2017 Commencement Marks a Year of Milestones for Graduating Class and the Conservatory

May 17, 2017

Boston Conservatory at Berklee’s 2017 commencement was, of course, a personal triumph for the school’s 245 graduating students, but they shared this moment with some of the biggest milestones in the Conservatory’s history. Not only can the class of 2017 claim the distinction of being the graduating class of the school’s 150th anniversary year, but it is also the Conservatory’s first crop of students to graduate from the merged institution, and the final class of Richard Ortner’s tenure as president of the school.

To mark this unprecedented convergence of milestones, this year’s commencement featured a special program. Three alumni—one from each division—received Distinguished Alumni Awards: renowned mezzo soprano Sandra Piques Eddy (B.M. '94, music education, voice), Broadway, film, and television actor Eddie Korbich (B.F.A. '83, musical theater), and teacher and choreographer Karla Wolfangle (Cert. '65, dance).

These artists’ illustrious careers embody the range of talent and skills produced by the school’s multi-arts environment. As Korbich remarked, “This body of work that I’ve managed to accumulate was all forged by the skills that I learned right here at Boston Conservatory, and have traveled with me my entire career.”

Eddy, who is “fiercely proud” of her Conservatory music education degree, “caught the performance bug” at the school, and noted how its abundant performance opportunities prepared her for a career that includes more than 100 performances at the Metropolitan Opera.

Wolfangle acknowledged the influential Conservatory teachers who “started a movement born out of the emotion of two world wars and found their communication through dance.” “The passion and fortitude of these pioneers were instilled in me as a student and they became my passions,” she said. Wolfangle, whose career spans more than 50 years, advised graduates to “stay attached to your true artistic selves.”

Award-winning actor Alan Cumming received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts, which was presented to him earlier in the week at the Conservatory’s 150th Anniversary Gala, where his unique talent was on full display as master of ceremonies. In a video address to the commencement audience, Cumming, who is known for his activism, implored students to “look around you and see the stories that are not being told,” and “tell those stories.”

In his final commencement address as president of the Conservatory, Richard Ortner thanked graduates for their “trailblazing” work, both on the stage and in service to the wider community: “You understood the deepest, most important lessons of everything we do: how music, theater, and dance nurture the healthy human heart, how your work carries the emotional weight of human memory, and how crucial that is in our lives and in these times.”

President Ortner praised the class of 2017 for their growth as artists and as people. “You’ve also been with us as we changed and grew,” he said.

David Scott Sloan, past chairman of the Board of Trustees, echoed Ortner’s sentiments: “You embraced the merger with Berklee and led the way with enthusiasm. When you look out into the world and say, wow, everything is changing, this class, more than any other, has embraced it.”

View the 2017 commencement video