Honorary Degree Criteria

Berklee College of Music confers an honorary degree of Doctor of Music to individuals who have accomplished extraordinary career achievements in the arts, and who exemplify the college’s educational values and commitment to the highest standards of musical and creative endeavors, scholarship, and civic engagement. In choosing recipients for an honorary degree, the college is also directed by the principle that it not only honors that person, but also puts on display what Berklee values as a diverse and inclusive community. 

The impressive list of past recipients includes pioneers and leaders in their respective fields.

Criteria for the Selection of Honorary Degree Recipients 

The awarding of honorary doctorates is intended to encourage a standard of excellence and innovation that is exemplary to students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and to society generally. The distinction and achievements should be consistent with the vision and values of the institution. To guide its work, the Berklee Honors Committee has adopted the following criteria for reviewing and evaluating nominations. 

Honorary degrees of Doctor of Music are awarded to those who: 

  • have distinguished themselves in the global music and arts community, demonstrating sustained professional excellence over the course of their career;
  • have a body of work that is meaningful to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the musical community;
  • have upheld principles, ethics, and values that align with Berklee’s fundamental values;
  • have achieved distinction through their special contributions to society at large; and 
  • for honorary doctorates awarded at Berklee Valencia, have a strong connection with Europe, the Mediterranean, Latin America, or Africa.

The Honors Committee will periodically review these criteria in consultation with Berklee’s president.

Submitting Nominations

  • Nominations can be made at any time and are reviewed on a rolling basis.
  • Nominations may be made by any member of the student body, faculty, staff, alumni, or extended community. 
  • Nominations must be submitted using the online nomination form. 
  • Nominations of individuals from diverse backgrounds are encouraged. 


  • Nominees will be considered for both their personal achievements and contributions to society, alongside any reasons why they may or may not be suitable for the honor. 
  • Compatibility with other candidates being chosen is considered in order to offer a varied and balanced slate, and to reflect the breadth, depth, and diversity of the college. 
  • Nominees may have an ongoing supportive relationship with the college that serves as a recommendation for being selected as a candidate.  
  • Special consideration is given to nominees who are alumni of Berklee, or who have made significant contributions to our community.
  • To be eligible to receive an honorary doctorate at Berklee's commencement, candidates must be available to participate in the full schedule of commencement exercises. While most of Berklee's honorary doctorates have been presented at commencement, some have been awarded at convocation, presidential inauguration, Umbria Jazz Festival, Berklee Teachers On Teaching (BTOT), Monterey Jazz Festival, the Grand Ole Opry, MerleFest, Capitol Studios, Berklee High School Jazz Festival, Symphony Hall, Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Festival, and other special college events. 
  • Only under extraordinary circumstances will honorary degrees be conferred in absentia.
  • An honorary degree may be awarded posthumously if a recipient dies after notification and acceptance of selection but before the ceremony. 
  • In general, faculty and staff of the college are ineligible for this recognition. 

Selection Process

  • The Honors Committee meets at least twice per year, and as required, to review nominations. 
  • The Honors Committee recommends qualified honorary degree candidates to the president.
  • The president’s recommendation regarding the candidates is sent to the Board of Trustees, who then formally resolve to confer an honorary degree on an individual.
  • Official notification of Berklee College of Music’s wish to confer an honorary degree upon an individual is made in writing by the Office of the President.
  • Berklee welcomes continued engagement with its honorees to enrich the life of the institution and the experience of students. 


All information pertaining to nominees shall be considered in strictest confidence by the Honors Committee. The only names ever made public are the names of those nominees who are offered and who accept an honorary degree of Doctor of Music.