Willie Nelson received an honorary Doctor of Music degree during the Berklee College of Music’s 2013 commencement on May 11. Berklee president Roger H. Brown presented the degree to Willie as well as fellow honorees Carole King and Annie Lennox.There were more than 1,050 graduates from 60 countries and 4,000 guests in attendance.
Kris Kristofferson, Willie’s guest for the ceremony, was on hand to help present Willie’s doctorate. The pair performed a duet of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” at the commencement concert the night before. “Last night was especially tremendous,” Willie said while accepting his diploma. “I enjoyed hearing everyone play and sing so many great songs. The history of music is good, but the future is even better, thanks to you folks.”
The annual commencement concert featured some of the college’s most accomplished students paying tribute to the honorees with performances of music from their careers. The honorees all took the stage during the event. Willlie also performed “Night Life,” while Annie Lennox performed “Cold” with the students and faculty orchestra. Carole King performed “The Locomotion.”
During the ceremony, President Brown thanked Berklee’s faculty and staff for their extraordinary commitment to the students, especially in the aftermath of the marathon bombing. “The knowledge and skills our students have accumulated are astounding,” he said. “They don’t fully realize it, but this training prepares them for many possible paths, inside the music industry and outside. If we have been successful, we have prepared them for a dynamic world in which new careers will be invented, the nature of which we cannot even yet imagine.”
This year’s honorary doctorate recipients were recognized for their achievements in contemporary music, enduring contributions to popular culture, and for the influence their careers and music have had on Berklee’s international student body.