South Korean Rock Legend Shin Joong Hyun to Receive Honorary Degree from Berklee

Tori Donahue
October 25, 2016
Press release
In May 2017, Shin Joong Hyun will be the first artist from South Korea to receive an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music.
Image courtesy of the artist

Shin Joong Hyun, South Korean musician, producer, and pioneer of rock, will receive an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Berklee College of Music at the college’s commencement ceremony in May of 2017.

Known as the “godfather of rock” in his native South Korea, Shin’s influence has shaped the direction of pop, rock, and soul music. After releasing a solo guitar album under the stage name “Hiky Shin,” he started South Korea’s first rock band, Add4, in 1961. He produced the commercially successful album Nimah for the group The Pearl Sisters in 1968, rocketing him to fame in Asia. As the public’s interest in new genres shifted the spotlight away from Shin, he persisted with his passion for music by managing his own music club. In the 1990s, Shin’s music gained popularity again, and he has continued to be an influential figure in South Korea’s popular music.

“Shin Joong Hyun is a musician who helped build the foundation upon which the global success of South Korean popular music rests,” said Berklee President Roger H. Brown. “He has been a successful songwriter, producer, musician, venue manager, and activist. He embodies the integrity of the artist, willing to stand up to powerful forces for his beliefs.”

Shin has performed for more than 60 years, starting when he moved to Seoul in 1950 and taught himself to play the guitar. He initially gained recognition in South Korea by performing at U.S. Army bases after winning an audition to play at one in 1957.

In 2009, global guitar manufacturer Fender made Shin a Fender Custom Shop Tribute Series guitar. He was the first Asian musician to receive a tribute guitar from the renowned brand.

“Having devoted my entire life to music, I am incredibly honored to receive an honorary degree from the world’s best music college,” Shin said. “I give my sincerest thanks.”

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 ‘51, Jimmy Page, Smokey Robinson, Steven Tyler, Loretta Lynn, David Bowie, Juan Luis Guerra ‘82, Annie Lennox, Paco de Lucia, Carole King, Rita Moreno, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, George Clinton, Plácido Domingo, and A. R. Rahman.

The CJ Cultural Foundation, created by CJ Group, Asia’s leading content and media company, helped to establish a relationship between the college and Shin. Since 2011, the CJ Cultural Foundation has sponsored the CJ Scholarship, allowing Korean students with outstanding merit, strong academic performance, and significant financial need to attend Berklee.