Special Guests

Berklee’s 2017 Encore Gala featured Rickey Minor as master of ceremonies and R&B, soul, and funk group Tavares, as well as special guest Courtney Harrell '01.

Rickey Minor, Master of Ceremonies

Rickey MinorMost visibly known as the former bandleader for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, music director, producer, composer, and author Rickey Minor just won a 2017 Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction on Taking the Stage: African American Music and Stories That Changed America. He has also worked as music director on the Grammy Awards, American Idol, and America’s Got Talent. Minor has worked with musicians such as Ray Charles, Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, and more. He broke into the industry as a teenager, playing bass with the Four Tops and Gladys Knight & the Pips.


TavaresGrammy Award-winning funk, R&B, and soul group Tavares is best known for its performances of hit songs such as “More Than a Woman,” “Free Ride,” “It Only Takes a Minute,” “Don’t Take Away the Music,” and “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel." The group’s lineup has featured the likes of Bernie Worrell (of Parliament/Funkadelic and Talking Heads) and Joey Kramer (of Aerosmith), but the core has remained the Tavares brothers. Tavares’ music has been sampled by numerous hip-hop artists, including De La Soul, Digable Planets, and P. Diddy with Beyoncé.

Courtney Harrell '01

Courtney Harrell '01Courtney Harrell is an in-demand songwriter and vocalist who has written for or performed with artists such as Mary J. Blige, Ariana Grande, John Legend, Michelle Williams, Kelly Rowland, and Jessie J.. After putting her performance career aside for more than a decade to focus on her role as a mother, last year Harrell reemerged and advanced into the top 12 on the hit NBC TV show The Voice. A 2001 Berklee alumna, Harrell first came to Berklee as a teenage participant in the Berklee City Music program, after which she was awarded a full scholarship.