Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Honor Cynthia Erivo and Awadagin Pratt at Commencement Ceremony
Boston Conservatory at Berklee Interim Executive Director Lucinda Carver will present an honorary doctorate in person to acclaimed concert pianist Awadagin Pratt and virtually to Emmy-, Grammy-, and Tony–winning actress, singer, author, and producer Cynthia Erivo at the Conservatory’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13. Pratt will deliver commencement remarks for the Boston Conservatory at Berklee class of 2023 at the ceremony, while Erivo will deliver remarks to the graduating class and receive her honorary doctorate virtually.
Erivo and Pratt will be recognized for their achievements and influences in music, television, film, and theater. Past honorary degree recipients for Boston Conservatory at Berklee include Debbie Allen, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Betty Buckley, Barbara Cook, André De Shields, Sutton Foster, Victoria Livengood (M.M. '85, voice), Nicholas Paleologos, Billy Porter, Leontyne Price, Chita Rivera, Mary Rogers, and Brian Stokes Mitchell, among others.
“It is an absolute honor to welcome pianist Awadagin Pratt and actress Cynthia Erivo to Boston Conservatory at Berklee as part of this year’s commencement festivities,” said Carver. “Awadagin Pratt’s distinguished performances have brought joy and inspiration to audiences for decades, and Cynthia Erivo’s marvelous acting and vocal abilities have garnered legions of television, music, theater, and movie fans around the world.”
Boston Conservatory at Berklee will hold its commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13 at 4:00 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center.
Cynthia Erivo is an Emmy-, Grammy-, and Tony-winning actress, singer, author, and producer, as well as an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) nominee. Since bursting onto West End and Broadway stages in The Color Purple, she has taken the world by storm.
Erivo is currently in production on Universal’s film adaptation of the hit musical Wicked, where she will star as Elphaba opposite Ariana Grande’s Glinda in the highly anticipated film from director Jon M. Chu. Wicked: Part One will be released in late 2024.
She was most recently seen starring opposite Idris Elba and Andy Serkis in the Netflix feature film installment of Luther: The Fallen Sun, continuing the story of the acclaimed crime series. Erivo plays Odette Raine, a by-the-book inspector who finds herself John Luther’s unlikely ally. Luther: The Fallen Sun was the number one film on Netflix the week of its premiere in March 2023. In fall 2022, Erivo starred in Disney+’s Pinocchio as the Blue Fairy, opposite Tom Hanks, Keegan Michael Key, and Luke Evans.
Erivo can next be seen starring in and producing Drift, directed by Anthony Chen. The film follows a young Liberian refugee named Jacqueline, played by Erivo, who has barely escaped her war-torn country to a Greek island. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2023, and opened to rave reviews.
Erivo has received widespread critical acclaim for her work, including two Academy Award nominations, two Golden Globe nominations, and a Grammy Award nomination for her portrayal of Harriet Tubman in 2019’s Harriet, in addition to lending her voice to the movie’s title song, “Stand Up,” which she cowrote. She also received SAG and Emmy Award nominations for her portrayal of Aretha Franklin in National Geographic’s Emmy Award-winning global anthology series Genius: Aretha.
In addition to her illustrious acting career, Erivo is a Grammy Award-winning songwriter and performer, often headlining sold-out shows, symphonies, and music spaces, including the Kennedy Center Honors, the 2020 Academy Awards, the 2017 Governors Ball, and the 2017 Grammy Awards. Erivo released her debut album, Ch. 1 Vs. 1, with Verve Records and Universal Music Group in September 2021.
Erivo added “author” to her résumé in fall 2021 with the release of her first children’s book, Remember to Dream, Ebere. The book follows a young girl named Ebere whose mother encourages her to dream as big as possible. Erivo wrote the book as an ode to a child’s imagination, a parent’s love, and the big dreams shared by both.
In August 2020, Erivo launched her production company, Edith’s Daughter, and announced her first-look deal with MRC Television and Civic Center Media. Edith’s Daughter focuses on projects that express the beauty in the stories and people who are often overlooked and underrepresented. Erivo named Solome Williams as vice president of the company.
Among his generation of concert artists, pianist Awadagin Pratt is acclaimed for his musical insight and intensely involving performances in recital and with symphony orchestras. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Pratt began studying piano at the age of six. Three years later, having moved to Normal, Illinois with his family, he also began studying violin. At the age of 16, he entered the University of Illinois, where he studied piano, violin, and conducting. He subsequently enrolled at the Peabody Institute (previously the Peabody Conservatory of Music) of the Johns Hopkins University, where he became the first student in the school’s history to receive diplomas in three performance areas: piano, violin, and conducting.
In 1992, Pratt won the Naumburg International Piano Competition, and two years later was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant. Since then, he has played numerous recitals throughout the U.S., including performances at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall, and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. His many orchestral performances include appearances with the New York Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, and the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Atlanta, St. Louis, National, and Detroit symphonies, among many others. Pratt’s summer festival engagements have included appearances at Ravinia, Blossom, Wolftrap, Caramoor, Aspen, and the Hollywood Bowl.
Through the Art of the Piano Foundation, and inspired by a stanza from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, Pratt has commissioned seven composers—Jessie Montgomery, Alvin Singleton, Judd Greenstein, Tyshawn Sorey, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Paola Prestini, and Peteris Vasks—to compose works for piano and string orchestra, or piano, string orchestra, and the musical ensemble Roomful of Teeth. Montgomery’s piece, “Rounds,” was part of a nine-orchestra co-commission; and a total of 22 orchestras have performed the work so far, including the Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Baltimore, and Indianapolis Symphonies, and the Minnesota Orchestra. All seven works were recorded in summer 2022 with the chamber orchestra A Far Cry for New Amsterdam Records. The Art of Piano Foundation also will host the inaugural Nina Simone Piano Competition for African American pianists. The early rounds will take place in June in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the finalists in the concerto round performing with the Cincinnati Symphony in October 2023.
Pratt is currently professor of piano and artist in residence at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), and in July 2023 will join the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as professor of piano. He also served as artistic director of the Cincinnati World Piano Competition and the Next Generation Festival. In recognition of his achievements in the field of classical music, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Johns Hopkins University as well as honorary doctorates from Illinois Wesleyan and Susquehanna universities. He delivered commencement addresses at those institutions as well as at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.