Commencement 2002

Producer David Foster and Jazz Musician Shirley Horn Honored at Berklee College of Music's 2002 Commencement

May 11, 2002

 
   
 
  Shirley Horn (top) and
David Foster
   

662 graduates from some 50 countries received degrees today at Berklee College of Music's 2002 Commencement, held at the Reggie Lewis Track Center in Boston. Honorary doctor of music degrees were presented during the ceremony to hit record producer/ songwriter David Foster and legendary jazz pianist/vocalist Shirley Horn.

Foster delivered the commencement address to the graduating class and over 3,000 guests in attendance. A 14-time Grammy winner, Foster produced several of the 1990s' biggest hits, including "Unforgettable" by Natalie Cole, "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston, and "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion.

Reaching such a high level of success, Foster told the graduates, takes much more than talent. "Probably every keyboard player here today plays better than I do," he said. "And although that's impressive, it won't take you to the top. But attitude will. And if you look at every single thing that comes your way as an opportunity, that will take you to the top, too."

During his speech, Foster also recalled the first time he ever met Berklee Executive Vice President and five-time Grammy winner Gary Burton. "One of the most memorable moments of my life was when I went to see Stan Getz and Gary Burton play. My friend and I were about 14, and we couldn't believe that we got backstage afterwards," Foster said.

"To this day I have a photo of my friend holding Stan Getz's sax and me holding Gary's mallets. Gary was so nice that day and so giving of his time. Little did he realize that he was laying the groundwork for getting me here today, some 38 years later."

Grammy winner Shirley Horn, one of jazz's most acclaimed vocal stylists, also addressed the audience briefly, after accepting her honorary doctor of music degree. She praised and thanked the Berklee students who performed many of her trademark songs during the commencement tribute concert.

"Last night I sat [at the concert] not knowing that I would be so affected by this great music, these musicians, their dedication, so obviously loving it all," she said. "It made me very proud to say, 'I am a musician; I'm one of you.' And I wish you Godspeed. Be smart, but go get 'em. You're wonderful."

In accepting their honorary doctor of music degrees from Berklee, Foster and Horn joined the ranks of such esteemed past recipients as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, David Bowie, B.B. King, Sting, James Taylor, Pat Metheny, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Joel, Bonnie Raitt, Quincy Jones, and Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan.

Also addressing the graduates was student speaker Shawn Madden, of Banning, California, who spoke to his classmates about the power of commitment. "As musicians, we all know how it pays to follow through on the commitment to daily practice — our chops get better and our level of performance rises along with the personal satisfaction we feel in our playing," he said.

"When we embrace commitment, when we look life in the eye, say yes, and refuse to look back, back down, or sell out, we electrify our lives with energy, freshness, and power that cannot be thwarted by even the most hardened cynic."

The Commencement Concert

The 2002 Commencement Concert took place the evening before graduation, on Friday, May 10, in the Berklee Performance Center. Many of the college's most accomplished students presented this tribute to the honorees, performing selections from each of their extremely distinguished careers.

Among the songs featured were "You're the Inspiration" and "To Love You More," written by Foster, as well as "Here's to Life" and "Why Don't You Do Right," made famous by Horn. Foster joined the students on stage during the performance, playing keyboards and singing on "Through the Fire," a Grammy-nominated song he wrote for Chaka Khan.

The 2002 Commencement Concert was broadcast live on the Internet, and will be archived on the Berklee website for future viewing.

The Billboard Endowed Scholarship

During the commencement concert, students Hiromi Uehara and Walter Smith were presented with one of Berklee's most prestigious awards, the Billboard Endowed Scholarship. This scholarship, presented annually to outstanding student performers, was established at Berklee in 1995 with a major gift from Billboard magazine.

Hiromi Uehara, of Tokyo, Japan, began her studies at Berklee in the fall of 1999, majoring in Film Scoring and Jazz Composition.   She took up the piano at the age of six, and by the age of 12 was already performing her original compositions. Jazz music soon became her main interest, and by the age of 17 she had the opportunity to perform a live duo with renowned pianist Chick Corea.  Since 1998, Hiromi has worked professionally as a jingle writer, composer, and arranger. She is currently negotiating a major-label recording contract in the United States and Japan.

Saxophonist Walter Smith III, of Houston, began his studies at Berklee in the fall of 1998, majoring in Music Education. He has been honored as a 1998 Presidential Scholar in the Arts, a 1998 Clifford Brown/Stan Getz Fellow, and Down Beat magazine's 1998 Jazz Instrumental Soloist of the Year. A key participant in the Berklee Scholarship Jazz Ensembles, Walter has represented the college at events around the world, including the Umbria Jazz Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Blue Note in New York, and Berklee's World Scholarship Tour. Most recently he has recorded an album with Berklee alumnus Jason Goldman and has performed with Terence Blanchard and the Leron Thomas Quintet.

About the Honorees

David Foster, originally from British Columbia, has won 14 Grammys out of a total of 42 nominations for his work as a songwriter, arranger, and producer. He has won both Producer of the Year and Album of the Year three times. Foster produced several of the 1990s' biggest hits, including "Unforgettable" by Natalie Cole, "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston, and "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion. He also produced hits for Toni Braxton, the Corrs, Barbara Streisand, and Chicago.

In addition, Foster has written and produced music for feature films, earning three Academy Award nominations and winning the Golden Globe for the song "The Prayer," from the soundtrack to The Quest for Camelot. He is also the founder and chairman of 143 Records, a joint venture with the Warner Music Group.

Shirley Horn, of Washington, D.C., is widely regarded as the premier singing pianist in jazz since Nat "King" Cole, and is renowned for her ability to negotiate melodies and lyrics at an exquisitely unhurried pace. Horn's career spans five decades and has included collaborations with fellow jazz greats Kenny Burrell, Johnny Mandel, Hank Jones, Quincy Jones, and her mentor Miles Davis.

Horn's 1992 recording Here's to Life was the year's top selling jazz album, and earned a Grammy for arranger Johnny Mandel. In 1998, Horn paid tribute to Davis with the album I Remember Miles, which won her the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. Her most recent album, You're My Thrill, was released last year to widespread acclaim.

About Berklee College of Music

Founded in 1945, Berklee College of Music recently completed its 56th year of advancing careers in contemporary music. The world's largest independent college of music, Berklee has a multicultural enrollment of nearly 3,400 students, 35 percent of whom are international. The college's alumni include Quincy Jones, Joe Lovano, Diana Krall, Branford Marsalis, Gary Burton, Paula Cole, Bill Frisell, and a host of other major figures in contemporary music.

Photographs of the commencement concert and ceremony are available online. To obtain copies of the photos for publication, please contact Berklee's Office of Public Information.

Digital audio tape and video highlights of the commencement concert and ceremony also will be available.

For further information, please contact:

Sarah Godcher Murphy (617) 747-2658,  sgodcher@berklee.edu
Toni Ballard (617) 747-2247,  tballard@berklee.edu
Emily Singer at (617) 747-2567,  esinger@berklee.edu