Business Instructor: Jay-Z TA: Amanda Palmer As of last May, Jay-Z’s net worth of a whopping $150 million earned him a spot on Forbes’ list of the richest black Americans. And as his millions of fans know, although he’s shifted over 25 million units of his own over the years, Jigga isn’t just a rap star. He’s also a mogul who served as CEO of Def Jam for three years and owns everything from a bar to a share in the New Jersey Nets. He is, in all senses, what the kids might refer to as an “entrepreneur.” As for Amanda Palmer, her business skills are of a more DIY bent. The Dresden Dolls singer and solo artist has used social media and her website to raise tens of thousands of dollars from her cultish cadre of admirers — and she’s not shy about arguing that she has a right to do so. Together, HOVA and Palmer would teach business savvy in a way that’s relevant to the big pimp and the indie icon alike.
Literature Instructor: Patti Smith TA: Leonard Cohen Patti Smith isn’t just the author of one of the year’s most talked about memoirs, Just Kids. She’s also a poet and lifelong literary superfan who has written and spoken extensively about her most beloved authors. Smith’s favorites include darkly romantic types like Rimbaud, Blake, and Genet. And then there’s Leonard Cohen, who is almost as well known for his poetry and prose as for his music. While we admit that this pairing is partially due to our starry-eyed longing to see these two luminaries interact, we’re also pretty confident that they could stir up a passion for the written word in just about any student who crossed their path.
Fashion Design Instructor: Kevin Barnes TA: Lady Gaga We have followed of Montreal’s charmingly impish frontman for over a decade, since the days when few had heard of his retro-pop-obsessed Elephant 6 act. But whether decked out in thrift-store, neo-hippie gear with smudges of tribal makeup, baring all at 21-plus shows, or coaxed into the sky-high dress that was only one of several costume changes on the band’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? tour, Kevin Barnes has always had a way with style. (He even kinda sorta wrote a song about it.) Lady Gaga, who was a mere tween when of Montreal got its start, could pitch in by covering the extreme high end. Her specialty? Statement accessories, from telephone hair pieces to Alexander McQueen lobster-claw booties. Of course, the fashion inspiration that unites both Barnes’ and Gaga’s androgynous style is that godfather of glam fashion, David Bowie. He isn’t appearing much in public lately, but perhaps this dynamic duo would have the pull to bring him in for a classroom cameo.
Political Science Instructor: Pete Seeger TA: dead prez Considering the breadth of the subject matter and the close relationship music and politics have always had, this category is a tough choice. There are the obvious picks: your Bob Dylans (and all the hippie-era pretenders to his throne), your Public Enemies, your riot grrrls, your Gangs of Four. But the man we’d most like to teach us about American politics is Pete Seeger. Think about it: He was around in the ’40s, when he sang with folks like Woody Guthrie at union halls across the country, and he’s still at it. Last year, he helped Bruce Springsteen celebrate the inauguration of our first African-American president. Seeger hasn’t just seen American history; he is American history. And then there’s dead prez, a duo that’s been fearlessly critiquing racism, capitalism and militarism for a decade and a half. We think they and Seeger would get along just fine.
Acting Instructor: Charlotte Gainsbourg TA: Eugene Hutz Charlotte Gainsbourg is having the best year ever. Last fall, she put in a breathtaking performance in Lars von Trier’s polarizing mindfuck of an art film, Antichrist. And early this year, she was back with IRM, a gorgeous album made in collaboration with Beck. This double threat has always been both an actress and a musician, and we’d take her course in hopes that some of the effortless, continental cool she brings to all aspects of her career would rub off on us. But if we ever needed a break from her refinement, we’d call on TA Eugene Hutz, the exuberant gypsy punk behind Gogol Bordello whose acting gigs have included a role in the film adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s
. If you must watch the execrable, Madonna-directed Filth and Wisdom , let the irrepressible Hutz be the reason.
Women’s Studies Instructor: Kathleen Hanna TA: Courtney Love This one’s kind of a no-brainer. Kathleen Hanna has been the single most visible hardcore feminist in music in the past 20 years, from riot grrrl zines and Bikini Kill to Le Tigre. If anyone can teach about slut shaming and workplace (i.e., music business) inequality, it’s her. Courtney Love — who, we should mention, did once punch Hanna in the face — is a less obvious choice. But her story is about the darker side of women’s experience, the contradictions of understanding that society’s beauty standards and sexual mores are bullshit and striving to fulfill them anyway. We anticipate some serious differences of opinion between the two teachers, but diversity is what 21st-century feminism is all about. Oh, and on behalf of those of us who first learned about sexual politics from songs like “Shoop” and “None of Your Business,” here’s hoping Salt-n-Pepa are willing to guest lecture.
Public Speaking Instructor: Kanye West TA: Lil’ Mama If there is anyone who understands the perils of poor public speaking, it is Yeezy. To wit: We now refer to any kind of awards show interruption as “pulling a Kanye.” During the long months of silence that have followed West’s weird, “I’ma let you finish” outburst, we have a feeling he’s had a chance to reflect on the do’s and don’ts of addressing an audience. Lil’ Mama, whose own onstage interruption was overshadowed by Kanye’s, would make the perfect teaching assistant. We see relaying what they’ve learned as fitting community service for their evening of pop culture shock and awe.
Sex Ed Instructor: Peaches TA: Jarvis Cocker Before she was a raunchy electroclash star, Peaches was but a humble teacher. So she’s got experience. And what better subject to get her in front of the blackboard again than sex ed? She wouldn’t blush her way through it like our elementary school nurse did, and she could certainly assign out her own albums as homework. On early single “Fuck the Pain Away,” she certainly seems willing to give lessons: “What else is in the teaches of Peaches?/Like sex on the beaches,” she chants before reminding us to “stay in school, ‘cuz it’s the best.” Jarvis Cocker, famous for high-profile public nudity and naughty songs about sex with the elderly, seems a safe bet as male counterpart and foil.
Driver’s Ed Instructor: Jonathan Richman TA: Gary Numan Gary Numan, our TA pick, might be the easiest pick for driver’s ed teacher. He is, after all, best known for a song called “Cars.” But while we like his slick style, it’s Jonathan Richman who really sold us on his love of driving. In The Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner,” a top contenders for best rock song of all time, he drawls that he’s “gonna drive past the Stop ‘n Shop/With the radio on/I’m in love with Massachusetts/And the neon when it’s cold outside/And the highway when it’s late at night/Got the radio on.” Despite (or perhaps because of) his odd phrasing, we know exactly what he means when he tells us he’s “going faster miles an hour.” He may not teach teenagers to drive safely, but he’ll surely convince them to appreciate their time behind the wheel.
Philosophy Instructor: Brian Eno TA: Madonna Since the ’70s, Brian Eno has been a weirdo guru of the highest degree. Aside from giving the kinds of interviews that would make Yoda proud, he also co-created a deck of “Oblique Strategies” cards to help blocked artists make daring decisions. (Sample suggestion, from the handy Oblique Strategy Generator: “Make a blank valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame.”) We’d like to see TA Madonna, with her vast experience in Catholicism, Buddhism, Jewish mysticism, and beyond, tackle a philosophy of religion unit.