May 16, 2014

News Update: Arvo Pärt has been forced to cancel his trip to NEC due to his convalescence from an illness. NEC will work to reschedule a visit when it can bestow its honorary degree on him.


NEC Announces 2014 Honorary Degree Recipients, Commencement Speaker

Simon Carrington, Conductor, Double Bassist, Co-Founder of The King’s Singers, Former NEC Faculty, to Give Commencement Address

Annual Exercises to be Held May 18, 2014 in NEC’s Jordan Hall

New England Conservatory will bestow honorary Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degrees on four distinguished musicians and scholars at its 143rd annual Commencement Exercises, Sunday, May 18 at 3 p.m. in NEC’s Jordan Hall. The recipients are choral conductor and educator Simon Carrington, jazz composer/bandleader/activist Carla Bley, musicologist and German lieder scholar Susan Youens, and Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt.

Carrington, Professor Emeritus of Yale University and a former faculty member at NEC, will give the Commencement address.

In addition, approximately 290 graduating students in the class of 2014 will be awarded degrees and diplomas including the Bachelor of Music, Graduate Diploma, Master of Music, Doctor of Musical Arts, and Artist Diploma. Other speakers will include President Tony Woodcock, Provost Thomas Novak, and a student speaker to be announced.

The Exercises are free and open to the public.

Biographies of the Honorees

Simon Carrington

Simon Carrington, Yale University professor emeritus, has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in music, performing as singer, double bass player and conductor, first in the UK where he was born, and later in the US. From 2003 to 2009 he was professor of choral conducting at Yale University and director of the Yale Schola Cantorum, a 24-voice chamber choir which he brought to national and international prominence.

During his Yale tenure he led the introduction of a new graduate voice degree for singers specializing in oratorio, early music and chamber ensemble, and, with his faculty colleagues, guided two Yale graduate students to first prize wins in consecutive conducting competitions at American Choral Directors Association National Conventions. From 2001 until his Yale appointment, he was director of choral activities at New England Conservatory, where he was selected by the students for the Krasner Teaching Excellence Award.

Prior to coming to the United States, Mr. Carrington was a creative force for twenty-five years with the internationally acclaimed British vocal ensemble The King’s Singers, which he co-founded at Cambridge University. In the early days of The King's Singers he also maintained a lively career as a double bass player, first as sub-principal of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and then as a freelance player in London. He specialized in continuo playing, particularly for his Cambridge contemporary John Eliot Gardiner, with whom he made a number of recordings.

He now keeps up an active schedule as a freelance conductor and choral clinician, leading workshops and master classes round the world.

Carla BleyCarla Bley

Carla Bley is a distinguished American jazz composer, keyboardist, band leader, and activist. Born in Oakland, CA, she began studying the piano with her father but, drawn to jazz, she went to New York City in her teens to be closer to the musicians she admired. Her subsequent musical education was the product of her observation of and performance with many of the innovative musicians in New York at the time. Among her most notable recorded works are A Genuine Tong Funeral, written for Gary Burton, the jazz opera Escalator Over the Hill, Fleur Carnivore, The Carla Bley Big Band Goes to Church, Looking for America, and The Lost Chords.

Saxophonist, composer and critic Chris Kelsey has written of Bley: “Post-bop jazz has produced only a few first-rate composers of larger forms; Carla Bley ranks high among them. Bley possesses an unusually wide compositional range; she combines an acquaintance with and love for jazz in all its forms with great talent and originality. Her music is a peculiarly individual type of hyper-modern jazz. Bley is capable of writing music of great drama and profound humor, often within the confines of the same piece…Bley's asymmetrical compositional structures subvert jazz formula to wonderful effect, and her unpredictable melodies are often as catchy as they are obscure. In the tradition of jazz's very finest composers and improvisers, Bley has developed a style of her very own, and the music as a whole is the better for it.”

Bley has also made important contributions to the jazz profession, organizing the Jazz Composers League, Jazz Composers’ Orchestra, the JCOA record label, and New Music Distribution Services, which specialized in small independent labels. One of the pioneers in the development of artist-owned record labels, she and her second husband Michael Mantler created WATT Records, for which she recorded many of her works.

Bley and her partner, bassist Steve Swallow, worked with NEC jazz students during 2011 residency.

Bley has been honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972 and the German Jazz Trophy “A Life for Jazz” in 2009.

Arvo Pärt

Estonian-born Arvo Pärt is one of the most influential and performed of living composers today. After an early period of composing according to neo-classical and then serialist principles, he has, since the late 1970s, employed a self-invented compositional technique, he calls “tintinnabuli.” This style—which is taken from the Latin word for “bell”—was inspired by his deep study of plain chant, Gregorian chant, and Renaissance polyphony. The music, with its simple textures, arpeggiated tonic triads, slow tempi, frequent setting of sacred texts, and trance-like effect, has often being grouped with the works of the so-called “Holy Minimalist” composers, Henryk Górecki and John Tavener.

Pärt’s music speaks powerfully to professional musicians and general listeners alike. Steve Reich has written: "I love his music, and I love the fact that he is such a brave, talented man ... He's completely out of step with the zeitgeist and yet he's enormously popular, which is so inspiring. His music fulfills a deep human need that has nothing to do with fashion.”

Musicians and ensembles from the Los Angeles Philharmonic to the Hilliard Ensemble to Gidon Kremer to the London Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, and Esa Pekka Salonen have performed his work. Himself a frequent composer for film, his music has frequently been incorporated into movie soundtracks including: There Will be Blood, Map of the Human Heart, Swept Away and The Young Victoria. Nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for the recording of his Symphony No. 4 “Los Angeles”, Part’s Adam’s Lament won a Grammy in January 2014 for Best Choral Performance. In 2011, the composer was appointed a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture for a five-year term by Pope Benedict XVI.

Susan Youens

Susan Youens is the J.W. Van Gorkom Professor of Music in the Department of Musicology, University of Notre Dame. A noted author, she has written numerous scholarly works on 19th century German song, including works on Hugo Wolf and four books on Franz Schubert. In particular, she focuses on the interplay between poetry and musical setting. She is also the editor of Franz Schubert’s Winterreise: The Autograph Score published by Dover Publications.

Youens is the recipient of four grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Humanities Center and the Institute for Advanced Study.

As well as her books, she writes program notes for vocal recitals at Carnegie Hall in New York City, including performances by such luminaries as Deborah Voigt, Matthias Goerne, Ian Bostridge, Soile Isokoski, Dorothea Röschmann, Thomas Hampson, Renee Fleming, Barbara Bonney, Olaf Baer, Ben Heppner, Andreas Scholl, Dietrich Henschel, Bryn Terfel, Karita Mattila, Gerald Finley, Kiri Te Kanawa, and others.

For further information, check the NEC Website or call the NEC Concert Line at 617-585-1122. NEC’s Jordan Hall, Brown Hall, Williams Hall and the Keller Room are located at 30 Gainsborough St., corner of Huntington Ave. Pierce Hall is located at 241 St. Botolph St. between Gainsborough and Mass Ave.

A cultural icon approaching its 150th anniversary in 2017, New England Conservatory (NEC) is recognized worldwide as a leader among music schools. Located in Boston, Massachusetts, on the Avenue of the Arts in the Fenway Cultural District, NEC offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate music students from around the world. Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars. NEC alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide. Half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC-trained musicians and faculty.

NEC is the oldest independent school of music in the United States. Founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee, an American music educator, choral conductor and organist, its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions. On the college level, NEC features training in classical, jazz, and Contemporary Improvisation. Graduate and post-graduate programs supplement these core disciplines with orchestral conducting and professional chamber music training. Additional programs, such as the Sistema Fellows, a professional training program for top postgraduate musicians and music educators that creates careers connected to music, youth, and social change, and Entrepreneurial Musicianship, a cutting-edge program integrating professional and personal skills development into the musical training of students to better develop the skills and knowledge needed to create one’s own musical opportunities, also enhance the NEC experience.

Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Programs and Partnerships Program, the Conservatory provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, and adults. Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music, jazz, and Contemporary Improvisation. Currently more than 750 young artists from 46 states and 39 foreign countries attend NEC on the college level; 1,400 young students attend on the Preparatory level; and 325 adults participate in the Continuing Education program.

The only conservatory in the United States designated a National Historic Landmark, NEC presents more than 900 free concerts each year. Many of these take place in Jordan Hall (which shares National Historic Landmark status with the school), world-renowned for its superb acoustics and beautifully restored interior. In addition to Jordan Hall, more than a dozen performance spaces of various sizes and configurations are utilized to meet the requirements of the unique range of music performed at NEC, from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to big band jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, and opera scenes. Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre or Paramount Center in Boston, and a semi-staged performance in Jordan Hall. This past 2012-2013 season, the operas produced were Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, and Rossini’s La Gazzetta.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Senior Communications Specialist
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115