Berklee Presents Honorary Doctorate to Joni Mitchell
Berklee’s Office of the President and Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice presented an honorary doctorate to the incomparable Joni Mitchell on Tuesday, August 23, at a private residence in Santa Monica, California. Linda Brown and Russell Brown of the MaddocksBrown Foundation hosted the intimate evening gathering.
Described as “the voice of a generation,” Mitchell has been hailed as having a consequential influence on the styles and sounds that shaped 20th century music and culture. Berklee President Erica Muhl remarked in her introduction, “Since her debut in the late 1960s, Joni has been a force for change in the industry, blazing the trail for women in music with an unwavering commitment to achieving the status rightfully due her as one of the world’s great musical artists.”
Terri Lyne Carrington, founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice said, “I am thrilled that we are finally able to honor Joni Mitchell. Her career and social principles stand for the values our institute pursues—imagination, freedom, equity, and identity. I can think of no one more deserving.”
"Well, luckily I'm too old to get a swelled head,” said Mitchell after the gracious introductions. "It's a beautiful event. Words can't describe it. I've got my good friends here with me." Mitchell added, "I wish my parents were alive. My mother in particular would be really proud of this because she wanted me to go to college. I went to art school and I quit after a year. She thinks of me as a quitter. So to see this achievement would be really impressive to her. I wish I could share it with her. "
Over a six-decade-plus career, Mitchell has earned 17 Grammy Award nominations—winning 10, including a Lifetime Achievement Award—as well as four Juno Awards, and was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. She has been honored by Billboard with its highest accolade, the Century Award, for distinguished creative achievement. In 2021, the musical innovator and trailblazer was celebrated for being a master of her craft at the 44th Annual Kennedy Center Honors, where she was feted by Norah Jones, Brandi Carlile, and Brittany Howard, among others. Earlier this year, the songwriting pioneer received a Grammy for Best Historical Album for Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963–1967) at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards and was honored as the 2022 MusiCares Person of the Year by the Recording Academy.
The evening’s musical tributes featured performances by Grammy Award–winners Dianne Reeves and esperanza spalding B.M. ’05 as well as the Grammy-nominated vocal supergroup säje, and students Devon Gates (bass), Julian Miltenberger (drums), Milena Casado (trumpet), and Nika Ko (piano), all performing Mitchell’s songs, including “A Case of You,” “Love,” “Both Sides Now,” “River,” and more. Guests included musical giants Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.