On May 12, 2018, Berklee College of Music President Roger H. Brown presented an honorary doctor of music degree to Esperanza Spalding, along with Grammy-winning super-producer/guitarist Nile Rodgers, and producer/singer Roseanne Cash.
Spalding, a 2005 graduate of the college, delivered the commencement address to the graduating class and an estimated audience of nearly 7,000 guests.
The annual commencement concert, held the previous evening, also featured a surprise performance by Spalding, who performed “Radio Song” with the Berklee Global Jazz Ensemble.
In presenting the award to Spalding, Brown cited the four-time Grammy Award winner’s acclaim as a composer, bassist, lyricist, producer, actor, and humanitarian, and her boundless creativity and bold artistic vision. He noted that this is the first doctorate he’s presented to someone who was a student during his tenure as president.
Spalding said, “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.”