Press release

Jessye Norman Announced as Commencement Speaker

Soprano Jessye Norman, pianist Ursula Oppens, and former Director of Libraries Jean Morrow will receive honorary degrees at NEC's 148th Commencement Ceremony.

New England Conservatory will confer honorary degrees on Jessye Norman, Ursula Oppens, and Jean Morrow at its 148th Commencement Ceremony, which celebrates the graduating class of 2019. The keynote address will be delivered by Miss Norman.

The ceremony marks the first commencement of NEC President Andrea Kalyn’s tenure and will take place on Sunday, May 19, 2019. General seating begins in NEC's Jordan Hall at 2:15 p.m. with the ceremony at 3 p.m. The event is open to the public with no tickets required.

Keynote speaker:

Jessye Norman, Honorary Doctor of Music

Jessye Norman

Jessye Norman, one of the world’s most celebrated performing artists, is acclaimed for her performances in a wide range of leading roles with the world’s premier opera companies, in solo recitals, and in concerts of her cherished classical repertoire with preeminent orchestras all over the globe, as well as her latest artistic expansion with her jazz ensemble and her extensive programming of music from the American musical theater.

She is the recipient of many awards and accolades including some 40 honorary doctorate degrees from colleges, universities and conservatories around the world, five Grammy awards including the “Lifetime Achievement Award,” the NAACP Spingarn Award, the Kennedy Center Honor, and the National Medal of the Arts. Her community service and trustee board memberships include the New York Botanical Garden, Carnegie Hall, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the New York Public Library, the Lupus Alliance, and the Partnership for the Homeless.

The Jessye Norman School of the Arts in her hometown of Augusta, Georgia, enables her to support and see first-hand the overall growth of middle school-age students into the fullness of their talents and gifts as they develop their own sense of community and citizenship.

Additional Honorary Degrees:

Ursula Oppens, Honorary Doctor of Music

Ursula Oppens smiles and clasps her hands together with a piano in the background

Widely admired for her original and perceptive readings of new music and the standard repertoire, Ursula Oppens has premiered and/or commissioned works by John Adams, Luciano Berio, Carla Bley, Anthony Braxton, Elliott Carter, John Corigliano, Anthony Davis, Julius Hemphill, John Harbison, Laura Kaminsky, György Ligeti, Witold Lutosławski, Conlon Nancarrow, Tobias Picker, Charles Wuorinen, and many more.

With five Grammy nominations to her credit, Ms. Oppens established her reputation early on with a classic recording of Frederic Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated. She has released Piano Songs, music by Meredith Monk, with pianist Bruce Brubaker; Winging It: Piano Music of John Corigliano; Oppens Plays Carter (complete Carter piano works); Piano Music of Our TimeKeys to the City, (complete Picker piano music); and, with pianist Jerome Lowenthal, Visions de l’Amen by Messiaen and Debussy’s En blanc et noir

As guest soloist, Ms. Oppens has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Berlin Symphony, and London Philharmonic Orchestras, among others, and has collaborated with the Arditti, Cassatt, Juilliard, and Pacifica quartets. Ms. Oppens teaches at Mannes College, and is a Distinguished Professor of Music at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.

Jean Morrow, Honorary Doctor of Music

Jean Morrow

Jean Morrow served as Director of Libraries at New England Conservatory for three decades, 1986-2016, playing a central role in the planning and development of the Blumenthal Family Library in the new Student Life and Performance Center.  As director, she oversaw one of the most important music collections in the nation, including the library archives and special collections of manuscripts, first editions, personal papers and recorded performances of many of the great composers and musicians who have taught and performed at NEC.

She holds a BA in Humanities from MacMurray College, a MA in Music History from Smith College, and pursued advanced studies in musicology at New York University. Her research has focused on education for music librarianship, music archives, and music collections. Ms. Morrow was a lecturer at Simmons College’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

An active member of the Music Library Association as a member at large on the board of directors, she also served as editor for the association’s Basic Manual Series for nearly 20 years, held numerous MLA committee appointments, and served as chair of the New England regional chapter. She is also an accomplished organist.


Sandy Fasules, New England Conservatory,

Jessica Lustig, 21C Media Group,

About New England Conservatory

The New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) in Boston, Massachusetts, is the oldest independent school of music in the United States, and it is widely recognized as one of the country's most distinguished music schools. NEC is especially known for its strings, piano, woodwinds, and brass departments, and its prestigious chamber music program.


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