Commencement 2006

Eight Hundred Students Graduate as Berklee Honors Melissa Etheridge, Aretha Franklin, Andy McGhee, and Elliot Scheiner

May 13, 2006

More than eight hundred graduates received degrees at Berklee's 2006 commencement, held at Northeastern University's Matthews Arena, in Boston. Honorary doctor of music degrees were presented by president Roger Brown to soul music legend and Grammy-winning superstar Aretha Franklin, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge '80, internationally celebrated saxophonist and Berklee educator Andy McGhee, and Grammy-award winning producer and engineer Elliot Scheiner. Etheridge, a Berklee alumna, delivered the commencement address in front of more than 4,000 guests.

In her remarks, Etheridge told the students they had reinvigorated her hope in the music industry, and asked them to stay faithful to their inspiration. "Always be in your truth," she said, "whether you are singing, whether you are wrapping your arms around your instrument and playing it, whether you are listening to it and mixing it, or if you are trying to find out the best way to bring music to the world. You were given this gift, you were chosen. Be in your truth, be in your light, be in your love. Go out there and be the musician that you are. Be the keeper of the dream of music."

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(From left) Internationally celebrated saxophonist and educator Andy McGhee, Grammy-winning producer Elliot Scheiner, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge, Grammy-winning superstar Aretha Franklin, and Berklee president Roger Brown.
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

Franklin, whose music has inspired two generations of Berklee student vocalists, was paid an additional honor by the presence of Berklee alumnus Arif Mardin '61, arranger for many of her biggest hits on Atlantic Records, who traveled from New York to pay respect to his friend. Following the thunderous applause that erupted when she accepted her honorary doctorate, Franklin said, "Follow your dreams and your heart, and go out there and let them have it."

Beginning a career in the 1940s, highlighted by concerts and recordings with some of the biggest names in jazz, McGhee is still providing insight and encouragement to Berklee students 40 years after arriving on campus. He dedicated his honorary doctorate to his late wife, Constance, and his family, and thanked Berklee professor Walter Beasley for initiating a scholarship in his name.

Scheiner said he was humbled by the honor on a day that had extra special meaning for him. "Today I get to graduate with my son, Matt," who was waiting to walk across the stage and accept a bachelor of music degree in Music Production & Engineering. "What more could a father ask for than to know that your son respects your work?"

This year's honorary doctorate recipients were recognized for their achievements in contemporary music, for their enduring contributions to popular culture, and for the influence their careers and music have had over Berklee's international student body. Franklin, Etheridge, McGhee, and Scheiner join the ranks of such esteemed recipients as Duke Ellington, David Bowie, Count Basie, B.B. King, Sting, James Taylor, Pat Metheny, Earl Scruggs, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Joel, Bonnie Raitt, Quincy Jones, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, and Patti Labelle.

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After cheering and applauding the students who performed her music in the Berklee commencement concert, Melissa Etheridge, center, met with many of the performers on stage.
Photo by Phil Farnsworth

Berklee's class of 2006 included more than 800 students graduating with bachelor of music degrees or professional diplomas. Female graduates numbered 247, representing 31 percent of the total class. International students from 42 different countries - the largest portions from South Korea and Japan -made up 29 percent of the class. Domestic students were from 43 U.S. states - the greatest number from Massachusetts, New York, and California. The top three majors were Professional Music, Music Business/Management, and Music Production & Engineering. Guitar, voice, and piano were the three most common means of musical expression among students of the graduating class.

The Commencement Concert

The 2006 commencement concert took place the evening before graduation, on Friday, May 12, also at Matthews Arena. Some of the college's most accomplished students and graduating seniors presented a tribute to the honorees with pop, r&b, soul, opera, rock, and jazz tunes associated with their careers. Among the songs performed were Franklin's "Rock Steady" and her version of Puccini's "Nessun Dorma;" Etheridge's "Bring Me Some Water" and "You Can Sleep While I Drive;" the Eagles "Hotel California" and Billy Joel's "The Ballad of Billy the Kid," both engineered by Scheiner; and a tribute to McGhee by his former students Donald Harrison, Bill Pierce, Donald Lee, and Javon Jackson performing Lester Young's "Lester Leaps In."

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Office of Public Information
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