply not required for other genres. A Rock drummer may have a fantastic pocket, but most will fall apart playing a Don Ellis chart.

Control, finesse and good taste are not genre specific and are hallmarks of good musicianship regardless of genre. Add tasteful use of a boundless technique to the mix and you have something really special.

As I see it, it is really pointless to insinuate that great chops are anything but a plus for a musician and lack of it is sometimes becomes an excuse for one’s limitations.

**** Now, name any formally-educated songwriter you care to cite, and compare his or her compostions with those of, say, Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, or John Lennon. Whose songs do you prefer?.... ****

Since we are mixing genres, just one of several that come to mind:

George Gershwin

**** Education cannot transform modest talent into genius.... ****

Absolutely true, but it can and has elevated modest talent to, if not genius, much higher levels than what some considered "modest" at one time in that musician’s career. Many established and revered players considered John Coltrane a hack early in his career.

**** Studying J.S. Bach’s compositions will help one understand them, but not necessarily how to write like he ****

True....mostly. If, of course, one thinks Bach was the greatest composer to ever live. A subjective call. Moreover, if one considers the inevitable stylistic evolution of the genre it becomes difficult to make that call. Perhaps not quite on the same exalted level of the Baroque style as Bach himself, but most of the great composers that followed Bach studied his works extensively and part of their training (formal or otherwise) was precisely to compose works in the style of Bach. Mozart, who I think most would agree was also a genius, studied privately with Bach himself. Genius and all, one has to wonder what Mozart’s music would be like had there been no Bach. By the same token, Bach studied the works of composers that predated such as Telemann and Palestrina very diligently.

We tend to like to put the answers to these questions into neat and tidy boxes. They are usually anything but.

My overall feeling about this, but this may be pejudiced by the types of music I listen to, is that, an advanced musical education, in both technique and theory, is much more likely to help, rather than harm the resulting music.

If a musician or composer has a greater knowledge of tehcnique and theory, they have more language to call upon in order to help them convey the emotiaonal and/or intellectual content they want.

I am defienitely not a follower of the old addage, "2 chords and the truth" as it is applied to country and blues.

I love complexity and high levels of musicianship in the various genres of music I listen to. And, the resulting emotional and intellectual experience they bring about.

@frogman: You make a good case, with which I agree wholeheartedly. The only genius I’ve known majored in music in college, got his masters in education, and spent his final years (he died from a heart attack at only 55 years of age) recording Bach works at home. When I was recording with him in the 70’s, the only Pop music/writers/musicians he was interested in/liked were Brian Wilson, Randy Newman, Dylan, and The Band. Talent (a great songwriter, he decided not to persue a career in music), education, and taste, the trifecta.

@simonmoon: Actually, it’s three chords ;-) . And in especially good songs, a bridge (middle 8 in England) adds a couple/few more

@frogman: 

"As I see it, it is really pointless to insinuate that great chops are anything but a plus for a musician". 

 I'd never agree with the notion that technical facility/theory are "detrimental" but if you are suggesting that acquiring these faculties somehow guarantees one will have something worthwhile to communicate or know how to communicate it tastefully, then we profoundly disagree. 

 

@simonmoon:

"I love complexity and high levels of musicianship in the various genres of music I listen to. And, the resulting emotional and intellectual experience they bring about"

This illustrates the degree to which personal taste enters into discussion of this topic. While complexity brings YOU a particular emotional and intellectual experience, surely you realize complexity may not have the same impact upon others, who may indeed prioritize very different "results". 

I am no dummy but personally, I do not want to be "in my head" when listening to music. I want to be emotionally and physically engaged. Different strokes for different folks...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

stuartk, thanks for responding to what I wrote. Please tell me exactly what it was I wrote that might give that impression. I wrote nothing remotely like that. What you quote doesn’t suggest that in the least in the context of the totality of what I wrote.

Kenny Aronoff (best known as John Mellencamp’s drummer in the 80’s-90’s) is a very well educated and trained musician (check his history on wikipedia if interested), yet is imo a very boring drummer. "Stock" parts, nothing special. Springsteen’s drummer Max Weinberg reads music (required to play in a Broadway pit band as he did prior to being hired by Bruce), yet is a complete bore. Very pedestrian, no imagination, no identifiable style or personality.

Band drummer Levon Helm was completely self-taught, but learned the 13 basic rudiments (the equivalent of tuned instrument scales). That enabled him to play a press roll---about my favorite type of drum "fill", as employed to great effect in "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". Roger Hawkins (Muscle Shoals drummer, heard in all the great Atlantic Records albums produced by Jerry Wexler---Aretha, Wilson Pickett, etc., as well as in Paul Simon’s "Kodachrome"---a killer drum part, and Box Scaggs "Loan Me A Dime") played as good a press roll as I’ve ever heard (as good as Buddy Rich).

Ringo Starr was (and remains) unable to play the press roll, never having learned the rudiments. That restricted his ability to progress technically, but he’s done "okay" in spite of it ;-) . The Beatles may not have sounded as good if they had a technically better drummer. His creativity and imagination served he, they, and their music well.

Lake Street Dive was formed iat the New England Conservatory of Music. They're gifted but don't take themselves too seriously. Cheers,

Spencer

I've heard too many virtuoso musicians who couldn't come up with a memorable tune to save their lives. I would always rather hear a good song than somebody showing off how 'great' they are on their instrument. 

I think some of you miss the point. No one has claimed that being a virtuoso guarantees that they will produce memorable music. The point is simply that having a larger, more diverse musical arsenal opens up a lot more musical possibilities to the player and can elevate the playing of a tasteful player to a higher level. That is a simple reality.

On the subject of "complexity" in a musician’s playing, or in music in general. Open minded listeners who like a "simpler" style should consider that SOMETIMES it is simply a personal preference for that particular style, or can be a negative reaction to a style that is outside his/her comfort zone as a listener and not necessarily a reflection of the player’s talent; or depth of the music in absolute terms.  It is usually a good idea as a listener to keep an open mind toward expanding that comfort zone; just as it is for musicians.

I think some of you miss the point. No one has claimed that being a virtuoso guarantees that they will produce memorable music. The point is simply that having a larger, more diverse musical arsenal opens up a lot more musical possibilities to the player and can elevate the playing of a tasteful player to a higher level. That is a simple reality.

On the subject of "complexity" in a musician’s playing, or in music in general. Open minded listeners who like a "simpler" style should consider that SOMETIMES it is simply a personal preference for that particular style, or can be a negative reaction to a style that is outside his/her comfort zone as a listener and not necessarily a reflection of the player’s talent; or depth of the music in absolute terms.  It is usually a good idea as a listener to keep an open mind toward expanding that comfort zone; just as it is for musicians.

 

This sounds almost exactly like something I would have written.

Who gave you permission to root around in my brain?

Here's the thing, at least with respect to pop/rock music.  Music school can teach you certain stuff, like about playing your instrument and arranging.  But it can't teach creativity and inspiration.  The ones that have that, don't need music school (or leave it early), and the ones that don't, won't gain it, in a meaningful way, from music school.  The weakest part of music school is songwriting, always.  

There are plenty of songwriters who incorporate "sophisticated" musical elements into their compositions (e.g.,Paul Simon, Brian Wilson, Lennon/McCarthy, the Steely Dan guys) and plenty who use simpler elements to make music of the highest caliber (e.g., Dylan, Springsteen, Taylor Swift).  None of them had anything to do with music school.

 

**** Who gave you permission to root around in my brain? ****
😊