The New England Conservatory (NEC) awarded two honorary Doctor of Music degrees to composer and keyboardist Bernie Worrell and composer, saxophonist, clarinetist and pianist Anthony Braxton at the Conservatory’s 145th annual Commencement Exercises on May 22.
A 1997 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Worrell, 72, graduated from NEC in 1967, and is a founding member of the funk-rock collective Parliament-Funkadelic. Worrell contributed to the Red Hot Organization’s 1994 album Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool, a TIME magazine Album of the Year. His 2013 song “Get Your Hands Off” received the Independent Music Award for Best Funk/Fusion/Jam Song. Worrell received a Lifetime Achievement Award from NEC in 2010. In 2014 he released Elevation: The Upper Air, a solo piano album.
Braxton, 70, released his first album, 3 Compositions of New Jazz, in 1968, and has collaborated with countless artists on dozens of albums, including Chick Corea, whose quartet Circle he joined in 1970. Known as an influential music educator, Braxton joined the faculty of Wesleyan University in 1990, and retired in 2013 as the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1981, a MacArthur Fellowship in 1994, the 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and the 2014 Jazz Master Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. He was last featured in JT in 2014.
NEC also awarded honorary degrees to conductor Leonard Slatkin, soprano Martina Arroyo and composer Malcolm Peyton.