PODCAST: Inside Berklee—Rita Moreno '16H

Bryan Parys
May 9, 2016
Rita Moreno onstage during the 2016 Berklee commencement concert
Rita Moreno '16H celebrates with students after a performance at the 2016 commencement concert featuring Berklee and Boston Conservatory students.
Photo by Dave Green

Rita Moreno '16H is an actor, singer, and dancer the way that Quincy Jones is a producer: both have careers that transcend time and place them firmly in iconic territory. The Puerto Rican star broke out with an award-winning performance in the 1961 production of West Side Story and has been active in the entertainment industry for more than 70 years. She's picked up a slew of top honors along the way, including an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and a Tony, and is one of only a dozen people who can claim such an accomplishment.

Now, she can add an honorary doctorate from Berklee to that list of distinctions, and it's an acknowledgement that means very much to her. "I'm not casual about being honored," she said, adding that the recognition brings up humble feelings and childhood memories. "Every time something wonderful like this happens, I always go back to Puerto Rico in my head and think of that little girl with this huge bow on her head, and curls, playing in a creek, and I think, 'Wow, how did this happen?' I'm very grateful."

The day before she gave her commencement address at the 2016 graduation ceremony, Moreno sat down with Inside Berklee to reflect on where she's been, how the industry has (and in some ways has not) changed for minority actors, and how proud she was to be on campus not only to accept her honorary degree but to celebrate the graduation of family friend Emily Estefan, the daughter of Berklee trustees and legendary recording powerhouse couple Emilio and Gloria Estefan. She also teases listeners that she has "a commencement speech that is going to blow everyone away," and if you're curious as to what she means, be sure to check out the video below.

Producer and Engineer: Bryan Parys
Recorded at the Red Room at Cafe 939

Watch Rita Moreno '16H give (and perform) her address to Berklee's graduating class of 2016: