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Berklee Honors Spalding, Rodgers, Cash At Commencement

On May 12, Berklee president Roger H. Brown presented honorary doctor of music degrees to music legends Nile Rodgers, Rosanne Cash, and Esperanza Spalding at this year’s Berklee School of Music commencement.

Spalding, a 2005 graduate of the college, delivered the commencement address to the graduating class.

The event also featured surprise performances by Spalding, who performed “Radio Song” with the Berklee Global Jazz Ensemble, and Cash, who performed “When the Master Calls the Roll” with a group of Berklee students.

“As profound as this ritual is, celebrating what you’ve been through and where you’re going, let’s remember what it’s really all about. It’s about the spirit,” Spalding said. “You are vessels now, to go out into the world and to transmit this spirit. That’s your job now. From here on out, nobody else is going to tell you how to do it. You are the vessels that have to listen, receive, exchange and communicate.”

“I want to thank everybody here, but I gotta give props to the band last night, it was just amazing,” said super producer and musician Rodgers. “When I was growing up, all my friends who had come from Berklee were the best musicians that I ever knew. It is such an honor for me to get this award here at Berklee. I am absolutely, absolutely, the happiest person in the world right now to receive this honor.”

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 on Berklee’s international student body. 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, A.R. Rahman, Rita Moreno, Milton Nascimento, Lionel Richie, Lucinda Williams, and Wang Leehom.

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