Rita Moreno, the Isley Brothers, Lucian Grainge, Milton Nascimento to Receive Honorary Degrees

Rita Moreno, the Isley Brothers, Lucian Grainge, and Milton Nascimento to receive honorary degrees at Berklee's 2016 commencement ceremony 

April 12, 2016

Berklee President Roger H. Brown will present Rita Moreno, Ronald and Ernie Isley, Lucian Grainge, and Milton Nascimento with honorary doctor of music degrees at Berklee's commencement ceremony, Saturday, May 7, at the 7,000-seat Agganis Arena at Boston University. Moreno, this year’s commencement speaker, will address more than 900 Berklee graduates and their parents and invited guests. 

This year's honorary doctorate recipients are being recognized for their achievements and influences in music, and for their enduring contributions to American and international culture. Past recipients include Duke Ellington (the first, in 1971), Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, Steven Tyler, Loretta Lynn, Juan Luis Guerra, Annie Lennox, Paco de Lucia, Carole King, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, George Clinton, Julio Iglesias, Plácido Domingo, and A.R. Rahman.

As is Berklee’s tradition, on commencement eve, Friday, May 6, students will pay tribute to the honorees by performing music associated with their careers at the Agganis. The concert and ceremony are not open to the public.

Rita Moreno has won all four of the most prestigious awards in show business: the Oscar, the Tony, two Emmys, and a Grammy. Her credits span more than six decades, beginning with her Broadway debut at age 13. Moreno has starred on Broadway and London’s West End, appeared in more than 40 feature films and countless television shows, and has performed in numerous regional theaters, most recently in her one-woman show, Life Without Makeup. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004, and the National Medal of Arts in 2010. Her first book, Rita Moreno: A Memoir, published by Celebra Books, instantly became a New York Times bestseller. In January 2014, she received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In December 2015, she received a Kennedy Center Honor for her lifetime contributions to American culture. She recently released her first Spanish language album, Una Vez Mas, produced by Emilio Estefan. She is the voice of Abuelita in the animated series Nina’s World, on NBC-TV’s Sprout Network, and is currently in production on the Latino remake of Norman Lear’s classic sitcom One Day at a Time for Netflix.

Formed in the early 1950s, the Isley Brothers have enjoyed one of the longest, most influential and diverse careers in the pantheon of popular music. The group’s fabled history spanned not only two generations of Isley siblings, but also massive cultural shifts, which heralded their music’s transformation from gritty R&B to Motown soul to blistering funk. The Isley Brothers have had four Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including the Grammy-winning hit, “It’s Your Thing,” “That Lady,” and “Fight the Power." Thirteen of their albums have been either certified gold, platinum, or multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. The Isleys remain influential six decades into their career. In 2014, they received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award at a special ceremony at the 56th annual Grammy Awards. Current members Ronald and Ernie Isley continue to perform together. 

Lucian Grainge CBE is chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group. Over the course of his career, Grainge has signed and worked with the likes of ABBA, Elton John, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Queen, Rihanna, the Rolling Stones, Sam Smith, U2, and Amy Winehouse, among others. He has pioneered new approaches to the signing and development of recording artists and songwriters, and has consistently championed the development of innovative business models and partnerships with a wide range of technology and media partners around the world. In 2013, 2015, and 2016, he topped Billboard’s Power 100 as the most powerful executive in the music business, the only person to hold that distinction three times and for consecutive years. In 2014, he was awarded the President’s Merit Award by the Recording Academy, and in 2015, he received the Spirit of Life Award from City of Hope.

One of Brazil’s most prominent and influential singer-songwriters, Milton Nascimento has been an international star for more than 40 years. Blending Brazilian bossa nova and folk with African, classical, jazz, and rock influences, Nascimento is renowned for his ethereal falsetto and tonal range, and for his acclaimed songs, including "Maria, Maria,” "Canção da América," "Bailes da Vida,” and his signature tune, “Travessia." Years after his reputation in Brazil was firmly established, Nascimento’s international breakthrough came with his appearance on Wayne Shorter's 1974 jazz fusion masterpiece, Native Dancer. This led to collaborations with Quincy Jones, Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock, Cat Stevens, Sarah Vaughan, Peter Gabriel, Pat Metheny, and Earth, Wind & Fire, among others. In 2012, Nascimento received a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony in which Rita Moreno was also honored.