Anita Baker, Ron Carter, and Kevin Eubanks Honored at 2005 Berklee Commencement
May 12, 2005
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 H. 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.
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.'"
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.
Eight-time Grammy winner Anita Baker began her musical journey singing in a gospel choir in her native Detroit. She was soon performing with local bands, including the popular act Chapter 8. In 1983 a startup label released Baker's solo debut, The Songstress, which prompted her signing with Elektra Records. Baker's Elektra debut, Rapture, netted the singer two 1986 Grammy Awards. Her career was at full throttle by 1988 when she released her chart-topping album Giving You the Best that I Got. She won three more Grammy Awards for the title track, shoring up her position as America's top female soul vocalist. Baker's 1990 release Compositions broke new ground for her, in that she wrote or co-wrote seven of the tracks, and earned her another Grammy Award. Her next CD, Rhythm of Love, featured another side of Baker's artistry with renditions of classic tunes like "Body and Soul," and "My Funny Valentine." Baker made a comeback last year with her first disc for the Blue Note label. My Everything showcases Baker as writer, performer, and producer.
For five decades, two-time Grammy Award winner Ron Carter has been recognized as one of the most original, prolific, and influential bassists in music. He has played on more than 2,500 albums with an array of music giants including Coleman Hawkins, James Brown, Lena Horne, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, B.B. King, Dexter Gordon, Wes Montgomery, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, and A Tribe Called Quest, to name a few. From 1963 to 1968, Carter was a member of the legendary Miles Davis Quintet that included Tony Williams, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter. Over the course of his long career, he has released more than a dozen albums as a leader and has received many accolades. Carter has given back to young musicians through numerous clinics, lectures, and master classes at colleges, and has shared his expertise in music books. He was artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Studies and was recently named Distinguished Professor Emeritus at City College of New York, after 18 years in the faculty of the Music Department.
Guitarist Kevin Eubanks is known to millions as the music director of Jay Leno's Tonight Show Band. Eubanks is a gifted jazz guitar stylist and a prolific composer who has led his own jazz quartet for nearly 20 years and released a dozen albums, including several on the Blue Note label. A native of Philadelphia, Eubanks enrolled at Berklee in 1976. Subsequent to leaving the college, he moved to New York and played with such luminaries as Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Slide Hampton, Sam Rivers, fellow honoree Ron Carter, and others before launching his own group. Eubanks joined the Tonight Show Band in 1992 at the invitation of then music director Branford Marsalis. Three years later, he was directing the band and had penned the show's closing theme. He performs regularly with the Kevin Eubanks Group and composes music for TV movies and feature films. Eubanks is also active in charity work, devoting his energy to the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles and other organizations.
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 principle 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.