09/26/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

School of Rock: Brainiacs Moonlighting as Rock Stars

My daughter is getting nervous about going back to school. She's starting third grade and the (self-inflicted) pressure is on. She's determined to be a scientist, astronaut, or rock star. I tell her she can do all three if she wants. That's my job as a dad. But in reality, the astronaut thing is unlikely to pan out. She gets freaked out flying in airplanes.

The rock star plan is probably her best. She has all the makings of one: refuses to take direction, likes being the center of attention, and thinks she has all the answers. Plus, she's got a good voice and plays a mean piano. If I wasn't so afraid of being pegged as a Joe Jackson figure, I'd start giving her dance lessons.  She'll have to settle for playing the recorder in music class. What's up with the recorder, anyway? Does anyone play the recorder once they're finished with elementary school music class? Does anyone even have music classes to attend anymore?

But I digress...

In honor of my beautifully musical, brainiac daughter and all the other folks going back to school, here are some of the smartest musicians in the room. Brainiacs and teachers posing as musicians are proof that brains and beats are not mutually exclusive. And further evidence that it's good to have a back up plan -- like being a scientist or astronaut.


Mr. Sumner spent two years as a teacher while waiting to become Sting. By his own account, he left children behind. "I just was in hell when I was teaching. I inspired the kids only by teaching them what I liked and what I was inspired by and enjoyed -- that was basically soccer and poetry. The rest of it I couldn't teach."


Sheryl Crow

Another teacher. However, Ms. Crow taught music so we presume she was more committed than Sting. She was also a serious over-achiever in school. Her list of high school accomplishments includes Pep Club, the National Honor Society, and the Future Farmers of America.


Rivers Cuomo

Cuomo enrolled in Harvard in 1995 because he thought he was "wasting his brain." It took him eleven years to graduate -- the Weezer albums and tours kept getting in the way. He finally graduated in 2006 Phi Beta Kappa. Cuomo took a vow of celibacy during his last two years and made it the subject of an English class essay called "A Mad and Furious Master." No word what grade he got.


Art Garfunkel

There's a reason for Art Garfunkel's oddly shaped hair. It hides a very big brain. Aside from being Paul Simon's taller half, Garfunkel is a seriously smart dude. He holds a master's degree in mathematics and had read over 1000 books. If you're in doubt, visit his website. He lists every book he's read since 1968. A sample from 2007:  "Maimonides: A Guide for Today's Perplexed" by Kenneth Seeskin.


Gene Simmons

It's well known that the KISS mastermind is a smart businessman. What's less known is his commitment to education. Simmons taught elementary school in Spanish Harlem while moonlighting in his band, Wicked Lester. Plus, the man with the golden tongue uses it to speak four languages: English, Hungarian, Hebrew, and German.