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Joni Mitchell receives honorary degree from Berklee College of Music

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Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Joni Mitchell was presented with an honorary doctorate by the prestigious Boston-based institution the Berklee College of Music during an event held Tuesday at a private residence in Santa Monica, California.

The legendary singer/songwriter was bestowed with the honor by Berklee’s Office of the President and Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.

“Well, luckily I’m too old to get a swelled head,” the 78-year-old Mitchell said at the gathering after being introduced. “It’s a beautiful event. Words can’t describe it. I’ve got my good friends here with me.”

She added, “I wish my parents were alive. My mother in particular would be really proud of this because she wanted me to go to college. I went to art school and I quit after a year. She thinks of me as a quitter. So to see this achievement would be really impressive to her. I wish I could share it with her.”

Jazz legends Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter were among the guests at the event, which included tribute performances by Grammy-winning artists Dianne Reeves and Esperanza Spalding.

In an introductory speech, Berklee President Erica Muhl commented, “Since her debut in the late 1960s, Joni has been a force for change in the industry, blazing the trail for women in music with an unwavering commitment to achieving the status rightfully due her as one of the world’s great musical artists.”

Terri Lyne Carrington, founder and artistic director of the Berklee’s Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, added about Mitchell, “Her career and social principles stand for the values our institute pursues — imagination, freedom, equity, and identity. I can think of no one more deserving.”

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