Berklee Legacy Awards Honor Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Joseph Douglass, and Carmen de Lavallade
Berklee presented the inaugural Berklee Legacy Awards, established to recognize extraordinary Black performing artists throughout history, to jazz icons Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughan; Joseph Douglass, groundbreaking concert violinist and grandson of Frederick Douglass; and legendary dancer, choreographer, and actress Carmen de Lavallade. The Legacy Awards honor outstanding figures who have received an honorary doctorate from Berklee and/or devoted time, wisdom, and mentorship to members of the Berklee community.
Berklee dedicated four spaces on its Boston campus to the honorees at a virtual ceremony held on Friday, April 30. The Berklee dining hall at 160 Massachusetts Avenue was named the Duke Ellington Caf, memorializing Ellington's legacy at the campus’s central gathering place for students and faculty. Berklee College of Music's classroom 114 at 150 Massachusetts Avenue was named the Sarah Vaughan Classroom, dedicated to learning and practice sessions, with a street-level view for all members of the community to enjoy special performances. Boston Conservatory at Berklee's 8 Fenway entryway was named the Joseph Douglass Lobby to inspire students as they enter the building. And the Conservatory's room 301 at 31 Hemenway Street was named the Carmen de Lavallade Dance Studio, as the central place for dancers to rehearse and perfect their art.
"The Berklee Legacy Awards honor important Black artists in history who paved the way for so many others,” said Berklee President Roger H. Brown. “We are honored to dedicate these spaces in their names, celebrating their artistic legacies and significant impact on the Berklee community, the performing arts, and the world. The enthusiasm from the families of these iconic artists has been enormously gratifying and we so appreciate their support.”
Sean Skeete, chair of the Ensemble Department and Berklee Legacy Award committee, said, “The naming of spaces, representing the life and work of legendary Black artists, will have a resounding impact on the lives of our students."
Hosted by Brown and Cathy Young, executive director for Boston Conservatory at Berklee, the ceremony was attended by family members of the honorees. “My family and I are extremely appreciative," said Nettie Washington Douglass, granddaughter of Douglass. "We are excited to know that more people will have the opportunity to learn of his extraordinary accomplishments. I know his grandfather, Frederick Douglass, who gave him his first violin lesson and whose favorite pastime was listening to him play...is smiling.” Douglass studied at Boston Conservatory in the late 19th century.
Paris Vaughan Courtnall, daughter of Vaughan, said, “This award is such an honor! I can see the smile on [my mother’s] face knowing that her music is not only being listened to but studied by students of music.”
"Our family is so honored to be included in these Legacy Awards, and it means so much to both my mother and me that students will think of her when pursuing their dreams,” said Leo Holder, son of de Lavallade. Paul Ellington, grandson of Ellington, stated, “What a tribute to have Berklee recognize my grandfather, Edward Kennedy 'Duke' Ellington, with their inaugural Legacy Award in one of his most favorite cities, Boston, and places, Berklee.”
To view the April 30 Legacy Awards ceremony, please visit Berklee's Vimeo page.
Moving forward, the Berklee Legacy Awards will continue to honor Black artists who make a difference through their artistic achievements and the contributions of their time and talent to the Berklee community. The Legacy Awards honor artists who share the fundamental values of Berklee, as well as a commitment to social justice and positive community change. All nominations will be reviewed by the Berklee Legacy Award committee, which includes Berklee faculty and students. For more information on the awards, as well as how to submit candidates, please visit the Berklee Legacy Awards webpage.