BOSTON (CBS) – Music icons Missy Elliott, Justin Timberlake and Alex Lacamoire were on hand at Berklee College of Music’s commencement to accept their honorary degrees Saturday.
More than 1,000 graduates from 67 countries and 47 U.S. states received degrees today at Berklee College of Music’s 2019 commencement. At the ceremony, Berklee President Roger H. Brown presented honorary doctor of music degrees to music icons Missy Elliott, Justin Timberlake, and Alex Lacamoire. Lacamoire, a 1995 graduate of the college, delivered the commencement address to the graduating class and an estimated audience of nearly 7,000 guests at Agganis Arena.
Rapper, singer, songwriter and producer Missy Elliott, a five-time Grammy Award-winner whose U.S. sales have surpassed 30 million, was praised for bending genres, breaking stereotypes, and pushing musical, visual, and stylistic boundaries. Elliott is the first hip-hop artist to receive Berklee’s honorary doctorate.
“There will be ups and downs — prepare for that,” said Elliott in her remarks to the graduating class. After describing her own ups and downs, such as losing awards, being dropped from a label and becoming ill, she encouraged graduates to be patient through the struggle but to never give up on themselves. “As long as you are breathing, it is never too late. Don’t forget that. You have come too far to quit.”
Justin Timberlake, a decorated singer, songwriter, musician and actor with 10 Grammys, four Emmys, seven American Music Awards, three Brit Awards, nine Billboard Music Awards, and 32 million albums sold, was honored for his influence on pop music, his versatility and for being an inspiration to others.
“You’re defined by what you define failure as. It’s not a thing if it leads you to your success. It’s all part of the journey,” said Timberlake. He concluded his acceptance with a challenge that brought cheers from the audience. “I hope that in the years to come, two things will happen: One, I will represent you in the way that you most hope for. And two, I look around and see this graduating class. Meet me at the studio. I want to see y’all!”
Alex Lacamoire, acclaimed composer, producer, orchestrator, musical director, four-time Grammy Award-winner and 1995 Berklee grad was cited for his musicianship, creativity and vital contributions to American musical theater.
“To be bestowed this distinguished title for simply doing what I love, what I believe I was born to do, it fills me with a level of pride that I can’t compare to anything else I’ve felt until today,” said Lacamoire in accepting the doctorate.
Lacamoire, who also delivered the commencement address, told of struggling as a boy to find his place in a new school. A defining moment came when he gave a well-received impromptu piano performance. “And in that moment, something in me realized: ‘They want to hear what I have to say.’ I can’t overstate how seminal that moment was,” said Lacamoire. “The applause that followed instilled a newfound confidence in me. It made me feel like I had a superpower. …It makes me aware of the power of music. It unites us, it unifies us
The annual commencement concert, held the previous evening at Agganis, featured some of the college’s students paying tribute to the honorees by performing their music, including Elliott’s “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” and “Get Ur Freak On,” songs from Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen originally arranged by Lacamoire, and Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River” and “Rock Your Body.” All three honorees joined the students on stage during the concert’s finale, and Timberlake sang on “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”