New England Conservatory will bestow honorary Doctor of Music (hon. D.M.) degrees on five distinguished musicians at its 145th annual Commencement Exercises, Sunday, May 22, 2016 at 3 p.m. in NEC’s Jordan Hall. The recipients are Parliament/Funkadelic co-founder Bernie Worrell, conductor Leonard Slatkin, composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton, soprano Martina Arroyo, and composer Malcolm Peyton.
In addition, approximately 275 graduating students in the class of 2016 will be awarded degrees and diplomas including the Bachelor of Music, Graduate Diploma, Master of Music, Doctor of Musical Arts, and Artist Diploma. Leonard Slatkin will give the commencement address; additional speakers will include NEC leaders and a student speaker. The public is welcomed to this event, based on available seats.
At 7:30pm on May 21, 2016, the evening before NEC’s 145th Commencement Exercises, a grand concert in Jordan Hall will take place. This event will put the Conservatory’s graduating students on display before they go off to take their place on the world's stages. The performance includes student composers, jazz and Contemporary Improvisation, vocal and instrumental soloists, chamber music, and large-scale works.
NEC conducting student Earl Lee will lead an orchestra made up almost entirely of graduating students in Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, "Fingal’s Cave." They will also play “Larger than Life,” written by graduating composition major Jeremiah Klarman '10 Prep, '16 B.M. and other works.
Keyboardist, composer, and producer Bernie Worrell is one of the most prolific funk and R&B artists to date. As a founding member of the ‘70s & ‘80s funk band Parliament/Funkadelic, Worrell’s work with the synthesizer was what gave the band its futuristic sound, and made the band a highly influential player in the world of R&B. In the 1980s, Worrell frequently played with the rock band Talking Heads, both on the road and in the studio. After leaving Talking Heads, he was a studio musician for countless celebrated artists and groups, such as Keith Richards, the Pretenders, Jack Bruce, and Bootsy’s New Rubber Band. Worrell has also released numerous critically acclaimed solo albums, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. He is currently a member of both the Bernie Worrell Orchestra and Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains. Worrell is a classically trained pianist, having taken private lessons at Juilliard and pursued college studies at NEC through 1967.
Internationally acclaimed conductor Leonard Slatkin is the Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre National de Lyon. He has conducted most of the world’s leading orchestras, as well as numerous opera companies, such as the Metropolitan Opera. His more than 100 recordings have earned him a collection of seven Grammy Awards and sixty-four nominations. Slatkin is also a music educator, as he is the founder and director of the St. Louis Youth Symphony Orchestra and the National Conducting Institute of Washington D.C. In addition, he has taught and conducted at some of the world’s leading music schools. His tireless efforts in arts advocacy worldwide have won him the National Medal of Arts, France’s Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, and Austria’s Declaration of Honor. Slatkin hails from a musical family, as his parents are the founding members of the Hollywood String Quartet. He first began his musical studies on the violin and studied conducting with his father, Felix Slatkin, Walter Susskind at Aspen, and Jean Morel at Juilliard.
American composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton is a seminal figure in the music of the late twentieth century. He is known for his experimental methods of composition that combine jazz with serialism, multi-media usage, and graphic notation methods. He has released over 100 albums since the 1960s and has written hundreds of compositions. In 2010, he founded the Tri-Centric Foundation – a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of creative artists. In 2014, Braxton was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. Previous awards and honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1981, a MacArthur Fellowship in 1994, and a New Music USA Letter of Distinction in 2013. Before becoming a music professor and an emeritus music faculty member at Wesleyan College, he taught at Mills College in California. Braxton studied music at the Chicago School of Music, and philosophy and composition at Roosevelt University.
American soprano Martina Arroyo has been a renowned member of the Metropolitan Opera since 1958. She had her major-role debut in Carnegie Hall in 1965 when, at the last minute, she was asked to fill in for Birgit Nilsson as Aïda. Landing herself major roles in operas by Mozart, Puccini, Wagner, Barber, and Stockhausen among others, she has proven herself to have an impressively broad repertoire. She has collaborated with some of the world’s most celebrated conductors on the stages of the world’s most renowned concert halls. Arroyo was appointed by President Ford as a member of the NEA’s National Council of the Arts, and won the NEA Opera Honors Award in 2010. In 2013, she was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor. She is also a lifetime Honorary Trustee of Carnegie Hall. In 2003, Arroyo established the Martina Arroyo Foundation, which provides aspiring young opera singers with the tools they need to succeed in a career in opera.
Malcolm Peyton joined the New England Conservatory faculty in 1965 and was the chair of NEC’s Composition Department for 36 years. He is an active and distinguished figure in the world of new music. He has directed, conducted, and concertized many new music concerts in Boston and New York, and his music has been played throughout the U.S. and in Europe. The same year he joined NEC’s faculty, he began conducting Evenings of New Music with Lyle Davidson. More recently, he’s directed The NEC Composers Series. Some of his celebrated and well-known works are Songs from Walt Whitman, Fantasies Concertantes for orchestra, and The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe. His compositions have been premiered with artists such as Bethany Beardslee, Borromeo String Quartet, and Gunther Schuller. He has received a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship and awards from the NEA, Norlin Foundation, and American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.