Music is an amazing medium for self-expression. Countless studies show that it’s good for your health, physical and otherwise. It improves your academic success and fosters and stimulates your imagination. While there are plenty of musicians and composers you can and should look up to, a fair few celebrities harbor hidden musical talents.
1. Steve Martin
Steve Martin is a regular Renaissance Man—actor, comedian, writer, and Broadway star. He got his start selling guidebooks and performing magic at the Main Street Magic Shop in Disneyland, so it’s not surprising to add “musician” to this polymath’s growing resume.
Martin picked up the banjo as a teenager and hasn’t looked back since. In 2002, his rendition of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” by Earl Scruggs earned him a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance. In 2009, his album “Rare Bird Alert” won the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album, and he won another in 2014 for the song “Love Has Come For You,” a collaboration with Edie Brickell.
Alternating between clawhammer and three-finger style, Martin is a regular fixture at jazz festivals and performs solo or with the Steep Canyon Rangers. He even created the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, awarded to a musician or group displaying outstanding achievement in five-string banjo or bluegrass music.
2. Condoleezza Rice
The former Secretary of State under the Bush administration initially had dreams of performing music professionally. Rice began studying to become a professional concert pianist at the age of 15, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto in Dm with the Denver with the Denver Symphony Orchestra, which was her prize for winning a student music competition.
While her life took her in a different direction, Rice remained an avid piano player. In 2002, she accompanied cellist Yo-Yo Ma for the National Medal of Arts Awards, and in 2008, Rice performed for Queen Elizabeth II. The former Secretary of State still performs private chamber music with a group of friends.
3. Ryan Gosling
An Oscar-nominated actor, director, heartthrob, and all-around cool guy, Ryan Gosling went an extra step and formed a band with friend Zach Shields. Shields and Gosling originally bonded over their shared love of horror movies, music, and generally spooky things, giving birth to the supernatural-themed Dead Man’s Bones.
Their self-titled album, released in 2009, included love songs about zombies, ghosts, werewolves, and monsters and a strict set of recording rules:
- Shields and Gosling had to play all the instruments.
- Electric guitars and click tracks were forbidden.
- Each track was limited to three takes.
Gosling contributed vocals, piano, guitar, bass, and cello, while Shields provided percussion and guitar. Add in the Silverlake Conservatory Children’s Choir, and the end result is an eerie but ultimately awesome music experience.
4. Clint Eastwood
The actor is known for portraying Dirty Harry and other Western favorites, but before his success on the big screen, Clint Eastwood wanted to expand his artistic range, dabbling in the world of pop. In 1961, Eastwood cut a single called “Unknown Girl,” a record that was pure bubblegum. It wasn’t a particularly successful album, but it did reveal Eastwood’s musical acumen.
As it turns out, Eastwood is also quite the pianist and composer. He is one of the few directors to compose the film scores for his own movies, including:
- Mystic River
- Million Dollar Baby
5. Manny Pacquiao
While most people are more familiar with seeing him in the ring than behind the mic, Manny Pacquiao is a man of many talents. He’s an actor, he serves as a congressman in the Philippines, and he’s a passionate musician. To date, Pacquiao has recorded two studio albums, a cover album, three singles, and four music videos. Not a bad cherry on top to his ten world boxing titles.
6. Hugh Laurie
Most know Hugh Laurie for his double act with Stephen Fry or his stint as the titular protagonist on the show House, but not many know that he’s a proficient musician and singer. His life in music started with piano lessons when he was just six, developing a deeply ingrained love and appreciation for American blues music.
Laurie’s music talents include playing the drums, guitar, harmonica, piano, saxophone, and singing. He released his first album, a New Orleans blues-influenced record titled “Let Them Talk,” in 2011, and in 2013, he released his second album “Didn’t It Rain.”
7. Halle Berry
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Halle Berry has risen to international stardom. She’s one of the highest-paid Hollywood actresses and won an Academy Award in 2001 for her performance in “Monster’s Ball,” making her the first African-American woman to win this honor. Prior to her film career, Berry was a pageant queen in the early 1980s, earning titles as Miss Teen Ohio and Miss Teen America.
During her time in high school, Berry was driven to excel, joining the newspaper, cheerleading team, student government association, and band, where she played flute.
8. Tina Fey
Comedian, actress, writer, and producer, Tina Fey had her first breakout on “Saturday Night Live” as a writer and actress. She has written successful movies, wrote the bestseller Bossypants, and created, wrote, and starred in “30 Rock,” for which she won numerous awards. In fifth grade, Fey played the flute, and she was a member of her high school’s choir.
9. Rainn Wilson
Rainn Wilson is best known for portraying the strange, geeky Dwight Schrute in “The Office,” but his interests range far and wide. He co-founded SoulPancake, a media company focused on exploring creativity, spirituality, philosophy, art, and other big questions through books, articles, webseries, and beyond.
Wilson played music throughout high school and college and continues to play today. His instruments of choice included the piano, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, xylophone, baritone, guitar, and drums.
10. Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg is known as the director who opened up new worlds and drove the imaginations of kids and adults alike. From “Jurassic Park” to “E.T.” to “Jaws,” Spielberg’s movies work to define a generation and tell stories that are exciting and thought-provoking.
In high school, Spielberg played the clarinet, which contributed to his first full-length movie at the young age of 16. The sci-fi film “Firelight” had a budget of just $500. To stay within budget, Spielberg composed the film’s score on his own clarinet. The movie garnered all of $1 in profits, but it was the start of an amazing, unmatched career.
This all goes to show that music is, most of all, a lot of fun, and even if you don’t make a career out of it, it’s still a lot of fun to learn and play music. The best part: it’s never too late to learn!
– “Steve Martin at the Highline Ballroom” by Jens Schott Knudsen is licensed under CC BY 2.0
– “Condi on the Keys” by Mike Licht is licensed under CC BY 2.0
– “Hugh Laurie Gig in Belo Horizonte – Brazil” by antoniothomas is licensed under CC BY 2.0