It is a notable phenomenon, whenever a major college or university issues honorary degrees or doctorates of courses in their curriculum to famous successful personages, whether they actually attended their institutions or not. Such an accolade would be the same perhaps as winning a lifetime achievement citation on any awarding ceremony. The honorary degrees and doctorates on the other hand have the additional oomph of having a prestigious school recognizing your achievements as having the same weight as gaining them from academic study. That is why the Berklee College of Music in Boston attracted notice when they added an honorary “Dr.” title to three big names in contemporary pop music.
CNN has it that this weekend during the commencement exercises of Berklee College of Music, they also awarded an honorary doctorate in music each to Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliott, and Alex Lacamoire. Berklee has made known in advance that the music artists named would be so honored back in March. Part of their official statement read, “This year’s honorary doctorate recipients are being recognized for their achievements and influences in music, and for their enduring global impact.” Coming from one of the first names in the US when it comes to dedicated music schools, this is a high accolade indeed.
All three of the Berklee honorary doctorate awardees certain have achieved milestones worthy of such. Justin Timberlake first became a household word as part of NSYNC. From there he formed a music career with 10 Grammys, and two appearances in TIME’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” (2007, 2013). Missy Elliott is a three-decade singer-songwriter-rapper and producer, some of whose songs managed to return to the Top 40 after first being listed 15 years ago. Alex Lacamoire worked with Lin-Manuel Miranda in Broadway musicals “In the Heights” and “Hamilton” as composer, orchestrator and musical director. Even better, he is a genuine Berklee alumnus (1995).
The three were not merely honored during the commencement of Berklee College itself. The night before, Justin, Missy and Lacamoire were the special guests who were entertained by the school’s many music students. They performed spectacular covers of the three’s respective discographies before inviting them up on stage to receive the adulation of the Berklee crowd in a capacity audience. Now Timberlake, Elliott and Lacamoire have joined the likes of Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Willie Nelson and more who have received honorary doctorates from Berklee, a practice that has been going on ever since 1971.
Image courtesy of Meaww