Seven hundred graduates received degrees today at Berklee College of Music's 2005 Commencement, held at Northeastern University’s Matthews Arena, in Boston. Honorary Doctor of Music Degrees were presented by Berklee President Roger Brown to Grammy-winning R&B vocalist Anita Baker, legendary jazz bassist Ron Carter, and Kevin Eubanks, a Berklee alumnus and music director of the Tonight Show Band. In front of more than 4,000 guests, Carter delivered the commencement address, and both Baker and Eubanks gave acceptance speeches.
Thirty three percent of Berklee’s graduating class were international, coming from 51 countries, the most being from Japan. Forty four U.S. states were represented, with Massachusetts and Los Angeles being the state and city represented by the most graduates. More students collected degrees or diplomas in Professional Music or Music Business/Management than any other major, and guitar and piano were the most popular instruments. 200 women were among the class of 2005.
In his commencement address, Ron Carter – who has played on over 2,500 albums by music giants including James Brown, Miles Davis, and Aretha Franklin – shared with the class of 2005 a list of words that have helped him become a better musician, and a better person. The first letter in each word on his list – which included responsibility, resilience, and compassion, among others – gradually spelled out Carter’s own full name.
“If you’re able to act on these words throughout your career, then when your final chorus is played, I suspect you'll be able to feel that you played well – that you did a good job, not only on the bandstand, but also in life,” said Carter. “I’ve tried to live by all of these words in my more than 50-year career as a parent, teacher, and performer. And now, when I'm asked by the security person at the airport ‘what do you do?’ I am comfortable enough to say ‘I’m a retired schoolteacher, working on weekends.’”
Anita Baker, an eight-time Grammy winner with hits that include “Giving You the Best that I Got,” made a comeback last year with her first disc for the Blue Note label, My Everything.
Kevin Eubanks ‘79, best known as music director of and guitar player in Jay Leno's Tonight Show Band, is a jazz guitar stylist and a prolific composer who has led his own jazz quartet for nearly 20 years and released a dozen albums.
This year’s Honorary Doctorate recipients were recognized for their achievements in the world of music, and for their enduring contributions to American culture. In accepting their degrees from Berklee, Baker, Carter, and Eubanks join the ranks of such esteemed recipients as Duke Ellington, David Bowie, Count Basie, B.B. King, Sting, Bill Cosby, James Taylor, Pat Metheny, Earl Scruggs, Dizzy Gillespie, Natalie Cole, Billy Joel, Bonnie Raitt, Quincy Jones, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, and Patti Labelle.
The Commencement Concert
The 2005 Commencement Concert took place the evening before graduation, on Friday, May 6, at Matthews Arena. Some of the college's most accomplished students and graduating seniors presented a tribute to the honorees with pop, R&B, rock, hip-hop, and jazz tunes. Among the countries represented by student players and vocalists at the concert were U.S., Japan, Jordan, and the British Virgin Islands.
The Billboard Endowed Scholarship
During the commencement concert, student Bryan Baker, from Phoenix, Arizona, was presented with one of Berklee's most prestigious awards, the Billboard Endowed Scholarship. This scholarship, presented annually to outstanding student performers, was established at Berklee in 1995 with a major gift from Billboard magazine. Baker, a gifted jazz guitarist and composer in his third year at Berklee, will lead a student quartet representing the college at September's Monterey Jazz Festival.
Berklee College of Music was founded on the revolutionary principal that the best way to prepare students for careers in music was through the study and practice of contemporary music. For over half a century, the college has evolved constantly to reflect the state of the art of music and the music business. With over a dozen performance and nonperformance majors, a diverse and talented student body representing over 70 countries, and a music industry who's who" of alumni, Berklee is the world's premier learning lab for the music of today — and tomorrow.