152nd Annual Commencement Exercises to be held on May 21, 2023 in historic Jordan Hall
Commencement Concert Will Showcase Graduating NEC Class of 2023 on May 20
Boston, MA –New England Conservatory President Andrea Kalyn and the Board of Trustees announce composer, trombonist, and musicologist George E. Lewis as commencement speaker and honorary degree recipient at the Conservatory’s 152nd annual commencement exercises which will be held in-person on Sunday, May 21 at 2 p.m. ET. This is NEC’s largest graduating class in the school’s history.
The ceremony will take place in historic Jordan Hall and will be streamed on NEC’s website (necmusic.edu). NEC will bestow honorary Doctor of Music (hon. D.M.) degrees on Lewis, who will deliver his commencement address at Jordan Hall, as well as internationally renowned harpist Ann Hobson Pilot and revered conductor David Zinman.
The ceremony also features alumni speaker Mei-Ann Chen, the first student in NEC history to receive masters degrees in violin and conducting simultaneously. Praised for her dynamic, passionate conducting style, she is acclaimed for infusing orchestras with energy, enthusiasm, and high-level music-making, galvanizing audiences and communities alike.
“Our annual commencement exercises offer a chance to celebrate, reflect, and look to the future,” says President Kalyn. “We are thrilled to welcome and honor genre-transcending composer/musicologist George E. Lewis, barrier-breaking harpist Ann Hobson Pilot, and venerable conductor David Zinman. We’re also excited to honor alumni speaker Mei-Ann Chen, an innovative conductor who set new standards at NEC. ”
This year’s recipients are honored for their lifelong commitment to and support of the performing arts and their remarkable contributions to the field. Recent past recipients include: James Taylor (2022); Ella Jenkins (2022); Mavis Staples (2021); Jessye Norman (2019); Herbie Hancock (2018); André Previn (2017); Leonard Slatkin, (2016); Ahmad Jamal (2015); Carla Bley (2014); Philip Gossett (2013); George Shirley (2012); Steve Reich (2011); and Quincy Jones (2010), Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis. Full list of past Honorary Doctor of Music Degree recipients here.
At the 2023 Commencement ceremony, 340 individuals (110 undergraduate and 230 graduate students) will be awarded degrees and diplomas including the Bachelor of Music, Graduate Performance Certificate, Graduate Diploma, Master of Music, Artist Diploma, and Doctor of Musical Arts. A pre-Commencement in-person and streamed concert will showcase NEC students from the graduating classes on Saturday, May 20, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. ET. Further details will be announced on the NEC website in advance of the performance.
*** Biographies ***
Photo @Simon Pauly
Praised for her dynamic, passionate conducting style, Taiwanese American conductor Mei-Ann Chen is acclaimed for infusing orchestras with energy, enthusiasm and high-level music-making, galvanizing audiences and communities alike. Music Director of the MacArthur Award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011, Ms. Chen has been Chief Conductor of Austria’s recreation – Grosses Orchester Graz at Styriarte since fall 2021, following two seasons as the orchestra’s first-ever Principal Guest Conductor, making her the first female Asian conductor to hold this position with an Austrian orchestra. Since 2019, she has served as the first-ever Artistic Partner of Houston’s ROCO and became an Artistic Partner with Northwest Sinfonietta in Washington state in fall 2022. Highly regarded as a compelling communicator and an innovative leader both on and off the podium, and a sought-after guest conductor, she has appeared with distinguished orchestras throughout the Americas, Europe, Taiwan, The United Kingdom, and Scandinavia, and continues to expand her relationships with orchestras worldwide (over 120 orchestras to date). Honors include being named one of the 2015 Top 30 Influencers by Musical America; the 2012 Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras; Winner, the 2007 Taki Concordia Fellowship founded by Marin Alsop; and 2005 First Prize Winner of the Malko Competition (she remains as the only woman in the competition history since 1965 to have won First Prize), and ASCAP awards for innovative programming. https://www.meiannchen.com/
Photo @ Maurice Weiss
George E. Lewis is an American composer, musicologist, computer-installation artist, and trombonist, and the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University where he serves as Area Chair in Composition, and Artistic Director of the International Contemporary Ensemble. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, and a member of the Akademie der Künste Berlin, Lewis’s other honors include a MacArthur Fellowship (2002) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015), a Doris Duke Artist Award (2019), a United States Artists Walker Fellowship (2011), an Alpert Award in the Arts (1999), and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Lewis studied composition with Muhal Richard Abrams at the AACM School of Music, and trombone with Dean Hey. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, Lewis’s work in electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, and notated and improvisational forms is documented on more than 150 recordings. His work, published by Edition Peters, has been presented by ensembles worldwide, and he is widely regarded as a pioneer in the creation of computer programs that improvise in concert with human musicians. Lewis’s central areas of scholarship include the history and criticism of experimental music, computer music, interactive media, and improvisation, particularly as these areas become entangled with the dynamics of race, gender, and decolonisation. An Honorary Member of the American Musicological Society, his widely read book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (University of Chicago Press, 2008) received the American Book Award and the American Musicological Society’s Music in American Culture Award. Lewis and Benjamin Piekut are the co-editors of the two-volume Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies (2016). Lewis holds honorary doctorates from the University of Edinburgh, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Oberlin College, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Birmingham City University, among others. For more about Lewis, visit https://music.columbia.
Photo @ Michael Lutch
Ann Hobson Pilot is an internationally renowned classical harpist, now retired from the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras after 40 years. As an African American woman in the classical music world, she broke barriers of both race and gender, and she is devoted to expanding access to musical training for underserved students and to raising awareness about issues of diversity and inclusion of underrepresented musicians in orchestras. She was born in Philadelphia and is a graduate of the Philadelphia High School for Girls and the Cleveland Institute of Music where she was a student of Alice Chalifoux. In 1966, she was hired by the National Symphony (Washington, D.C.) as Principal Harpist, making her the first Black Principal (for any instrument) in an American orchestra. She joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1969 and was named Principal Harp in 1980. An international soloist, Ms. Pilot has performed with orchestras in Europe, New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina as well as with many American orchestras. Committed to harp education, she recently retired from the faculties of the New England Conservatory of Music and Boston University and stepped down as Director of Boston University-Tanglewood Institute’s Young Artists Harp Program. Among her many honors, she has received the Gold Baton from the League of American Orchestras and three honorary doctorates including one from Tufts University and one from the Cleveland Institute of Music, her alma mater, where she was the commencement speaker. In a PBS documentary (A Harpist’s Legacy: Ann Hobson Pilot and the Sound of Change), the full impact of Ms. Pilot’s legacy is affirmed by her students and celebrated by James Levine, Yo-Yo Ma, and John Williams. Paying homage to her artistry, Maestro Williams composed a harp concerto for her when she retired from the Boston Symphony Orchestra (“On Willows and Birches”) saying that “it was a privilege to be asked,” and describing her as “a magician in the harp world.” Winding down her solo career, Pilot gave a performance at the Library of Congress on June 4, 2022 with the Ritz Chamber Players where she performed the Ravel “Introduction and Allegro”, the Debussy Trio and “Ennanga” by William Grant Still. The performance is available on the Library of Congress website. She and her husband Prentice Pilot are currently residents of Sarasota, FL. www.annhobsonpilot.com
Conductor Laureate of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, having completed his 19-year tenure as Music Director in summer 2014, David Zinman has held positions as Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Rochester Philharmonic and Baltimore Symphony orchestras and more recently at the Orchestre Français des Jeunes, Principal Conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, Distinguished Visiting Artist at the Eastman School of Music, and Music Director of the Aspen Music Festival, School and American Academy of Conducting. He has long-standing collaborations with soloists such as Mitsuko Uchida, Joshua Bell, Yefim Bronfman, Radu Lupu, Truls Mørk, Lisa Batiashvili, Gil Shaham, Julia Fischer, Renée Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax and András Schiff. In addition to his guest conducting engagements, Zinman also gives regularly world-renowned masterclasses which he began as part of his tenture in Zurich – most recently students at the Sibelius Academy and Royal Academy of Music have benefitted from his expertise as a teacher and coach. Recent seasons include masterclasses in collaboration with the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich and Orchestre National de Lyon. David Zinman’s extensive discography of more than 100 recordings has earned him numerous international honours, particularly for his interpretation of Beethoven’s symphonies with the Tonhalle- Orchester Zürich, including five Grammy awards, two Grand Prix du Disque, two Edison Prizes, the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis and a Gramophone Award. Recent releases include a 50 CD box set David Zinman: Great Symphonies – The Zurich Years, which commemorates his recording legacy with the Tonhalle-Orchester. In 2000 the French Ministry of Culture awarded David Zinman the title of Chevalier de’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in October 2002 the City of Zürich Art Prize was awarded to him for his outstanding artistic efforts – making him the first conductor and first non-Swiss recipient of this award. More recently, Zinman received the prestigious Theodore Thomas Award in recognition of outstanding achievement and extraordinary service to one’s colleagues in advancing the art and science of conducting. In 2008 he won the Midem Classical Artist of the Year award for his work with the Tonhalle- Orchester Zürich. He was also the 1997 recipient of the prestigious Ditson Award from Columbia University in recognition of his exceptional commitment to the performance of works by American composers.
● NEC Pre-Commencement Concert: Saturday, May 20, 7:30 p.m. ET, open to the public, in Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St., Boston, MA 02115.
● NEC 152nd Annual Commencement: Sunday, May 21, at 2 p.m. ET in Jordan Hall, 30 Gainsborough St., Boston, MA 02115.
ABOUT NEW ENGLAND CONSERVATORY
Founded by Eben Tourjée in Boston, Massachusetts in 1867, the New England Conservatory (NEC) represents a model of music school that combines the best of European tradition with American innovation. This independent conservatory stands at the center of Boston’s rich cultural history and musical life, presenting concerts at the renowned Jordan Hall on Huntington Avenue, recognized as Boston’s Avenue of the Arts. As a not-for-profit institution that educates and trains musicians of all ages, NEC cultivates a diverse, dynamic community, providing music students of more than 40 countries with performance opportunities and high-caliber training from 225 internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars. Propelled by profound artistry, bold creativity and deep compassion, NEC seeks to amplify musicians’ impact on advancing our shared humanity, and empowers students to meet today’s changing world head-on, equipped with the tools and confidence to forge multidimensional lives of artistic depth and relevance. NEC pushes the boundaries of music-making and teaching through college-level training in classical, jazz, and contemporary improvisation. Through unique interdisciplinary programs such as Entrepreneurial Musicianship and Community Performances & Partnerships, NEC empowers students to create their own opportunities. As part of NEC’s mission to make lifelong music education available to everyone, the Preparatory School and School of Continuing Education deliver training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students and adults.
George E. Lewis, composer/musicologist
Honorary Degree Recipients:
George E. Lewis, composer/musicologist
Ann Hobson Pilot, harpist
David Zinman, conductor
Mei-Ann Chen, conductor