- 25 Aug 22
Famed jazz artists Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter were also present at the event celebrating Joni Mitchell.
Trailblazing singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell has received an honorary doctorate degree from Berklee College of Music.
Berklee’s Office of the President and Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice presented Mitchell with the honour yesterday (August 23), at a private event in Santa Monica.
Mitchell accepted the accolade about one month after her surprise yet triumphant return to live performing at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. The Blue artist was joined on stage by Brandi Carlile for her first major performance since 2013.
The 78-year-old Canadian paid tribute to her mother while accepting the honorary doctorate yesterday.
“Well, luckily, I’m too old to get a swelled head,” Mitchell said. “It’s a beautiful event. Words can’t describe it. I’ve got my good friends here with me. I wish my parents were alive. My mother in particular would be really proud of this because she wanted me to go to college.
"I went to art school and I quit after a year," she added. "She thinks of me as a quitter. So to see this achievement would be really impressive to her. I wish I could share it with her.”
Presenting Dr. Joni Mitchell, the latest recipient of Berklee College of Music's Honorary Doctorate and beret to match.
Photos by Kelly Davidson pic.twitter.com/IH3LZBaRWv
— Joni Mitchell (@jonimitchell) August 24, 2022
After graduating from high school at Aden Bowman Collegiate in Saskatoon, Mitchell took art classes at the Saskatoon Technical Collegiate with abstract expressionist painter Henry Bonli and left home to attend the Alberta College of Art in Calgary for the 1963–64 school year.
However, she felt disillusioned about the high priority given to technical skill over free-class creativity there, and felt out of step with the trend toward pure abstraction and the tendency to move into commercial art. She dropped out of school after a year at age 20, a decision that massively disappointed her parents, who could remember the Great Depression and valued education highly.
Mitchell was introduced yesterday by Berklee’s current president, Erica Muhl, who dubbed the iconic singer-songwriter “a force for change in the industry, blazing the trail for women in music with an unwavering commitment to achieving the status rightfully due her as one of the world’s great musical artists.”
Terri Lyne Carrington, founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, added: “I am thrilled that we are finally able to honour Joni Mitchell. Her career and social principles stand for the values our institute pursues—imagination, freedom, equity, and identity. I can think of no one more deserving.”
Musical tributes from Esperanza Spalding, Dianne Reeves, Säje, and others were rolled out at the California ceremony. Berklee students Devon Gates, Julian Miltenberger, Milena Casado, and Nika Ko delivered renditions of a slew of Mitchell’s songs, including 'A Case of You,' 'Love,' 'Both Sides Now,' 'River,' and more.
Aside from her honorary doctorate degree, Joni Mitchell has won ten Grammy Awards and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.