Emmylou Harris to Receive Honorary Degree

By 
Allen Bush
October 2, 2009
Berklee will present an honorary doctorate to Emmylou Harris with a little help from her friends Linda Ronstadt and Earl Scruggs.
Berklee's Dr. Magpie, appearing at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park, Saturday, Oct. 3, at 5:45 on the Porch Stage. From left: Lee Dynes, guitar; Eric Robertson, mandolin; Ben Powell, fiddle; Duncan Wickel, octave fiddle; Jon Sosin, guitar; and Noan Vizen, bass.
Photo Mark Seliger
Photo Rob Hayes

Berklee College of Music is providing a couple of highlight moments at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, with an honorary doctor of music presentation to the great Emmylou Harris, and a performance by the student string supergroup known as Dr. Magpie.

Harris will receive her honor on Sunday, October 4, just before her set on the Banjo Stage. Berklee's President Roger H. Brown will make the presentation to Harris, with the assistance of Linda Ronstadt and Earl Scruggs, both Berklee honorary doctorate recipients. Harris and Ronstadt are longtime friends and collaborators who have recorded as the Everly Sisters, as a duo under their own names, and as a trio with Dolly Parton.

Dr. Magpie performs on Saturday, October 3, at 5:45 p.m., on the Porch Stage. The group features six of Berklee's finest string players, who create a sound that draws from Appalachia, uptown and downtown New York, and the freewheeling Left Bank of prewar Paris. From two fiddles, two guitars, mandolin, and bass come a sound evoking David Grisman, Django Reinhardt, Doc Watson, and Stuff Smith. Dr. Magpie has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and played live on XM Satellite Radio and Boston's NPR affiliate, WGBH-FM.  

Berklee selects its honorary doctorate recipients for their achievements in music, and for their enduring contributions to American and international culture. The first Berklee honorary doctorate was presented to Duke Ellington, in 1971. Says Berklee President Brown, "Not only is Emmylou Harris a consummate musician, an inspired songwriter, and a singer with a crystalline voice, she has also been a friend, mentor, collaborator, and supporter of many wonderful musicians throughout her career. She has a magnificent artistic vision, and a magnificently generous spirit as well."  In 2005, Harris performed at a concert tribute to Earl Scruggs at Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame that was organized around Berklee's honorary degree presentation to him.

A country and Americana music superstar for more than 40 years, Harris has a dozen Grammy Awards, three Country Music Association Awards, and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. The singer/songwriter, guitarist, and interpreter is known for her stunning lead vocals and her harmonies. She has recorded more than 20 solo albums while at least a dozen more capture her live or in retrospect. Additionally, Harris has recorded at least 200 songs with more than 100 different artists and groups, including Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Bright Eyes, Ryan Adams, Mark Knopfler, Ricky Skaggs, and the Dixie Chicks.  Her unmistakable voice can also be heard on such film soundtracks as O Brother Where Art Thou, and Nights in Rodanthe.