When it comes to the eclectic tunes of folk-pop, it’s impossible to overlook the formidable Maggie Rogers. A Grammy nominee with over million listeners on Spotify, Rogers has established herself as one of the most innovative new singer-songwriters working today, bringing forth a sound that blends two genres that, in theory, shouldn’t work, but do.
Before that, though, she was a university student with a dream to share her music with the world. Her big break came in the form of a 2016 NYU masterclass, in which she had the opportunity to showcase her song ‘Alaska’ to Pharell Williams, leaving him visibly speechless. The video of their encounter went viral that summer, pushing her into the spotlight at 22 years old.
Maggie Rogers: From student to Grammy nominee
Since then, she’s released a debut album that has been positively regarded by critics, performed at various festivals including Coachella and the Glastonbury Festival, opened for pop band HAIM and singer Kacey Musgraves, and headlined her own world tour — and no signs point towards her slowing down. She’s set to release her second album, “Surrender”, later this year.
In the meantime, she’s continuing to challenge herself academically as a graduate student at Harvard.
Here’s a look into the schools that made Maggie Rogers, and how education has shaped her musical journey to success.
Berklee College of Music
Maggie Rogers’ roots, when compared to some of the most successful artists out there today, are distinctly unconventional. She had a deep love for classical music and later, folk songs, learning to play the harp, piano, guitar, and banjo.
This led her to enrol in a summer programme at Berklee College of Music. Based in Boston, Massachusetts and with additional campuses in New York City and Valencia, Spain, Berklee is the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. It’s consistently ranked among the top institutions to study the performing arts, placing among the top 10 globally by respected publications such as Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, and Forbes.
Berklee offers a range of programmes across undergraduate and postgraduate levels that focus on all aspects of performance, including dance, music, and theatre. Its Bachelor of Music programme, for example, is offered in 14 majors, covering a wide range of industry areas from performance and composition to entrepreneurship and production. The range of innovative courses has created some of the most notable names in music, from John Mayer to Alan Silvestri.
The college offers a number of specialised summer programmes that run for as short as two days to weeks-long sessions. Rogers participated in a five-week programme, where she took part in a songwriting contest that she eventually won. “That gave me a boost of confidence to start writing more,” she said of her experience.
Maggie Rogers is currently a graduate student at the prestigious Harvard Divinity School. Source: Noam Galai/AFP
New York University
Following her stint at Berklee, Rogers knew she wanted to pursue an education in music and worked tirelessly toward that goal. “My senior I turned a broom closet into a little recording booth and recorded an album,” she recalls.
She sent the early drafts of that album to the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University. As the first and only school to offer a programme bridging professional business and artistic training towards a BFA in Recorded Music, Clive aims to equip students with the skills they need to succeed in the global music industry. This extends to studies of current music phenomenona, including the likes of Taylor Swift.
More than that, Clive’s holistic curriculum encompasses musicianship and performance, liberal arts, music production, and writing, history, and emergent media. It places a special emphasis on experiential learning, offering a study abroad option for its students. Rogers has frequently cited her study abroad experience in Berlin that introduced her to another genre — “it changed everything,” she told Rolling Stone.
Interspersed between this are regular workshops with visiting guest artists, many of whom are prominent in the music scene. This is how Rogers eventually met and showcased her music to Williams. “We got word that there would be a masterclass, which isn’t abnormal,” Rogers said of the career-defining moment. “Everyone from the Advanced Production course was invited to submit songs, and so I turned mine in.”
studying the spirituality of public gatherings and the ethics of power in pop culture
and yes, music is coming 🕊
— Maggie Rogers (@maggierogers) September 15, 2021
Maggie Rogers has been noticeably silent since her last album release, but for good reason: she’s currently a graduate student at Harvard University.
Harvard needs no introduction. For years, it’s kept its place among the top three universities in the world; this year, it reached the top spot in US News and World Report’s Best Global Universities list. Most graduates from Harvard are highly successful in the sciences, business, or politics. Famous alumni include John F. Kennedy, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama, and Natalie Portman.
Rogers is enrolled as a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, where she is “studying the spirituality of public gatherings and the ethics of power in pop culture”. The school itself is dedicated to religious and theological studies. It offers five degree programmes including a PhD, non-degree options, and ministry studies.