Nearly 900 graduates from 66 countries received degrees today at Berklee‘s 2014 commencement. Berklee president Roger H. Brown presented honorary doctor of music degrees to music legends Jimmy Page, Valerie Simpson, Geri Allen and Thara Memory — representatives of rock, R&B, jazz, and music education. Page delivered the commencement address to the graduating class and an estimated audience of more than 4,000 guests at the Agganis Arena.
Page told the audience he was overwhelmed by the performances of his songs at the previous night’s concert, and decided the speech he prepared was useless. Speaking extemporaneously to the rapt audience, he winked and said he’d busk his speech. “What a spirit there is here,” he began. “Music has so much power across so many avenues, to be in a position to do the thing you’re best at, which is making music, and bringing joy and pleasure to other people, it can’t be much better than that. I wish to pass that on to all of you. Congratulations with your degrees and lots of success in the future.”
Allen also shared about the concert, “Last night was just a revelation, to hear the diversity, the authority from which everyone performed, the passion, the love, and the pieces of music. I was just very touched.” Adding, “You are all part of an incredible and far-reaching legacy. What we do is a privilege. Music is so much more than a job. You special people are given a chance to do what you love, and it is love for your art, which will sustain you through the unexpected twists and turns that will come. As you embark on your brilliant futures, always remember the passion you’ve discovered.”
Memory‘s message to the students was direct and sharp, a piece of wisdom from a seasoned educator. “You can’t keep it unless you give it away. Start giving it away as soon as you walk out this door. Rehearsal every day is the answer. If you rehearse every day you have nothing to worry about.”
“This is such a joyous day,” said Simpson, upon receiving her honorary doctorate. “I am so over the moon for each and every one of you. The music last night filled me up to such a degree. You stirred me up. You made me move. I was just thinking of what Mr. Memory said about ‘always rehearse.’ I’m gonna go a step further and say, ‘stay in performance mode.’ This is not a rehearsal anymore. You are performing all the time. Give it your all. Give it everything. You never know who’s watching, whose going to be listening. Go full throttle! I am so proud of you. Your future is so bright. Carry on y’all!”