Commencement: Jessye Norman Addresses the Class of 2019

“I trust that you are inspired to set about making your own history, your own special mark on the world—a world that is just waiting for and needing your passion and your humanity,” said legendary soprano Jessye Norman in her keynote address.

Jessye Norman smiles on the Jordan Hall stage while faculty applaud after she gave a keynote address

 Joy, applause, and gratitude filled Jordan Hall on Sunday, May 19, 2019 during New England Conservatory’s 148th commencement. The ceremony began with warm congratulations from Kennett F. Burnes, president of the Board of Trustees, and from President Andrea Kalyn.

Graduates sit in Jordan Hall

“You’ve proven your hunger and your capacity for learning more, and for stretching yourselves. And so: You’ve got this,”

said President Kalyn.

Alumna Ashleigh Gordon ’08 MM welcomed graduates into the fold of the NEC alumni community, and then asked them to lift up their hands, look at them, and touch them, saying:

“This person—you—is a unique, hard working, beautiful force capable of great things. While you have this incredible NEC family tree to support you in the years to come, know that you are the root source for your greatest aspirations. You, the limitless potential of your creativity, the very qualities that make you who you are, are your greatest asset.”

Read Ashleigh Gordon's full remarks

Student speaker Darynn Dean ’19 spoke about overcoming moments of difficulty and discouragement, anchoring her message by singing moments from a favorite gospel hymn by composer Clara Ward: “How I got over, how I got over, my soul looks back and wonders how I got over.” Said Dean:

“We all began somewhere and yet ended up here, all in the same TP and Solfege classes, and leaning on each other to get through the tough times. We all came and saw opportunity at NEC. An opportunity to express and to share in one of the most incredible magical forces in the world: music.”

Dean received a standing ovation, and her words inspired tears in some listeners.

Read Darynn Dean's full remarks

Jean Morrow, Jessye Norman, and Ursula Oppens
Jean Morrow, Jessye Norman, and Ursula Oppens were awarded honorary degrees.

Honorary Doctorates were awarded to former director of libraries Jean Morrow, presented by Helen Greenwald; pianist Ursula Oppens, presented by Stephen Drury; and to soprano Jessye Norman, presented by Bradley Williams.

Miss Norman’s keynote address echoed President Kalyn’s belief in the graduating class’s ability to contribute powerfully to the world through music:

“Your chosen discipline, and your good fortune in having prepared for what is next in your life at a school renowned for its amazing number of artists covering the planet, makes you qualified more than some to lead this world out of its malaise. Yes, celebrate your own creativity. Celebrate its wisdom; celebrate all that is possible.”

The ceremony honored Frank L. Battisti, Veronica Jochum, John Moriarty, and Gregory E. Smith, the first four inductees into NEC’s new Faculty Emeriti program.

The ceremony also honored the following:

  • Tourjée Alumni Scholarship Award: Robyn Smith ’19

  • The Donald Martino Award for Excellence in Composition: Benjamin Park ’19 DMA

  • Peter Lyman Row Global Musicianship Award: Nima Janmohammadi ’19 DMA

  • Entrepreneurial Musicianship Spark Award: Emma Gies ’19 MM, Kayla Schwartz ’19 MM

  • Louis and Adrienne Krasner Teaching Excellence Award: Ellen Exner

  • George Whitefield Chadwick Medal: Julia Cohen ’19, Darynn Dean ’19

  • Gunther Schuller Medal: Magdalena Abrego ’19 MM

More Commencement News:

Alumni Speaker Ashleigh Gordon ’08 MM

Student Speaker Darynn Dean ’19

Photos: Congratulations to the Class of 2019

First Honorees in NEC's New Faculty Emeriti Program

A Master of Music at Age Sixty-Five