Berklee to Present Honorary Doctorate to Epic Records President Sylvia Rhone

By 
Colette Greenstein
February 14, 2019
Press release
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The Harlem native is the first African American woman to be named chairman of a major record company.

Sylvia Rhone
Image courtesy of the artist

Image courtesy of Sylvia Rhone

Epic Records President Sylvia Rhone will receive an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music on Friday, April 5, at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC). The honorary doctor of music degree is presented to individuals who have made a singular contribution to the arts, and whose career achievements reflect the musical and educational values of the college at the highest level. 

“Ms. Rhone was chosen for her groundbreaking position as one of very few women to achieve her status as a label head, multiple times, and her influence on the music industry through her leadership,” according to Carl Beatty, Berklee’s assistant vice president of artist and music industry relations.

In addition, Rhone will deliver the keynote during the college’s annual Career Jam, a day-long on-campus event culminating in the Sylvia Rhone Tribute Concert that evening at the BPC. The concert, which is open to the public, will celebrate the trailblazing music industry executive, and the numerous genre-spanning, world-renowned artists she has launched and worked with throughout her career. 

Led by record producer, musician, and film composer Rob Lewis '94, who is an artist in residence in the Ensemble Department, the concert will feature Berklee students performing the music of Missy Elliott, Camila Cabello, Tracy Chapman, J.J. Fad, and Jason Mraz. 

A graduate of the Wharton School, Rhone’s career in the music industry has spanned more than four decades, beginning at Buddha Records in 1974. Over the next 10 years, she steadily rose through the ranks at ABC Records, Ariola Records, and Elektra, until becoming vice president and general manager of black music operations at Atlantic Records in 1986. At Atlantic, she guided the careers of En Vogue, Michel’le, Brandy, The D.O.C., Pantera, and AC/DC, just to name a few. Under her vision and leadership, Atlantic Records became the first major label to invest in hip-hop, most notably with female rappers J.J. Fad and MC Lyte. Four years later, Atlantic launched East West Records America and Rhone became chairman.

By 1994, Rhone was named chair and CEO of Elektra Entertainment Group, where she launched the careers of Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Tracy Chapman, Jason Mraz, and others. In 2004, Rhone became president of Universal Motown Records and executive vice president at Universal Records. She moved to Epic Records in 2012 and was named president in 2014, working alongside chairman and CEO Antonio “L.A.” Reid. Rhone has headed the label’s operations since Reid stepped down in 2017, overseeing such stars as DJ Khaled, 21 Savage, French Montana, Future, and Camila Cabello. 

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