Joni Mitchell Accepts Honorary Doctorate Degree From Berklee College of Music

Joni Mitchell has received an honorary doctorate degree from Berklee College of Music, as presented by Berklee’s Office of the President and Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. The singer was honored at a private gathering in Santa Monica hosted by Linda and Russell Brown of MaddocksBrown Foundation.

“Well, luckily I’m too old to get a swelled head,” Mitchell told the crowd during her acceptance speech . “It’s a beautiful event. Words can’t describe it. I’ve got my good friends here with me.” She added, “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 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.”

“Since her debut in the late 1960s, Joni has been a force for change in the industry,” said Berklee President Erica Muhl during her introduction, “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, also mused: “I am thrilled that we are finally able to honor 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.”

The evening featured musical tribute performances by Dianne Reeves, Esperanza Spalding, Säje, and Berklee students Devon Gates, Julian Miltenberger, Milena Casado and Nika Ko. The group performed various songs from Mitchell’s catalog, like “A Case of You,” “Love,” “Both Sides Now,” “River,” and more. Special guests included Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.

Mitchell is hot on the heels of her impressive full-scale return to the stage. In July, she delivered her first live performance since 2013 for the Newport Folk Festival where she played a full set alongside guest vocalists Marcus Mumford, Celisse, Wynonna Judd, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and the organizer of the set, Brandi Carlile.

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