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You Won't Believe the Job John Legend Had Before He Became Famous

The Voice Coach learned some valuable lessons before he broke into the music scene. 

By Jackie Manno
John Is Back for Another Legendary Season

While most people know singer-songwriter John Legend as a beloved Coach on The Voice (who will be joining the show for Seasons 24 and 25) and a 12-time Grammy Award winner, his fate could have been much different, as he originally chose a more traditional path with his career.

Where did John Legend go to college?

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Legend received acceptances from both Harvard and Georgetown for undergrad, but ultimately chose to attend the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania. He received an honorary doctorate degree in music from his alma mater in 2014, in addition to an honorary degree from Duke University in 2021.

The star also delivered a virtual commencement speech at the Berklee College of Music in 2020, though he never attended to university.

What was Legend's job before music?

When he first graduated from the UPenn in 1999, he took a position at Boston Consulting Group, one of the world's largest management consulting firms, as a business management consultant.  

While he ended up switching gears with his career — as one of the most awarded musicians of our time — Legend actually benefitted from the corporate experience. In a 2018 interview with CNBCLegend opened up about how the job helped shape him and his future success as a creative artist. 

"I learned a lot. I met a lot of great people, I’m still friends with a lot of those folks, too. I think it just ups your level of expectation for the kind of business you want to work with. And how you work in teams, how you come to good decisions as a team, and I think all of those things helped me in my career, as a musician," Legend explained to reporter John Hardwood.

John Legend accepting an award on stage at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards.

RELATED: How John Legend Became One of 18 EGOT Winners in History

When Legend spoke at his alma matter in 2014, he discussed why he chose to change his trajectory in business and follow music instead. “I had followed the path that the Penn graduate was supposed to take, but I didn’t fall in love. I couldn’t shake my passion for music,” he said during his speech.   

“It’s much cooler to be detached and apathetic, right? We all like a little snark and cynicism and irony, especially from our favorite artists and comedians and writers. I get it,” Legend also said. “But that cool detachment only gets you so far. Passion gets you a lot further. It makes you a better entrepreneur, a better leader, a better philanthropist, a better friend, a better lover.”

John Legend watched a performance in his coaches chair

The decision ended up working out well for Legend, as he became the 13th EGOT winner in history in 2018. The "Ordinary People" singer took to his official Instagram page shorty after the victory to celebrate his achievement and honor those who have influenced him along the way. 

“Before tonight, only 12 people had won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony in competitive categories,” Legend wrote. “Sirs Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice and I joined that group when we won an Emmy for our production of their legendary show Jesus Christ Superstar. So happy to be part of this team. So honored they trusted me to play Jesus Christ. So amazed to be in such rarefied air.”

Originally published Jun 22, 2023.

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