Berklee Legacy Award Concert Honors African American Trailblazers in Music and Dance

Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Joseph Douglass, and Carmen de Lavallade will be celebrated for their contributions.

October 13, 2021
The Berklee Legacy Award Concert has been postponed to this spring. A new date will be announced soon.

Berklee's Signature Series presents the Berklee Legacy Award Concert, commemorating the inaugural awardees Duke Ellington '71H, Sarah Vaughan, Joseph Douglass, and Carmen de Lavallade '94H. 

Berklee faculty member and Grammy-nominated artist Tia Fuller will direct a big band to celebrate Ellington, Berklee's first honorary doctorate recipient; and George Russell Jr., chair of Berklee’s Harmony Department, will lead an ensemble to recognize Vaughan’s incomparable artistry. From Boston Conservatory at Berklee, Dr. Jonathan Bailey Holland, chair of composition, contemporary music, and core studies, salutes concert violinist Douglass, who studied at the Conservatory in the late 19th century and was the grandson of Frederick Douglass. Dr. Mila Thigpen, chair of the Dance Division, will choreograph a tribute to de Lavallade, who was one of the first African Americans to dance with the Metropolitan Opera.

Earlier this year, Berklee dedicated four spaces on its Boston campus to the honorees at a virtual ceremony. The Berklee dining hall at 160 Massachusetts Avenue was named the Duke Ellington Caf, memorializing Ellington's legacy at the campus’s central gathering place for students and faculty. Berklee College of Music's classroom 114 at 150 Massachusetts Avenue was named the Sarah Vaughan Classroom, dedicated to learning and practice sessions, with a street-level view for all members of the community to enjoy special performances. Boston Conservatory at Berklee's 8 Fenway entryway was named the Joseph Douglass Lobby to inspire students as they enter the building. And the Conservatory's room 301 at 31 Hemenway Street was named the Carmen de Lavallade Dance Studio, as the central place for dancers to rehearse and perfect their art.

“Naming spaces on campus for Ellington, Vaughan, Douglass, and de Lavallade—transformational artists in the worlds of music and dance—is a meaningful way to honor their legacies and keep their stories alive for current and future generations,” said Berklee President Erica Muhl. “This concert will showcase the genius of these groundbreaking artists, and I am thrilled that our immensely talented students and faculty have the opportunity to perform their timeless works for a live audience.”

The Berklee Legacy Award was established to recognize extraordinary Black performing artists throughout history, and to honor outstanding figures who have received an honorary doctorate from Berklee and/or devoted time, wisdom, and mentorship to members of the Berklee community.

The Berklee Legacy Award Concert will be held at the Berklee Performance Center. Tickets are available online and at the Berklee Performance Center box office.

Berklee's Live Event Attendance Policy

Any member of the public attending a live, ticketed event at Berklee will be required to provide a government-issued photo identification and one of the following: proof of full vaccination (two weeks after the second of a two-shot vaccine or the first of a one-shot vaccine); proof of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the event; or a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours of the event.

Attendees may provide these documents in physical/paper form, by photocopy, or a photo on a phone as long as all information is clearly visible and readable. Photos of at-home tests must be time-stamped. Masks will be required indoors, regardless of vaccination or negative test status. Attendees must bring their own masks and wear them over the nose and mouth.