Congratulations, Berklee’s Class of 2014!

Berklee College of Music graduating class of 2014  gathers students from 67 countries across the map and 43 U.S. states. They will receive their degrees at Berklee’s 2014 commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at the 7,000 seat Agganis Arena at Boston University.

We’d like to give a special shout out to our Berklee City Music Students who are walking in this year’s ceremony! Brielle Blount, Lauren Fuller, Matthew Hull, Terrell James, Bianelys Javier, Laura Padilla, Franchesca Phillip, Alfred Jordan, Levi Keller and Myrish Spell -we are so proud of you!

Recognizing their contributions to American and international culture, Berklee president Roger H. Brown will present honorary doctor of music degrees to Jimmy Page, Thara Memory, Geri Allen and Valerie Simpson.

The evening before the ceremony, this year’s Honorary Doctorate recipients will enjoy Berklee graduates’ performance paying tribute to their music. We hope that some of the honorees would grace the stage with their presence as Annie Lenox and Willie Nelson did last year.

A complete list of Berklee’s honorary degree recipients over the years is available here.

Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page is an English musician, songwriter and record producer. He is considered to be one of the Greatest Guitarists of All Time and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice. Jimmy Page is widely known as the leader of the rock band Led Zeppelin, having sold over 300 million albums worldwide.

Page continues to be one of the most influential musicians, and it is a great honor to have him deliver the commencement speech to the array of Berklee’s graduating students, as they transition to a new, exciting chapter of their lives.

Esperanza Spalding and Thara Memory

Thara Memory is a teacher, trumpeter, composer and conductor. He experienced the pleasure of touring and playing with various great blues and jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Natalie Cole, James Brown, The Four Tops, Eddie Harris, Stanley Turrentine and Joe Tex and was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. He founded the American Music Program a renowned youth jazz orchestra, and has taught and mentored countless students including Berklee alumna, Esperanza Spalding. Memory won a Grammy Award for “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists” for the song “City of Roses” on Spalding’s album Radio Music Society. The American Music Program was also featured in the song’s music video and backing Spalding on the recording.

Geri Allen

Geri Allen is internationally acclaimed pianist, composer and active music educator. Since 1982 she has recorded, performed or collaborated with Ravi Coltrane, Dianne Reeves, Bill Cosby, Ron Carter, Ornette Coleman and Paul Motian. Her latest release Flying Toward the Sound appeared on the Best of 2010 lists for NPR, Downbeat, All About Jazz, and the Village Voice’s Jazz Critics’ Poll.

Valerie Simpson at 2012 BET Awards

Valerie Simpson is a half of the Motown writing duo- Ashford and Simpson. With her late husband Nick Ashford, she co-wrote and produced numerous hits for music greats such as Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan; They were the creative songwriting force behind everlasting hits like “ Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “I’m Every Woman”, “Ain’t Nothing Like A Real Thing”, “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and many more.  As performers, they are most known for their ’80s hit “Solid (As a Rock)”.

As a member of the ASCAP Foundation Board, Valerie established the Reach Out and Touch Award, which honors Ashford and helps advance the careers of promising young songwriters. Valerie returns to Berklee this May, after  her last year’s performance in Trouble Man, a musical about the life of Marvin Gaye that was scripted by Berklee students.


Commencement events will be streamed online at the following links:

Commencement concert – Friday May 9th at 7:30 pm EST

Commencement ceremony – Saturday, May 10th at 10:00 am EST

For complete schedule of commencement festivities and insights, click here.



Elegant, Experimental and Undeniably Daring – Ladies who rock today



The King– a fresh, jazzy, soulful, synthy music trio, whose breakthrough to the music scene has been nothing less than a phenomenon and embracement of artistic independence.

Paris and Amber Strother are twin sisters who grew up in Minneapolis, currently residing in Los Angeles. Paris started playing piano at the age of 2 and Amber, on the other hand, has only been singing publicly for a couple of years. Anita Bias, a singer-songwriter from Compton, briefly met Paris at a recital while they were both studying at Berklee College of Music. Later in 2008, the force of serendipity reconnected them at a jam session in L.A.

The newly formed trio perfectly “clicked” within their common vision and began building their own musical kingdom, creating the three-song EP, which was recorded in twins’ bedroom and produced by Paris, who also managed to make a DIY stop-animation video for their first single The Story.

On a life-changing night in the early March of 2011, King released their EP titled The Story. What followed after that was a virus-like wave of tweets that was spreading across cyberspace, from Phonte, Estelle, Questlove, Erykah Badu to Prince who invited the trio to open for him on one of his Welcome 2 America Tour dates in front of 17,000 people.

Soon to follow collaborations included The Foreign Exchange’s All the Kisses and  Robert Glasper’s Black Radio Album feature Move Love . Their first LP is currently in the making, as the crowd is still eagerly awaiting its arrival.

With no industry machine or talent show behind them, the achievement of these “anti-Dreamgirls” seems to be a perfect blend of talent, hard work, strong commitment, wholehearted involvement in their music, unique sound, lucky star alignment and “little” help of the social media.

acs trio

Emerging out of Carrington’s Grammy winning The Mosaic Project, the multi-generational supergroup ACS, is a stupefying fusion of three of jazz’s brightest stars, each crowned with daunting technique and a questing spirit of improvisation.

Geri Allen is internationally acclaimed pianist, composer and active music educator who fulfills the role of musical matriarch of this expressionistic collective. Since 1982 she has recorded, performed or collaborated with Ravi Coltrane, Dianne Reeves, Bill Cosby, Ron Carter, Ornette Coleman and Paul Motian. Her album Flying Toward the Sound appeared on the Best of 2010 lists for NPR, Downbeat, All About Jazz, and the Village Voice’s Jazz Critics’ Poll.

Terri Lyne Carrington is a Grammy-award winning drummer, composer, producer, educator and entrepreneur.  Developing a reputation of a drum prodigy, she was jamming with Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry at the age of 10, a   year before receiving the full scholarship at Berklee College of Music. Growing and developing musically next to Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, she’s been at the top of the music industry for more than 25 years, collaborating with the luminaries of the jazz scene.  Her Mosaic Project brought together different musical shapes and colors of some of the world’s most celebrated female instrumentalists and vocalists and inspired the creation of this transcending trio.

Esperanza Spalding captured wider audience’s attention upon being the first jazz musician ever to win the Best New Artist Grammy award, leaving Justin Bieber’s fans in absolute shock.  And ever since she earned two more. She got hooked on music after watching Yo-Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood  at the age of 4. She became the youngest bass player at Portland State University when she was 16 and later was awarded a full scholarship at Berklee , where she subsequently began performing to larger audiences and eventually teaching. Today, as a gallant composer, extremely melodic bassist, eclectic, playful vocalist and young icon of contemporary jazz scene, she continues her evolution of stretching the conventional structures of jazz into new style zones with her ingenious works like Chamber Music Society and Radio Music Society.




Playlist: Berklee Alumni Garner 36 Grammy Nominations

For the 56th Grammy Awards the National Academy of Recording Arts Sciences nominated 31 Berklee College of Music Alumni in  19 categories for a total of 36 nominations.   For the third year in a row, Berklee Alumni are nominated in the top three categories: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year.

Imagine Dragons

Before the Grammys are broadcast live on Sunday, January 26, on CBS at 8:00 p.m. EST, be sure to listen to all the Berklee Alumni who are nominated on our Spotify Playlist, and for more information on Berklee and the nominations please click here.

[spotify spotify:user:berkleecmn:playlist:1CFa4l3wI9qPbxO5XJfG2n]

Record of the Year

  • “Radioactive,” artist: Imagine Dragons – Berklee nominees: Imagine Dragons members, guitarist Wayne Sermon ‘08, drummer Daniel Platzman ‘09, bassist Ben McKee ‘09Josh Mosser ‘05, engineer/mixer
  • “Locked out of Heaven,” artist: Bruno Mars – Berklee nominees: Jeff Bhasker ’99, co-producer; Josh Blair ’99, engineer/mixer
  • “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell – Berklee nominees: Tony Maserati ’86, engineer/mixer

Album of the Year

  • Red, artist: Taylor Swift – Berklee nominees: Jeff Bhasker ’99, co-producer; Pawel Sek ’00, engineer/mixer
  • Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, Kendrick Lamar – Berklee nominees: Anna Wise ’10, featured artist; Dawaun Parker ’05, co-producer

Song of the Year

  • “Just Give Me a Reason,” artist: Pink featuring Nate Ruess – Berklee nominees: Jeff Bhasker ’99, co-songwriter.

Best Pop Instrumental Album

  • Hacienda – artist: Jeff Lorber Fusion – Berklee nominees: Jeff Lorber ’71
  • Summer Horns, artist: Dave Koz, Gerald Albright, Mindi Abair, and Richard Elliot – Berklee nominees: Mindi Abair ’91

Best Rock Performance

  • “Radioactive,” artist: Imagine Dragons – Berklee nominees: Imagine Dragons members, guitarist Wayne Sermon ’08, drummer Daniel Platzman ’09, bassist Ben McKee ’09

Best Metal Performance

  • “The Enemy Inside,” artist: Dream Theater – Berklee nominees: Dream Theater members, guitarist John Petrucci ’86, John Myung ’86
  • “In Due Time,” artist: Killswitch Engage – Berklee nominees: Killswitch Engage member Adam Dutkiewicz ’99

Best R&B Performance

  • “Something,” artist: Snarky Puppy with Lalah Hathaway – Berklee nominees: Lalah Hathaway ’94

Best R&B Song

  • “Love and War,” artist: Tamar Braxton – Berklee nominees: Makeba Riddick ’99, co-songwriter

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

  • “Stadium Jazz,” artist: Donny McCaslin – Berklee nominees: Donny McCaslin ’88, soloist

Best Jazz Vocal Album

  • After Blue, artist: Tierney Sutton – Berklee nominees: Tierney Sutton ’87

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

  • Guided Tour, artist: The New Gary Burton Quartet – Berklee nominees: The New Gary Burton Quartet members, vibraphonist Gary Burton ’62, guitarist Julian Lage ’08, and drummer Antonio Sanchez ’97
  • Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue, Terri Lyne Carrington – Berklee nominees: Terri Lyne Carrington ’83

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

  • Wild Beauty, artist: Brussels Jazz Orchestra feat. Joe Lovano – Berklee nominee: Joe Lovano ’72

Best Latin Pop Album

  • 12 Historias, artist: Tommy Torres – Berklee nominee: Tommy Torres ’94

Best Bluegrass Album

  • This World Oft Can Be, artist: Della Mae – Berklee nominee: Della Mae member Courtney Hartman ’12

Best Musical Theater Album

  • Kinky Boots, artist: Original Broadway Cast – Berklee nominee: Stephen Oremus ’92, co-producer

Best Instrumental Arrangement

  • Wild Beauty, artist: Brussels Jazz Orchestra featuring Joe Lovano – Berklee nominee: Gil Goldstein ’70, arranger

Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)

  • Swing Low, artist: Bobby McFerrin and Esperanza Spalding – Berklee nominee: Gil Goldstein ’70, arranger

Best Recording Package

  • Automatic Music Can Be Fun, artist: Geneseo – Berklee nominee: Mike Brown ’99, art director

Best Engineered Album, non-classical

  • …Like Clockwork, artist: Queens of the Stone Age – Berklee nominee: Gavin Lurssen ’91, mastering engineer

Jazz Appreciation Month: Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding Radio Music Society Album Cover (Heads Up International, Concord Music Group)

From Portland Oregon, The City of Roses, as is the title of one of her songs, Esperanza Spalding was born in 1984 to a multicultural family.  Her heritage is African-American, Welsh, Hispanic and Native American.  She can also sing in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

She attributes her musical career to a moment when she was four years old watching classical cellist Yo Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  “That was when I realized that I wanted to do something musical,” she states in her official biography. “It was definitely the thing that hipped me to the whole idea of music as a creative pursuit.”

Within a year, she had taught herself violin and played in The Chamber Music Society of Oregon.  She was a part of the group until age 15, and during that time she discovered the bass and started playing other styles of music such as blues, funk, R&B, and hip-hop on the local scene in Portland.  Also at age 15 was when she graduated from high school and became a music student at Portland State University.

A year into Portland State she was encouraged by her music teachers to apply to Berklee College of Music and got in.  In addition to studying at Berklee, she also become one of the youngest instructors when she took a teaching position at age 20 in 2005.

In 2009, President Obama personally selected her to play at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, the year he won.

In 2011, she won the Grammy for Best New Artist, the first time a jazz musician had won that award, for her record Chamber Music Society.  Drummer and Berklee alumni, Terri Lyne Carrington, was also the record.

Prior to Chamber Music Society her first major release, Esperanza (2008), was at the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart and became the year’s best-selling album by a new jazz artists.  Her first record Junjo (2206) was released on a Spanish record label, Ayva Music.  She has won two more Grammy’s for her record Record Radio Music, in which she won Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s).

Check out more of Esperanza Spalding’s music on our Jazz Appreciation Month playlist, and be sure to visit her website: