NEC’s 151st Commencement took place on Sunday, May 22, in Jordan Hall, with the community celebrating the achievements of our remarkable students during a challenging time. Commencement speaker, multiple Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter James Taylor received an honorary doctorate, and implored students to continue playing live music after the challenges and isolation of the past few years.
“Music performed in an actual non-virtual space with an audience of fellow human beings can be truly transcendent – a communal, emotional event. Make live music for live people, whatever it takes.”
NEC honored Ella Jenkins, regarded as the “First Lady of Children’s Music,” with an honorary doctorate in recognition of her immense contributions to children's music over the course of her six-decade career, as she drew on African-American musical traditions to inspire generations of children and leaders in the field of children's music. Ella extended a touching online greeting to the community in Jordan Hall.
NEC honored David Amram with an honorary doctorate at the ceremony. David is an influential composer and has been an associate of Leonard Bernstein and Jack Kerouac, among many others, over the course of his long and storied career.
NEC also presented an honorary doctorate to Kennett F. Burnes, Chair of the NEC Board of Trustees since 2014, in recognition of his longtime service to and support of our institution.
Student and alumni speakers at the ceremony included Kevin L. Harris '04 MM greeting the graduates on behalf of the NEC Alumni Association, and student speaker Josaphat Contreras ’22 MM.
A ceremony at NEC wouldn't be complete without musical performances. Commencement featured live music, including a New Orleans-style jazz procession into the hall, and Yi-Mei Templeman '22 of Trio Gaia performing "SEVEN" by Andrea Casarrubios.
The ceremony featured a special message from Ukrainian cellist Denys Karachevtsev, who captured the world’s attention when he played Bach’s Cello Suite No. 5 outside the bombed-out remains of the regional police headquarters in the city of Kharkiv in March 2022.
The ceremony also featured a greeting from Ukraine-born pianist Emanuel Ax, who received an honorary doctorate from NEC in 2021.
NEC President Andrea Kalyn presented awards to students, faculty, and staff who had gone above and beyond in their service to the NEC community – including Zoe Cagan '21 MM, who received the Gunther Schuller Medal, and Leah McKinnon-Howe, Director of NEC Health Services, for her tireless efforts to keep the NEC community healthy and safe during the pandemic.
After the past few years, it was an absolute delight to celebrate our graduates and honorees as a community in Jordan Hall. Congratulations to all of our graduates and honorees!
Words by Katie Ingegneri, NEC; Photos by Andrew Hurlbut, NEC