Spring Break with Dr. Ricky Skaggs

For the 21st year, professors Pat Pattison and Stephen Webber took busloads of Berklee students to Nashville during the March spring break for an up-close look at Music City. The itinerary included panel discussions with Grammy-winning producers, performers, and songwriters, including Mike Reid, Gary Burr, Janis Ian, Jon Vezner, Kathy Mattea, and Kyle Lehning; tours of Nashville's best studios; and discussions with music industry leaders. The students also observed a recording session with country star Vince Gill and a group of A-list session players.

On March 18, the Berklee contingent was among thousands in attendance at the famed Grand Ole Opry for a show that included a set by country and bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs and his group Kentucky Thunder. Shortly after taking his bows, Skaggs, a 13-time Grammy Award winner, returned with Berklee Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Lawrence Simpson as well as Pattison, Webber, and Berklee Trustee Jeff Davis - all clad in academic robes - for an honorary degree presentation to Skaggs. In bestowing the award, Simpson lauded Skaggs' accomplishments, saying, "Few artists in any American music genre have reached the heights Ricky has. He has played on some 300 recordings, including more than 30 under his own name, and established his own record label." Simpson also read tributes to Skaggs from country singer Marty Stuart and banjo innovator Earl Scruggs.

After receiving his honorary degree, Skaggs said, "Thank you for giving this wonderful honor to a guy from eastern Kentucky who started out playing mandolin as a five-year-old. I never dreamed that I would be standing here with an award from such a prestigious school as Berklee College of Music. I thank God, and I thank you very much."

Following the presentation Skaggs stayed for a private question-and-answer session with Berklee students that lasted for more than an hour and a half. Leaving Nashville with their own rewards, the students returned to Boston with a clearer picture of Nashville's professional options.

-Mitzi Dorbu