Pictured (l-r): Annie Lennox, Willie Nelson, Carole King, and Berklee president Roger H. Brown, photo by Phil Farnsworth
More than 1,050 graduates from 60 countries – the college’s largest-ever graduating class – received degrees today at Berklee’s 2013 commencement. Berklee president Roger H. Brown presented honorary doctor of music degrees to music legends Carole King, Willie Nelson, and Annie Lennox – all multiple Grammy Award-winners, among their many accolades. Lennox delivered the commencement address to the graduating class and an estimated audience of more than 4,000 guests at the Agganis Arena.
In her address, Lennox said, “Consider this, wherever you think you’re heading right now might turn out to take a completely different path. What looks like an ending might actually be the start of a brand new beginning. Wherever and however we find ourselves, what a privilege it is to enrich our lives through music: the incredible universal language of the soul. Enter it wholeheartedly, make it yours to share with the world in the very best way you can.” Lennox also sang lines from several songs that inspired her as a teen, including “Say a Little Prayer,” “Wichita Lineman,” and King’s “It’s Too Late.”
President Brown enlisted Kris Kristofferson, Nelson’s guest for the festivities, to help present Nelson’s honorary doctorate. The longtime friends had performed a duet of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” at the previous night’s commencement concert. Recalling the student performance during his acceptance, Nelson said, “Last night was especially tremendous. I enjoyed hearing everyone play and sing so many great songs. The history of music is good, but the future is even better, thanks to you folks.”
The annual commencement concert at the Agganis Arena featured some of the college’s most accomplished students paying tribute to the honorees with performances of music associated with their careers. The honorees all took the stage during the event. Nelson also performed “Night Life,” while Lennox performed her hit song “Cold” with the student and faculty orchestra. King joined in during the “The Locomotion,” to dance along. Other concert highlights included renditions of King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman,” and “I Feel the Earth Move;” Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” and “Crazy;” and Lennox’s “Walking on Broken Glass,” and “Why.”
During the ceremony, President Brown thanked Berklee’s faculty and staff for their extraordinary commitment to the students, especially during the trying times in the aftermath of the marathon bombing. “The knowledge and skills our students have accumulated are astounding. They don’t fully realize it, but this training prepares them for many possible paths, inside the music industry and outside,” said Brown to parents in the audience. “If we have been successful, we have prepared them for a dynamic world in which new careers will be invented, the nature of which we cannot even yet imagine.”
This year’s honorary doctorate recipients were recognized for their achievements in contemporary music, for their enduring contributions to popular culture, and for the influence their careers and music have had on Berklee’s international student body. King, Nelson, and Lennox join the ranks of such esteemed recipients as Duke Ellington (the first, in 1971), Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, David Bowie, Bonnie Raitt, Count Basie, Sting, Loretta Lynn, B.B. King, Billy Joel, Chaka Khan, Steven Tyler, George Clinton, and Patti LaBelle.
Berklee’s class of 2013 graduated with bachelor of music degrees or professional diplomas. Female graduates numbered 327, representing 31% of the total class. International students from 60 countries made up 36% of the class. The largest number of graduates from outside the U.S. were from South Korea and Canada. Students from as far away as Ghana, Mozambique, Japan, Russia, and the Philippines were among the graduating class. Domestic students were from 46 states. The top three majors were professional music, performance, and music business/management. Guitar, voice, and piano were the three most common instruments among the graduates.