Free tickets to this event become available to the general public on Monday, October 21. Details here.

After a morning of working in the classroom with songwriters enrolled in New England Conservatory's Contemporary Improvisation program, one of today's most respected popular artists talks about his own genre-spanning career in this public forum, moderated by Boston Globe pop music critic Sarah Rodman.

Elvis Costello's visit to NEC immediately precedes his November concert tour, which includes several New England stops.

Prior to Costello's open forum, the singer/songwriter will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Music degree from New England Conservatory. Costello, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, is the fourth Hall of Famer—following Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, and Quincy Jones—to receive an honorary degree from NEC.

The son of a jazz trumpeter turned dance band vocalist, Costello cut his teeth as a performer on the folk club scene—the quintessential singer/songwriter proving ground. One of the first acts signed at the founding of the influential Stiff Records label, he began to capture attention as part of 1977's punk rock wave, which acted as a flag of convenience for a variety of musical styles and intentions.

As early as 1978, Costello's appetite for a broad range of musical collaborations and adventures was expressed in a solo recording of Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine;" his appearance with country/blues legend Delbert McClinton at the Lone Star Cafe; his support of Rock against Racism; and his first character role in a feature film.

By 1986, Costello's restless imagination produced an unprecedented concert tour that featured the "Spectacular Spinning Songbook," which audience members spun to deliver the next song selection to be performed. The show returned to the stage in 2011 and has enjoyed five U.S. runs, appearances in Australia and Europe, as well as two comprehensive U.K. tours, the last of which culminated in a three-night engagement at the Royal Albert Hall in July 2013.

Costello has continued to amass an impressive songbook, featured on his own recordings as well on those by a pantheon of legendary interpreters. He has worked with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Robert Wyatt, Chet Baker, George Jones, Bob Dylan, the Count Basie Orchestra, Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Tony Bennett, Yoko Ono, Allen Toussaint, The Pogues, Jimmy Cliff, Hal Willner’s “Weird Nightmares” featuring the microtonal instruments created by Harry Partch, Mingus Big Band/Charles Mingus Orchestra, Brodsky Quartet, Gunther Schuller (who conducted Costello’s first very short orchestral overture, The Edge Of Ugly, in 1995), Hubert Sumlin, Anne Sofie von Otter, Swedish Radio Symphony, Solomon Burke, Emmylou Harris, Charlie Haden, Van Morrison, John Harle, The Fairfield Four, Marian McPartland, Bill Frisell, Diana Krall, Metropole Orkest, Lucinda Williams, Madeleine Albright, and The Roots, to name just a few.

Costello’s songwriting collaboration with Paul McCartney yielded a dozen songs; and the same number were written with Burt Bacharach, appearing on the album Painted From Memory, which they are currently adapting for the musical stage, along with entirely new compositions.

All the while, he has continued to work with early-days musical partners Nick Lowe, Pete Thomas, and Steve Nieve.

The Juliet Letters, the 1992 song sequence composed with the Brodsky Quartet, was a turning point in Costello's songwriting career, as he moved toward long-form writing featuring classical or non-traditional rock instrumentation.

Subsequent projects have included Purcell-inspired work for the viol consort Fretwork and countertenor Michael Chance; an orchestral score for the Italian dance troupe Aterballetto based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, later revised for a recording with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas; an unfinished work based on relationships of Hans Christian Anderson, Jenny Lind, and P.T. Barnum commissioned by the Royal Danish Opera; a chamber music score for a storybook recording of Tom Thumb; Nightspot, a score for Twyla Tharp and the Miami City Ballet for Latin dance band and chamber orchestra; and songs for an abandoned Broadway musical.

In 2008, Costello made an entry in television presentation, hosting the interview and performance show “Spectacle” for the Sundance Channel; singing with his guests, Sir Elton John, Bono and The Edge, Renee Fleming, Smokey Robinson, and Herbie Hancock; and being heard in conversation with these and other guests from Lou Reed to President Bill Clinton.

In the last decade Costello has embraced jazz as part of his ever-expanding repertoire. His 2003 Deutsche Grammophon album North topped the Billboard Traditional Jazz chart, while his 2004 album Il Sogno topped the Billboard Classical Music chart. His 2006 collaboration with Allen Toussaint, “The River In Reverse,” peaked at #2 on the jazz chart and garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. Never content to stop experimenting, Costello's latest project Wise Up Ghost (for Blue Note) has him teaming up with hip-hop/funk legends The Roots, as seen in the video clip on this page.

Ticket Information

  • Tickets will be available to the general public starting Monday, October 21. If you have RSVP'd to the Facebook event, you will receive a reminder when these tickets are released.
  • Tickets are FREE.
  • One ticket per person.
  • Tickets must be picked up in person at the Box Office ONLY (no reservations by phone or e-mail).
  • Tickets for NEC students, staff, and faculty are available at the Box Office starting Monday, October 7, during regular business hours (M-F 10am–6pm, Sat noon–6pm )
  • On the day of the event, doors will open at 1:15pm. Ticket holders must be in their seats by 1:45pm to guarantee admission.
  • Day-of tickets will be available at the box office until 12:30pm.
Date: October 25, 2013 - 2:00:PM
Price: Free
Location: NEC’s Jordan Hall

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