Eagles, Alison Krauss, Mulatu Astatke Receive Honorary Degrees at Commencement

Bluegrass virtuoso Alison Krauss and Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke perform at the commencement concert.

May 12, 2012

Close to 900 graduates from 58 countries received degrees today at Berklee's 2012 commencement. Berklee president Roger H. Brown presented honorary doctor of music degrees to Rock and Roll Hall of Famers the Eagles, 27-time Grammy Award winner Alison Krauss, and innovative Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke. Astatke delivered the commencement address to the graduating class and an estimated crowd of more than 4,000 guests at the Agganis Arena.

In his address, Astatke, Berklee's first African graduate, thanked the college for opening doors for musicians from developing nations, and encouraged graduates to think outside the box. "At Berklee, I was immersed in a motivating and creative academic environment where Ethio-jazz was conceived," said Astatke. "You now have the skills and the education to create new innovations in music . . . You are a selected few with a special gift, and we all have great expectations for you."

After accepting his honorary degree, Don Henley of the Eagles, referred to the student performance at Friday evening's commencement concert, "Sometimes I worry about the future of music and culture. But, after what we all witnessed here last night, I have renewed hope and faith in the future of music. It was truly inspiring."

At the annual commencement concert, also at the Agganis Arena. some of the college's most accomplished students presented a tribute to the honorees with performances of music associated with their careers and two of the honorees performed. Backed by the Berklee Gospel Ensemble, Krauss performed the traditional Appalachian song "Down by the River to Pray." Astatke played vibraphone with students on his composition "Yakermew Sew." Other concert highlights included student renditions of Eagles' hits "Hotel California," "Take It Easy," and "Desperado," and a Krauss duets medley.

This year's honorary doctorate recipients were recognized for their achievements in contemporary music, for their enduring contributions to popular culture, and for the influence their careers and music have had over Berklee's international student body. The Eagles, Krauss, and Astatke join the ranks of such esteemed recipients as Duke Ellington (the first, in 1971), Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, David Bowie, Bonnie Raitt, Count Basie, Sting, Loretta Lynn, B.B. King, Billy Joel, Chaka Khan, Steven Tyler, and Patti LaBelle.

Berklee's Class of 2012 graduated with bachelor of music degrees or professional diplomas. Female graduates numbered 280, representing 31 percent of the total class. International students from 58 countries made up 34 percent of the class. The largest number of graduates from outside the United States were from South Korea and Japan. Students from as far away as Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Belgium, Vietnam, Ukraine, and Slovenia were among the graduating class. Domestic students were from 46 states—the greatest number from California, Massachusetts, and New York. The top three majors were professional music, performance, and music business/management. Guitar, voice, and piano were the three most common instruments among students of the graduating class.