That’s Dr. Mitchell, to you. Joni Mitchell has received an honorary doctorate degree from Berklee College of Music.
Berklee’s Office of the President and Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice presented Mitchell with the much-deserved honor yesterday, August 23rd, at a private event in Santa Monica. As Pitchfork points out, the ceremony was hosted by Linda and Russell Brown of MaddocksBrown Foundation, during which the legendary folk musician quipped: “Well, luckily I’m too old to get a swelled head.” Naturally, she also wore a custom beret to the ceremony, embroidered with her new name “Dr. Joni Mitchell.”
“It’s a beautiful event. Words can’t describe it. I’ve got my good friends here with me,” Mitchell told the crowd, which included Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. “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.”
As part of the festivities, the ceremony also included tributes from musicians including Esperanza Spalding, Dianne Reeves, and Säje. Berklee students Devon Gates, Julian Miltenberger, Milena Casado, and Nika Ko also performed a handful of Mitchell’s songs, including “A Case of You,” “Love,” “Both Sides Now,” and “River.”
Berklee President Erica Muhl introduced Mitchell at the ceremony, describing the new doctorate holder as “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.”
“I am thrilled that we are finally able to honor Joni Mitchell,” added Terri Lyne Carrington, founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. “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.”
Last month, Mitchell made a surprise performance alongside Brandi Carlile at Newport Folk Festival, marking her first live set since suffering a near-fatal brain aneurysm in 2015 that caused her to forget how to play guitar; She later told CBS This Morning that she re-learned the instrument by “looking at videos on the ‘net.” She also recently announced the next installment in her ongoing archival series, The Asylum Albums (1972-1975), which is out on September 23rd.