President Roger H. Brown's 2015 Commencement Remarks

Berklee College of Music’s honorary Doctor of Music degree was established in 1971, following the college’s 25th anniversary, to recognize those musicians and industry figures who have earned the overwhelming respect of their peers for outstanding professional achievement and enduring contributions to the world of contemporary music. 

Duke Ellington was the first recipient of the honorary doctorate and was followed by such artists as Sarah Vaughan, George Martin, Quincy Jones, David Bowie, Dizzy Gillespie, Bonnie Raitt, Pat Metheny, B.B. King, Paul Simon, Sting, Alison Krauss, Harry Belafonte, Placido Domingo, Aretha Franklin, and other jazz, pop, and industry figures representing the wide range of musical interests of Berklee’s students, faculty, and alumni.

Julio Iglesias

Julio Iglesias is arguably the most celebrated artist in Spanish and Latin music history, while bridging cultures to make his music accessible throughout the world. He is one of the top 10 best-selling artists in the world with more than 300 million records sold in 14 languages, including Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese. 

Afo Verde, Sony Music Entertainment's chairman and CEO, Latin region, Spain, and Portugal, would tell you this is a mission the Grammy Award–winning Mr. Iglesias has taken seriously. “He was genuinely concerned about studying the history, culture, philosophy, and idiosyncrasy of each of the wonderful countries he visited. He made efforts to understand, speak, and sing their languages.” 

Tennis superstar and fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who handed Julio two awards on behalf of Sony Music—Best-Selling Artist of All Time in Spain and Global Best-Selling Latin Artist—understands his friend’s wide appeal. He says, “Julio is able to win everybody's hearts on the five continents. I assure you that this is so because wherever I go, no matter if I have dinner in Japan or in the U.S., a song of his is played at some point.”

Former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy called Julio Iglesias “the universal artist par excellence” when he presented him with the Legion of Honor to France in 2007. To him, Mr. Iglesias brings one word to mind: “This word is, of course, love. Love for life, love for music.”

As a young adult, Mr. Iglesias split his time between playing professional football and studying law. After an auto accident left him bedridden with a spinal injury, a nurse gave him a guitar, and he subsequently taught himself to play and began writing songs. At the onset of his career, he penned “La Vida Sigue Igual” (Life Goes on the Same), which earned him first prize in a 1968 Spanish songwriting contest and paved the way for a recording contract and a No. 1 single in Spain.

Mr. Iglesias’s charisma, work ethic, and talent set an example about what it means to throw yourself fully into your passion. Berklee trustee and entertainment lawyer Joel Katz has seen firsthand this combination at work. “I’ve been Julio Iglesias’s lawyer for several years now, and I find him to be an amazing recording artist and performer, an intellectual, and a superlative businessman. As a trained lawyer and professional soccer player, Mr. Iglesias has lived one of the most interesting lives of anyone I have ever known.”

As Julio Iglesias’s reach into the U.S. market deepened, he collaborated with artists such as Diana Ross, the Beach Boys, and Willie Nelson for his first album, composed mainly of English songs, 1984’s 1100 Bel Air Place. His hit duet with Nelson, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” reached No. 5 on the Billboard Top 100 and No. 1 on Billboard Hot Country Singles. He’s gone on to collaborate with Frank Sinatra, Dolly Parton, and Stevie Wonder while still maintaining a stronghold in Latin music.

For his prolific recording career, his reputation as a charismatic performer, and for exemplifying what it means to be a global music ambassador, I am pleased to bestow the honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music on Julio Iglesias. 

Harvey Mason

Harvey Mason is simply one of the most in-demand drummers of all time, dubbed the “Chameleon” for his uncanny ability to play with an incredibly broad range of artists—including Ray Charles, Barbra Streisand, James Brown, Beyoncé, Beck, Jennifer Hudson, Frank Sinatra, Bjork, Carlos Santana, Michael Jackson, Chet Atkins, and the London Symphony Orchestra. He’s a multi-Grammy–nominated session drummer, producer, composer, and recording artist, having played the Oscar broadcast 25 times. And his own compositions have been recorded by artists such as Nancy Wilson, Mary J. Blige, the Notorious B.I.G., Lupe Fiasco, P. Diddy, and T.I. 

From Atlantic City, New Jersey, Mason began drum lessons at 7, played in school bands, and finally bought his first drum set at 16. He continued his education at Berklee under the tutelage of renowned Berklee percussion faculty member Alan Dawson, then at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied orchestral percussion with the legendary Vic Firth, as well as performance, composition, arranging, and mallets. 

Harvey has played on hundreds of essential recordings. He was the primary motive force in Donald Byrd’s commercial breakthrough album, the jazz funk masterpiece Black Byrd, as well as a series of successful crossover albums for Blue Note Records. This led to his seminal work on Herbie Hancock’s jazz masterpiece Head Hunters (1974), featuring the hit “Chameleon” (which he co-composed.) And he arranged Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” on the same record.  So remember, Berklee drummers can write and arrange! 

Rising drummer Jonathan Pinson, a recent Berklee and Monk Institute graduate, who’s been chosen to play dates with both Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter this past year, said, “Mr. Mason is an innovator of the drums, and his sound has made a huge impact not just on me, but on my generation as well.” 

If the drummers out there want to better understand their craft, I suggest you listen to Harvey’s performances on Head Hunters, Grover Washington Jr.’s Mister Magic, Bob James’s Three, Lee Ritenour’s Captain Fingers, and George Benson’s Breezin’.  

Berklee professor, multi-Grammy winner, and Berklee honorary doctorate recipient Terri Lyne Carrington says this: “Harvey has always been inspirational to me because of his musicality and ability to adapt to any setting or genre. He has remained creative and relevant over the decades. And he's just a great guy.”

Harvey’s precision playing has made him indispensable in Hollywood, and he has graced film scores including Mission: Impossible 1, 2, 3, and 4; Up; Purple Rain; The Fabulous Baker Boys; On Golden Pond; and Hook, to name a few. The Color Purple includes his work as a film composer.

On Chameleon, Mason’s 2014 solo debut for Concord Records, he worked with Berklee alumni Christian Scott, Matt Stevens, and Mark De Clive-Lowe to create a unique blend of R&B, urban, and cutting-edge jazz. Also central to Harvey’s musical life is his founding membership in the jazz fusion supergroup Fourplay. He continues to write, play, arrange, and produce with partners Bob James, Nathan East, and Berklee alumnus Chuck Loeb. Their most recent recording, Esprit De Four, received a Grammy nomination.

1998 alumnus Antonio Sanchez, part of the Pat Metheny Unity Group, recently scored the 2014 Best Picture–winning film, Birdman. He had this to say: “Harvey is a textbook example of what a complete musician and artist can be and...damn! that groove!...That groove that is so deep and entrancing, and such a part of his signature sound.“

And so, for his exceptional performances and compositions, his unmatched ability to lend incredible groove to any project, regardless of genre, and his remarkable influence on multiple generations of artists, I am pleased to bestow the honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music on Harvey Mason.

Doug Morris

Words fail to describe the far-reaching impact Doug Morris has had on today’s music industry. With truly visionary leadership, he has headed two major record labels: Sony Music Entertainment, where he is currently the CEO, and Universal Music Group, where he was previously the CEO. Doug has also held executive posts at other labels including Atlantic Records, ATCO Records, Laurie Records, and his own Big Tree Record label. Doug began his career as a songwriter and producer. Notable among his early successes in 1966 were the hits “Sweet Talkin’ Guy,” which he penned for the Chiffons, and his production of the classic song “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” for Brownsville Station. 

Throughout his four decades in the business, Doug has been at the vanguard of music, popular culture, and their related businesses. He was the first media executive to monetize online music videos, essentially helping to create the music video-on-demand market online. As the founder and chairman of Vevo, he partnered with Google chair Eric Schmidt to launch the premium entertainment service in 2009. Under his leadership, Universal saw double-digit increases in digital sales and increasing overall revenues while other companies were experiencing declines. 

Through the years, Doug has worked in many different capacities with some of the most influential artists of our time. That list includes such superstars as the Rolling Stones, Phil Collins, Pete Townshend, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Nicks, Bette Midler, Tori Amos, INXS, Mariah Carey, JAY Z, Stevie Wonder, and U2, to name a few. 

For today’s celebration of Doug’s career, U2’s Bono sent these thoughts: “Doug Morris started out as a songwriter. He’s a top-line melody guy even now. Through all the chatter he will find the one great idea, the clearest thought.”

Pete Townshend of the Who also weighs in. “When Doug revived the Atlantic and ATCO labels, he also broke the solo careers of Stevie Nicks, myself, and a whole raft of new artists. He did not end up at the top of the record industry by accident. Doug also supported artists financially and emotionally, keeping his fingers crossed behind his back. Not every one was a winner, but he never stopped trying. He relied on faith and intuition, and showed stamina and endurance. Looking back, I feel my time working with him was truly golden.” 

Doug has always recognized and nurtured talent in all sectors of his industry. Jimmy Iovine, record and film producer and cofounder of Interscope Records and Beats Electronics, says, “He has an unparalleled eye for talent, from artists to executives, and never settles for the typical or average.”

Simon Cowell writes, “You are an inspiration to so many of us in the music industry and those who want to join it. You’re not only one of the most talented people in this business, but also a loyal friend and very, very cool.”

Doug served as coproducer and lead financier of the smash 2013 Broadway show Motown: The Musical, which is based on the life story of legendary Motown founder Berry Gordy. Mr. Gordy states, “I found Doug to be the best partner anyone could have....As a record executive, there’s no one better. He knows both business and the soul of an artist. And on top of all that, he’s one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met.”

And so, in recognition of his momentous accomplishments and contributions to contemporary culture, it is my pleasure to present Doug Morris with Berklee College of Music’s honorary Doctor of Music degree.

Dee Dee Bridgewater

I’m not sure how she has done it, but Dee Dee Bridgewater has squeezed several callings into one lifetime—and wowed the world every step of the way. The many hats she has worn include those of a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, Tony-winning actress, humanitarian, mother, family business owner, and radio host.

Getting her start singing with the Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Orchestra, she lit up New York City in the early ‘70s, performing with jazz legends like Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, and Max Roach. She then gracefully transitioned to the stage, where her long list of memorable roles include the lead in Lady Day, for which she won a Laurence Olivier Award, and her Tony-winning portrayal of Glinda in the original 1974 Broadway cast of The Wiz, a pivotal production in the history of American musical theater.

André De Shields, a Broadway veteran of more than 40 years, played the title role alongside Ms. Bridgewater in The Wiz. De Shields tells us, “During those years when The Wiz set a precedent that would lead to all-black casts becoming prevalent on America’s main stage, there was never a time that Dee Dee would sing that I would not be captive in her spell. Not only is she a fine actor and a gorgeous, golden-throated songbird, she also approaches her art as a cultural ambassador to the world, using her music to illuminate people’s lives.”

This cultural ambassadorship has taken her to the front lines of the battle against world hunger with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as well as to the airwaves as the host of National Public Radio’s JazzSet. For a dozen years, she introduced listeners to outstanding jazz from all over the globe via NPR. The program’s producer, Becca Pulliam, says, “Dee Dee spoke with authority, familiarity, and intimacy. That’s what you dream of in a radio host. Dee Dee engages with people.”

Those same qualities are also part of what makes Dee Dee Bridgewater such an enchanting singer-songwriter, as her Grammys and scores of other laurels attest. She is the rare artist who can paint with colors from jazz, blues, traditional Malian music, soul, and French cabaret—to name just a few—so seamlessly and so skillfully that it advances our ability to tap into all facets of the human experience.

After decades of riveting audiences in packed venues from New York to South Africa and Paris to Tokyo, Dee Dee Bridgewater continues pushing herself to new heights. If you listen to her brand-new album, Dee Dee’s Feathers, you’ll see what I mean. Bridgewater recorded the album with the Grammy-winning Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

Mayfield, the orchestra’s founding artistic director and director of the New Orleans Jazz Institute, tells us, “Dee Dee is an icon who has ascended to the level of a poet. I can’t describe with words how it makes me feel when I hear her sing, but it’s the same feeling I get when I listen to Billie or Ella or Sarah. She’s part of that amazing continuum.”

And so, for her unique and lasting contributions to music in this remarkable array of contexts, it is my great pleasure to present Berklee College of Music’s honorary Doctor of Music degree to Dee Dee Bridgewater.