Gloria and Emilio Estefan, the Edge, and Andrew Hill Honored
|Photo by Phil Farnsworth|
More than 800 graduates received degrees today at Berklee's 2007 commencement, held at the Agganis Arena at Boston University. Honorary doctor of music degrees were presented by Berklee president Roger Brown to Grammy-winning superstars Gloria and Emilio Estefan, U2's groundbreaking guitarist the Edge, and to late jazz pianist and composer Andrew Hill. Hill, who died unexpectedly in April, was represented by his wife Joanne Robinson Hill. Gloria Estefan delivered the commencement address to the graduating class and nearly 7,000 guests.
In her remarks, Estefan stressed the power of creating music and encouraged students to write and perform from a place of personal meaning. "Music is a healing force and we have the privilege of sharing it. It's an awesome responsibility. It has to be something that says something from you. It's a beautiful way to live your life. Whether you end up doing it for a business or just end up singing for your kids, teaching other people to do music, or doing therapy, go forward with a lot of belief, because it's such an amazing way to live your life."
The night before, Estefan was so moved by the student performances at the traditional commencement concert that she added one of her own. Without rehearsal, she took to the stage and sang her composition "Coming Out of the Dark," with a student backup band and large student choir.
The other half of the first couple of Latin pop, Emilio Estefan, said, "I would never have dreamed to be here as a Cuban immigrant. I never could afford to have a music lesson even though music was the main thing in my heart. Even though I've won 14 Grammys, today is a day I will never forget, because to me, everything was against us as Latinos. We were told it would never work, but we wanted to make it with the sound that comes from our heritage. Our time is running out today, but for you it's a new beginning. Please make the difference, try to make your own sound, never forget where you come from because you will last forever in that way."
As the guitar player who has defined the sound for the internationally renowned pop/rock group U2, the Edge had this advice for Berklee's graduating class: "The thing I want to say is collaborate. Collaborating with talented people is not easy, but it's the way to really shine. You shine brighter if you are working with really great people. The important thing in the end is not that you are proved right every time, the important thing is that the music is the best that it can be. I want to wish you all that you would find your own voice. But if you are so disposed that you would find collaborators to work with, that you would shine as you could never shine on your own. "'
Ms. Hill said that at Hill's memorial he was described by a close friend as "'a great artist, but an even better man." Then she passed along some advice of her own with his legacy and talent in mind: "Always consider who you are as an artist, but also as a person. And please continue to play your music the way you know how to play it best."
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. The Estefans, The Edge, and Andrew Hill join the ranks of such esteemed recipients as Count Basie, David Bowie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Joel, Quincy Jones, B.B. King, Patti Labelle, Loretta Lynn, Pat Metheny, Bonnie Raitt, Sting, James Taylor, and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.
Berklee's class of 2007 included more than 800 students graduating with bachelor of music degrees or professional diplomas. Female graduates numbered 236, representing 27 percent of the total class. International students from 52 different countries—the largest populations were from South Korea and Japan—made up 12 percent of the class. Domestic students were from 46 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 and engineering. Guitar, voice, and piano were the three most common means of musical expression among students of the graduating class.
The Commencement Concert
The 2007 Commencement Concert took place the evening before graduation, on Friday, May 11, also at Agganis Arena. Some of the college's most accomplished students presented a tribute to the honorees with pop, r&b, Latin, rock, and jazz tunes associated with their careers. Among the songs performed were Estefan's "'Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" and "Don't Wanna Lose You Now;" "Van Diemen's Land"—a song with a rare vocal turn by The Edge—and "Pride (In the Name of Love);" as well as "New Monastery" and "Black Fire" by Andrew Hill.
A Lift in Confidence is Given, Received: Berklee grad finds therapy in the music (Boston Globe, May 14, 2007)
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