Eagles, Alison Krauss, Mulatu Astatke Receive Honorary Degrees at May 12 Commencement

By
Nick Balkin
March 28, 2012
The Eagles
Alison Krauss
Mulatu Astatke
Photo by Sam Jones
Photo provided by the artist
Photo provided by the artist

Berklee College of Music president Roger Brown will present the Eagles, Alison Krauss, and Mulatu Astatke with honorary doctor of music degrees at Berklee's commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 12, at the 7,000-seat Agganis Arena at Boston University. Commencement speaker Mulatu Astatke will address more than 900 Berklee graduates, their parents, and invited guests. 

This year's honorary doctorate recipients are being recognized for their achievements and influence in music, and for their enduring contributions to American and international culture. Past recipients include Duke Ellington (the first, in 1971), Dizzy Gillespie, Smokey Robinson, Steven Tyler, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Juan Luis Guerra, Paco de Lucía, David Bowie, the Edge, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Chaka Khan, Bonnie Raitt, Ahmet Ertegun, Kenneth Gamble, and Leon Huff. 

On commencement eve, as is Berklee's tradition, students will pay tribute to the honorees by performing music associated with their careers at the Agganis. The concert and ceremony are not open to the public. 

The Eagles—Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, and Timothy Schmit—have sold more than 120 million albums worldwide, with five No. 1 singles, six Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, and six No. 1 albums. Their Greatest Hits 1971–1975 is the best-selling album of all time, exceeding sales of 29 million units. The band's Hotel California and Eagles Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 have sold more than 16 million and 11 million albums, respectively. The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. For more information, visit eaglesband.com.

Alison Krauss is a bluegrass virtuoso who effortlessly bridges the gap between roots music and country, rock, and pop. A highly sought-after collaborator, she has worked with some of the biggest names in popular music, including James Taylor, Phish, Dolly Parton, Yo-Yo Ma, and Bonnie Raitt. Since signing with Rounder Records at 14, Krauss has sold over 12 million albums and won 27 Grammy Awards, the most for any female and the second most of any recording artist in Grammy history. Her work on films such as Cold Mountain and O Brother Where Art Thou contributed immeasurably to a renaissance in American roots music. Her latest album—recorded with her longstanding band Union Station—is the endlessly impressive Paper Airplane (2011), which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country, Bluegrass, and Folk Album charts upon its release earlier this year. For more information, visit alisonkrauss.com.

Mulatu Astatke is an Ethiopian musician (piano, organ, vibraphone, percussion), composer, and arranger. He is known as the father of Ethio-jazz, a unique blend of pop, modern jazz, traditional Ethiopian music, Latin rhythms, Caribbean reggae, and Afro-funk. Born in 1943, Astatke was musically trained in London, New York, and Boston, where he was the first African student at Berklee College of Music. He went on to work with Duke Ellington and other acclaimed jazz artists, found a music school, and open his own club. Astatke's work shepherded in a golden age in Ethiopia's pop and jazz circles from 1968 to 1974. In 2004, he began collaborating with Either/Orchestra, and in 2009, he released an album with the London-based collective the Heliocentrics. Since 2010, Astatke and his band have toured regularly behind Mulatu Steps Ahead, his latest release on Strut Records. For more information, visit Astatke's Facebook page.