Ray Santos to Receive Honorary Doctorate

By 
Allen Bush
March 16, 2016
Ray Santos receiving an honorary doctorate of music at the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest on March 20, 2016. From left: Luis Alvarez '83, producer of the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFestwell; Santos; and Darla Hanley, dean of the Professional Education Division at Berklee.
Photo by Joe Colón

Ray SantosLatin musician and educator whose career has spanned half a century, will receive an honorary doctorate of music degree from Berklee at the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest, March 20, at Tito Puente Amphitheater in San Juan. Darla Hanley, dean of the Professional Education Division, will present the award to Santos on the festival’s main stage.

Heralded as "El Maestro" of the mambo sound, Santos’s music combines the incessant, rhythmic drive of the Afro-Cuban sound with the power and sonority of big band jazz. He has performed, composed, and arranged music for dozens of premier Latin artists and their orchestras, including Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Mario Bauza, and Machito. He served as music consultant and arranger for the soundtrack of the motion picture The Mambo Kings, which received an Academy Award nomination for the song “Beautiful Maria of My Soul.” Albums by Linda Ronstadt, Paquito D'Rivera, and Eddie Palmeri, featuring arrangements by Santos, have won Grammy Awards. In 2003, he was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame, and in 2011, he was awarded the Latin Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“As a musician, Ray Santos unites people by combining music and culture of disparate origins, to make a sound that brings everybody to the dance floor,” said Hanley. “As an educator, he ensures that this music will live on, performed by an increasingly diverse community of musicians. For this, we honor him.”

Santos has taught at City College of New York for 30 years, and frequently lectures at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Additionally, he is an artist in residence at the Conservatory of Music at the SUNY Purchase College School of the Arts. Santos attended the Juilliard School of Music where he studied saxophone.  

Honorary doctorate recipients are recognized for their achievements and influences in music, and for their enduring contributions to American and international culture. Past recipients include Duke Ellington (the first, in 1971), Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Jimmy Page, Smokey Robinson, Steven Tyler, Loretta Lynn, David Bowie, Juan Luis Guerra, Annie Lennox, Paco de Lucia, Carole King, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, George Clinton, Plácido Domingo, and A.R. Rahman.

Luis Alvarez '83 is the producer of the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest. Alvarez is a vital link between Spanish and Latin American communities and Berklee. In 1995, he was instrumental in creating the Berklee in Puerto Rico educational program, an annual weeklong event that brings Berklee faculty to San Juan to train young students and award scholarships to attend Berklee. More than 3,000 students have attended the program—part of the Berklee on the Road initiative—including Miguel Zenón '98, a recent MacArthur Fellowship recipient. Alvarez and Mendez & Company have awarded $350,000 in scholarships to students from the Berklee in Puerto Rico program for study at the Boston campus. Alverez is a former member of Berklee’s Board of Trustees, and current vice chair of the Berklee Valencia Advisory Board.

This year’s Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest features Berklee alumni Henry Cole '99, Francisco “Pirulo” Rosado '98, Antonio Sánchez '97, and Humberto Ramírez '84, among others. Eguie Castrillo, associate professor of percussion, will lead the student group from the Berklee in Puerto Rico program.