At the commencement ceremony for the Berklee College of Music’s class of 2018, Esperanza Spalding was presented with an honorary doctor of music degree and also gave the commencement speech. Berklee President Roger H. Brown, who presented Spalding with the degree, noted that Spalding is the first recipient of an honorary degree who was also a student while he was president. Spalding graduated from Berklee in 2005 and later came back as a professor. “What an honor to watch Esperanza Spalding enter and transform the world of music,” said Brown, according to the press release received from Berklee.
Spalding broke into song briefly during her acceptance speech. Later, during her commencement address, she admitted that she hadn’t prepared a speech at all. “You know why? Because I just wanted to tell the truth to you guys today, and you cannot prepare or control the truth,” Spalding said. “We are artists, so everything that we live, practice and study prepares us to share and tell the truth.”
Spalding added, “As profound as this ritual is, celebrating what you’ve been through and where you’re going, let’s remember what it’s really all about. It’s about the spirit. You are vessels now, to go out into the world and to transmit this spirit. That’s your job now. From here on out, nobody else is going to tell you how to do it. You are the vessels that have to listen, receive, exchange and communicate.”
Honorary degrees were also presented to singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash and producer/arranger/guitarist Nile Rodgers.