Trained as a classical pianist, Patrice Rushen gravitated to fusion, jazz, R&B, and pop in the ‘70s and '80s. Her musical life has been diverse as she added roles as a vocalist, jazz pianist, composer, producer, and educator to her classical career. With an honorary doctorate in music from Berklee in 2005, she is a frequent visiting artist and speaker at Berklee. Rushen has four Grammy nominations and has composed scores for movies and television. She holds the distinction of being the first female director of many of the industry's top award shows, including the Grammy Awards, Emmy Awards, the People's Choice Awards, the NAACP Image Awards, and others. Her hit single, “Forget Me Nots,” has been covered and sampled by many other artists.
Rushen, whose nickname is “Baby Fingers” because of her small hands, was born in 1954 in Los Angeles. After high school in South Los Angeles, she earned a degree in music from the University of Southern California. An acclaimed jazz pianist, she has performed with such artists as Herbie Hancock, the late Prince, Carlos Santana, and Stevie Wonder. She has written many pieces of symphonic music, some commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Rushen was part of a 2015 Berklee Women’s Empower Symposium at Berklee's campus in Valencia, Spain. She was clear about the value she sees in a Berklee music business education: "You can see what (musicians) are going through. You feel it in terms of watching them practice. You understand what happens when they get in front of the microphone.”
Rushen continues to advise and mentor music students, both at Berklee and at the University of Southern California, as an artist in residence and curriculum consultant. She also works with various music-in-the-schools programs and music education programs for underprivileged youth in Los Angeles. Throughout her career, Rushen has woven together many roles and strains of music to make a harmonious whole.