Berklee Awards Honorary Doctorate to Sylvia Rhone

For four decades, Sylvia Rhone, president of Epic Records, has been a powerful force in the music industry. She has launched the careers of dozens of artists, including Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Tracy Chapman, Jason Mraz, and many others. In recognition of her career, Berklee gave Rhone an honorary doctorate April 5, while she was on campus to give the keynote address at Career Jam.

The weekend also included a tribute concert to Rhone, featuring Berklee students performing the music of Elliott, Chapman, Mraz, and other artists Rhone has influenced over the years.

A native of Harlem and a graduate of the Wharton School, Rhone is the first African American woman to be named chairman of a major record company. Her career has included stints at several leading labels, including ABC, Elektra, Atlantic, and Universal. She shaped Atlantic Records’s early foray into hip-hop, guiding the careers of artists such as J.J. Fad, the D.O.C., MC Lyte, and others. Rhone has worked to highlight female musicians, especially hip-hop artists, and to increase gender balance and racial diversity among record label staff.

“This is a defining milestone of my career,” Rhone said of the honor. “Berklee’s dedication in preparing young people for its contemporary music disciplines and real-world music business realities is second to none.”