Guitarist/composer Al Di Meola was presented on Monday (July 9) with an honorary Doctor of Music degree during the commencement ceremony for the master’s degree programs at the Berklee College of Music’s campus in Valencia, Spain. Di Meola also performed as a special guest at the commencement concert at the City of Arts and Sciences.
“Collaborations with other players outside of your realm can ignite a new frontier,” Di Meola told graduates at the ceremony. According to a press release, the musician reflected on his time with Return to Forever and recording with fellow guitarist Paco de Lucía. He also shared his experiences with tango master Astor Piazzolla. “Getting to know [Piazzolla] as a friend began a very important chapter of my life as a composer,” Di Meola said. “It was the introduction to his music that I sensed had the right ingredients to touch the heart, and at the same time challenge me intellectually as a player, and a listener. That was, still is, my goal and what I set out to do.”
Di Meola continued: “As much as music lessons were very important at the beginning, so were the vast amount of concerts and every music category I was fortunate enough to choose from, having had the proximity to New York City during the early ’70s. For me, it was the value of being able to express deeper emotions with an instrument than with words. What would life be without music, as well as all the other forms of artistic expression? I often ponder.”
To the graduates, he added, “I commend all of your dedication and the hard work you have spent during your school years, and I can imagine that many of you will go way beyond your comfort zone. In the process you will quite naturally mature as a musician.”
At the commencement ceremony, 131 graduates from more than 30 nations received Master of Music degrees in music production, technology, and innovation; scoring for film, television, and video games; and contemporary performance with a concentration in production, or Master of Arts degrees in global entertainment and music business.
Past recipients of Berklee honorary doctorates include Duke Ellington (the first, in 1971), Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, Steven Tyler, Loretta Lynn, Juan Luis Guerra, Annie Lennox, Paco de Lucía, Carole King, Willie Nelson, George Clinton, Rita Moreno, Lionel Richie, and A. R. Rahman. Honorary doctorates have previously been awarded at the Valencia campus to Eddie Gómez (2013), Plácido Domingo (2014), Emilio Aragón (2016), and John McLaughlin (2017).