Merissa Trescott of Somers participated in Berklee College of Music's 2012 Commencement held recently in Boston at Boston University's Agganis Arena. Trescott received a Bachelor of Music in Songwriting from the President of Berklee College of Music, Roger Brown.
Berklee president Roger 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.
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Berklee's class of 2012 included more than 900 students graduating with bachelor of music degrees or professional diplomas. Female graduates numbered 280, representing 31 percent of the total class-- the largest number ever. International students from 58 different 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 Guam, Iceland, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Zimbabwe were among the graduating class. Domestic students were from 43 states-the greatest number from Massachusetts, California, and New York. The top three majors were professional music, performance, and music business/management. Guitar, voice and piano were the three most common means of musical expression among students of the graduating class.
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. Staples, McDonald, Chucho and Bebo Valdés, and Garrett join the ranks of such esteemed recipients as David Bowie, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Sting, B.B. King, James Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Loretta Lynn, Quincy Jones, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, Smokey Robinson, and Patti Labelle.
Berklee College of Music was founded on the revolutionary principal that the best way to prepare students for careers in music was through the study and practice of contemporary music. For over half a century, the college has evolved constantly to reflect the state of the art of music and the music business. With over a dozen performance and nonperformance majors, a diverse and talented student body representing over 70 countries, and a music industry "who's who" of alumni, Berklee is the world's premier learning lab for the music of today - and tomorrow.