Boston Conservatory at Berklee to Honor Thomas Wilkins, Brian Stokes Mitchell at Commencement Ceremony

Boston Conservatory at Berklee Executive Director Cathy Young will present honorary doctorates in person to Wilkins and virtually to Stokes during the Conservatory’s commencement on Saturday, May 7.

April 6, 2022

Boston Conservatory at Berklee Executive Director Cathy Young will present an honorary doctorate in person to acclaimed conductor Thomas Wilkins and virtually to Tony Award–winning actor and singer Brian Stokes Mitchell at Boston Conservatory’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 7. Wilkins will deliver commencement remarks for the Boston Conservatory at Berklee class of 2022 at the ceremony, while Stokes will deliver remarks to the graduating class and receive his honorary doctorate virtually.

Wilkins and Stokes will be recognized for their achievements and influences in music, television, film, and theater. Past honorary degree recipients for Boston Conservatory at Berklee include Betty Buckley, Debbie Allen, Sutton Foster, Nicholas Paleologos, Barbara Cook, Billy Porter, Leontyne Price, Victoria Livengood (M.M. '85, voice), André De Shields, Chita Rivera, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Mary Rogers.

“It is an absolute honor to welcome Thomas Wilkins and Brian Stokes Mitchell to Boston Conservatory at Berklee as part of this year’s commencement festivities. Thomas Wilkins has shared his extraordinary talents as a conductor with audiences of all ages across the nation for years, and I am delighted to present him with an honorary doctorate,” said Cathy Young. “Brian Stokes Mitchell has always been a source of joy, not just on the stage and screen, but during the early days of the pandemic, when he shared his gift of song with an uncertain and scared world. We are beyond thrilled to honor him at our commencement ceremony.”

Boston Conservatory at Berklee will hold its commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 7 at 4:00 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center.

Thomas Wilkins

Devoted to promoting a lifelong enthusiasm for music, Thomas Wilkins brings energy and commitment to audiences of all ages. Hailed as a master at communicating and connecting with audiences, Wilkins is principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s artistic advisor for Education and Community Engagement, principal guest conductor of the Virginia Symphony, and holds Indiana University’s Henry A. Upper Chair of Orchestral Conducting. At the end of the 2020–2021 season, he completed his long and successful tenure as music director of the Omaha Symphony Orchestra.

Other past positions have included resident conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Florida Orchestra, and associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony. He has also served on the music faculties of North Park University, the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

During his conducting career, he has led orchestras throughout the United States, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cincinnati Symphony, and the National Symphony. Additionally, he has guest conducted the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras, the Symphonies of Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Baltimore, San Diego, Seattle, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Utah, and the Buffalo and Rochester Philharmonics, as well as at the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago, among others.

His commitment to community has been demonstrated by his participation on several boards of directors, including the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, the Charles Drew Health Center (Omaha), the Center Against Spouse Abuse in Tampa Bay, and the Museum of Fine Arts as well as the Academy Preparatory Center, both in St. Petersburg, Florida. Currently he serves as chairman of the board for the Raymond James Charitable Endowment Fund and as national ambassador for the nonprofit World Pediatric Project, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, which provides children throughout Central America and the Caribbean with critical surgical and diagnostic care.

In 2014, Wilkins received the prestigious Outstanding Artist Award at the Nebraska Governor’s Arts Awards for his significant contribution to music in the state, and in 2018 he received the Leonard Bernstein Lifetime Achievement Award for the Elevation of Music in Society from Boston’s Longy School of Music. In 2019 the Virginia Symphony bestowed Wilkins with their Dreamer Award and in 2022 the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards presented him with their Lifetime Achievement Award for Music.

A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Wilkins is a graduate of the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He and his wife, Sheri-Lee, are the proud parents of twin daughters, Erica and Nicole.

Brian Stokes Mitchell

Brian Stokes Mitchell is an actor and singer whose career spans Broadway, television, film, and concert appearances with the country’s finest conductors and orchestras. A two-time Tony Award winner, Stokes was dubbed “the last leading man” by The New York Times. 

He received Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards for his star turn in Kiss Me, Kate. He also gave Tony-nominated performances in Man of La Mancha, King Hedley II, and Ragtime. Other notable Broadway shows include Kiss of the Spider Woman, Jelly’s Last Jam, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and Shuffle Along. In 2016 he received his second Tony Award, the prestigious Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award, for his charitable work with the Actors Fund, and was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.

An extremely versatile and in-demand singer, Stokes has performed at venues spanning jazz, opera, pops, country, and musical theater. He has worked with John Williams, Marvin Hamlisch, Gustavo Dudamel, Keith Lockhart, Michael Tilson Thomas, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Big Band, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the Muppets. His multiple appearances at Carnegie Hall began with his debut with the San Francisco Symphony in a televised performance in South Pacific opposite Reba McEntire to his sold-out solo concert, which he continues to perform throughout the U.S. He has been invited twice to perform at the White House—which aired on PBS’s Great Performances—and has performed multiple times for presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

A self-professed autodidact, Stokes taught himself composing, arranging, and orchestration, starting in his teens. He later studied film scoring, orchestration, and conducting both privately and through UCLA, and scored and conducted a number of Trapper John, M.D. episodes, on which he was also a regular cast member. He produced, arranged, and orchestrated his three solo albums including Simply Broadway and his latest recording Plays with Music, and has appeared on more than 20 albums.

His extensive screen credits began with a guest starring role on Roots: The Next Generations followed by a seven-year stint on Trapper John, M.D. and memorable appearances from Great Performances on PBS to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Frasier, Glee, Jumping the Broom, and his most recent recurring roles on Madam Secretary, Mr. Robot, The Path, Billions, and The Good Fight.

Stokes has enjoyed working with numerous charitable organizations, from the March of Dimes to the USO. He is on the board of Americans for the Arts and is serving his 14th term as chairman of the board of the Actors Fund.

For fun he has been known to fly planes and jump out of them (usually not at the same time), and he can ride a bicycle on a high wire.