May 20, 2012
National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and 2011 Guggenheim Fellow Randy Weston. Man of music and of pride.
Steward and champion of your people's heritage.
self-described African born in the United States, you have helped
reclaim Africa’s rightful and honorable place in both jazz and American
In 1961, armed with the philosophy of Marcus Garvey, the encouragement
and poetry of Langston Hughes, the friendship of fellow Brooklynite Max
Roach, and the spiritual foundation of the black church, you lent your
voice to the movement to free African peoples from the yokes of
colonialism and slavery.
When you went to Africa to explore your origins, you met musicians,
political heroes, philosophers, and sages. You brought their rhythms,
their messages of pride and dignity, back to African Americans. In your
piano playing and compositions you honored the old masters while
searching out your own adventurous style.
Your work covers a prodigiously ambitious landscape, from the Thelonius
Monk-influenced work of the late Fifties and early Sixties, to your
great jazz standards “Hi-Fly” and “Little Niles,” to the groundbreaking
Uhuru Afrika, to the 6/8 rhythms of the late, adventurous
African Cookbook and
The Spirits of Our Ancestors.
You never accepted segregation of any kind, whether based on race or
schools of jazz. Beboppers like Dizzy Gillespie and Cecil Payne and
so-called free jazz artists like Billy Harper and David Murray have all
joined hands with you to make exciting, original music.
At age 86, with your new bands, The Gnawa Master Musicians of Morocco
and African Rhythms, you are still giving us deep and vital joy. In your
own words: “Music was created from the universe, because our ancient
ancestors ... knew that music came from the universe. It was the
Creator’s way of giving the people on Earth some healing, some beauty.”
By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer
upon you, Randy Weston, the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa.
The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I
place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this
society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare
Conferred May 20, 2012.
Randy Weston, William D. Adams
photo by Fred J. Field