back to start
Steve Von Till
Steve Von Till helped create one of metal's most sonically dense, emotionally impactful and musically important sounds with Neurosis, and as a solo artist, the Bay Area-born, Idaho based mountain man writes songs that are sparse, bleak and at times suffocatingly dark. You'd be surprised, then, to pour through the YouTube comments on his songs and find young kids endearingly talking about Mr. Von Till, their fourth grade teacher. Unsurprisingly, he's an inspiration: On "Breathe," a YouTuber writes how his influence on his 9-year-old daughter inspired her to write her own music.
Peaches' big break was a song called "Fuck the Pain Away" off an album with tracks called "Lovertits" and "Diddle My Skittle," so we'll forgive you for not thinking of her as an educator. But she was: Before adopting her alias, the teaches of Peaches, or Merrill Beth Nisker, was music and drama classes at Toronto's largest private Hebrew schools. Imagine doing trust exercises or choir practices only to grow up and see this video on the Wedge?
Gene Simmons is a slimy, grease covered bad man who made his legacy as a shock rocker with a fake tongue, but long before he was money grubbing in KISS the Israeli-born bassist was lording over kids as an elementary school teacher. Unsurprisingly, Simmons says the experiment didn't last long. Even though he went through college to get an educator's degree, he only taught for about six months in a school in New York's Spanish Harlem. CNN says that he used to replace Shakespeare books with Spider-Man comics, which sounds awesome, but in an old newspaper interview published in 1978 he admitted that he only got into teaching because he wanted people to notice him. "I had to quit because the stage was too small," he admitted. "Forty people wasn't enough, I wanted 40,000."
One listen to Bad Religion and you'll realize that Greg Graffin's a smart dude. Hell, his lyrics alone had a hand in beefing up my vocabulary. And maybe you've heard about his Ph.D, but his scholarly pursuits are more than just a way to kill time between record cycles. He has a master's degree in Geology, and earned his Ph.D in zoology with a dissertation on evolutionary biology, monism and atheism. He's lectured in palaeontology, evolution, and taught entire courses at Cornell and UCLA. Hell, he even had a TV pilot called, and we're serious, Punk Professor.
8 musicians you might not know are teachers
After decades of moulding hearts as an emo-demigod, Blake Schwarzenbach stepped back from life in Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil to shape minds instead. Himself an English lit and creative writing graduate, Schwarzenbach teaches in the English department at Hunter College in New York. If since-deleted reviews of his teaching style are to believed, he was hit or miss, but mostly just always late to class.
Simon and Garfunkel
Yes, both of them. Art Garfunkel is an infamous math geek who kept his teaching job at a prep school in Connecticut right until "Bridge Over Troubled Water" hit the charts. Paul Simon, whose mother Belle was an elementary school teacher, followed in his footsteps as a songwriting teacher at NYU in 1970.
Before he had you swooning with Dashboard Confessional, Further Seems Forever singer Chris Carrabba was cutting his teeth as a special education teacher. After resolving that he'd never make it as a skateboarder Carrabba was a special education teacher, apparently writing songs on his acoustic guitar between classes. Talking to People Magazine, Carrabba says that was a life he was content to keep living. "I didn't think I'd have a band," he said. "I thought I'd just sit at a piano and entertain my friends in the living room or something."
John Haughm is often considered to be Agalloch's literary mind, and lyrically speaking, that's true. But standing by his side in the iconic Oregonian folk-metal troupe is Don Anderson, an English Ph.D who, after spending time at the University of Washington, is a tenured professor in New York. He fell into teaching when he realized he wasn't interested in pursuing an academic career in music, and says he teaches writing, philosophy, film and literature to help facilitate students' entry into "the complex problems of our world." Sounds like a curriculum we can get behind.
Imagine this: You’re 19, stoked for your first day at university and you spot a familiar name on your timetable. “There’s no way that guy from Bad Religion’s my geology teacher, is there?” you’d say to nobody in particular (because you haven’t made friends yet, unfortunately).
But it’s true: Greg Graffin, punk rock dad and verbose Warped Tour pacifist leads a double life as an evolutionary zoologist with an affinity for, like, rocks or whatever. He’s not alone, either: brooding metal innovator Steve Von Till is a 4th grade teacher in Idaho, and emo-innovator Blake Schwarzenbach helps teach at a New York university. It gets weirder from there: Gene Simmons went to teachers college, both Simon and Garfunkle have taught in New York and heartthrob Chris Carrabba used to croon between the Special Education classes he taught.
Our list isn’t the most comprehensive. It’s not supposed to be. Instead, we wanted to pick out some names that might surprise you. Sure, you might have heard that Sting used to teach at a religious school in England. But did you know Agalloch’s guitarist is a tenured lit professor? Now you do.