Harry Belafonte to Receive Honorary Doctorate at Berklee

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Harry Belafonte to Receive Honorary Doctorate at Berklee March 6th, 2014



Berklee College of Music president Roger H. Brown will present an honorary doctor of music degree to iconic musician, songwriter, and activist Harry Belafonte at a Berklee tribute concert, in recognition of Belafonte’s inspiring musical and humanitarian achievements. Past recipients of Berklee’s honorary doctorate include Duke Ellington (the first, in 1971), Dizzy Gillespie, Steven Tyler, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Juan Luis Guerra, David Bowie, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Bonnie Raitt, George Clinton, and Carole King.

The Life and Music of Harry Belafonte: A Tribute Concert takes place on Thursday, March 6, at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston. Directed by professor Larry Watson, Berklee students and faculty will celebrate Mr. Belafonte’s life and music from “Banana Boat Song” to “We Are the World.” Tickets are available at berkleebpc.com.

The tribute concert is part of a multi-day celebration that includes a Harry Belafonte “Teach-In” for the Berklee community—a forum for the discussion of Belafonte’s groundbreaking legacy in the areas of music, film, the civil rights movement, and human rights advocacy, and examination of music’s impact on social change. The panel, moderated by Dr. Michael Mason, assistant chair of liberal arts, and Dr. Diane Richardson, assistant chair of voice, will feature artists, scholars, and community activists including Mr. Melvin King, Ms. Betsy Siggins, and Dr. Lindsey Swindall.

Additional Harry Belafonte “Teach In” Events

– A viewing of an excerpt from Belafonte’s documentary film “Sing Your Song.”

– Harry Belafonte as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador – an overview of UNICEF and discussion about ways for all of us to take action and contribute to the world.

– An historical tribute to Harry Belafonte with Dr. William Banfield, professor of Africana studies.

About Harry Belafonte:

Harry Belafonte was born in Harlem in 1927 and grew up in Jamaica. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and served as a munitions loader. After an honorable discharge, he returned to New York, where he became immersed in the world of theatre. Paralleling this pursuit was his interest and love of jazz. He developed relationships with the young geniuses of modern jazz, and on the occasion of his first professional appearance, had Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Tommy Potter and Al Haig as his backing band.

Belafonte’s RCA album Calypso made him the first artist in industry history to sell over one million LP’s. He also won a Tony Award, an Emmy Award as the first black producer in television, and starred in the Golden Globe-winning film Carmen Jones.

Belafonte’s many firsts in the overturning of numerous racial barriers in America is legend. He was appointed by President John F. Kennedy to be the cultural advisor for the Peace Corps and served for five years. Belafonte met a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his historic visit to New York in the early 1950’s. From that day until the leader’s assassination, Belafonte and King developed a deep and abiding friendship that for Belafonte still stands as one of his most precious experiences.

Disturbed by cruel events unfolding in Africa due to war, drought, and famine, Belafonte set in motion the wheels that led to the USA for Africa project and the recording of “We Are the World” on January 28, 1985. Belafonte was also a prominent contributor to ending the oppressive apartheid government of South Africa and for the release of friend Nelson Mandela after twenty-seven years of incarceration.

In 1987, Belafonte was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, making him the second American to hold this title. He has continued to devote himself globally to civil and human rights issues, focusing in particular on the United States and Africa.

Belafonte has received numerous awards, including The Albert Einstein Award from Yeshiva University, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize, the Acorn Award from the Bronx Community College for his work with children, and the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors for excellence in the performing arts. He was the first recipient of the Nelson Mandela Courage Award and was honored at the White House with the 1994 National Medal of Arts from President Clinton for his contributions to our nation’s cultural life.

In 2013, he received the Spingarn Medal, the most prestigious award bestowed by the NAACP, and the Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International.

Berklee College of Music was founded on the revolutionary principle that the best way to prepare students for careers in music is through the study and practice of contemporary music. For more than 65 years, the college has evolved to reflect the current state of the music industry, leading the way with baccalaureate studies in performance, music business/management, songwriting, music therapy, film scoring, and more. With a focus on global learning, Berklee in Valencia, a new campus in Spain, is hosting the college’s first graduate programs, while Berklee Online serves distance learners worldwide with extension classes and degree-granting programs. The Berklee City Music Network provides after-school programming for underserved teens in 45 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. With a student body representing nearly 100 countries and alumni and faculty that have won more than 305 Grammy and Latin Grammy Awards, Berklee is the world’s premier learning lab for the music of today—and tomorrow.

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