On October 19, guitarist Bill Frisell and composer Michael Gibbs were awarded honorary doctor of music degrees by Berklee College of Music during a concert celebrating Gibbs’s 80th birthday. The career-spanning concert reunited Gibbs with Frisell, his student at Berklee in the 1970s, as well as his longtime friend and former Berklee classmate, legendary jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton. The performance also featured saxophonist Jim Odgren and the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra, directed by Greg Hopkins, professor of jazz composition.
Presenting the honorary degrees, Berklee President Roger Brown noted that “the whole legacy of Berklee comes together in one place.” He said that the influence of Gibbs “cannot be overstated” and that “his work anticipated the fusion movement of the ’70s,” adding that Frisell “continues to lead us into new musical worlds.”
Burton dedicated his first-ever solo performance of “Sweet Rain,” a Gibbs composition, to Gibbs, “my school friend—we were in class together back in the day.” Gibbs conducted the concert finale himself, closing with a series of dramatic crescendos that left the audience almost breathless, a fitting testament to his storied career.
Frisell and Gibbs join other Berklee honorary degree recipients who have been recognized for their achievements, including Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, Steven Tyler, Loretta Lynn, Juan Luis Guerra, Annie Lennox, Paco de Lucia, Carole King, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, George Clinton, Rita Moreno, Lionel Richie, A. R. Rahman, and others.
(Image Courtesy of Boston Globe)