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Valencia, Spain, July 2, 2020—Berklee President Roger H. Brown will present an honorary Doctor of Music degree to singer, songwriter, composer, actress, and activist Lila Downs during a virtual commencement ceremony for the master’s degree programs at Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, on Saturday, July 11.
“Berklee is honored to recognize the work and contributions that Lila Downs has brought to the creative community through her human rights activism and involvement with the beauty and richness of the Mexican and Latin American cultures,” said Maria M. Iturriaga, executive director of Berklee Valencia. “Her multifaceted career is a true testament to Lila’s unique talent to bridge music and history with today’s social and cultural realities. Lila has become a true role model for artists of all backgrounds and for the new generations of creators to come.”
A native of Oaxaca, Mexico, Downs is one of the most respected artists in Latin America. Known for her charismatic performances and unique voice, she bridges traditions from across the Americas, with influences ranging from the folk and ranchera music of Mexico and South America to North American folk, jazz, blues, and hip-hop.
Downs has garnered numerous accolades for her studio albums and duets during her more than 25-year career, beginning with her 1994 debut, Ofrenda, through to her latest release, 2019’s Al Chile. She took home the Grammy Award for Best Regional Mexican Music Album in 2012 for Pecados Y Milagros, and has won five Latin Grammy Awards—including four in the Best Folk Album category.
In addition to her musical career, Downs is a passionate human rights activist known for her work with Latin America's indigenous population. Her songs tell stories that too often go untold, with lyrics that highlight issues relating to social justice, women, and immigration. Downs sings in Spanish, English, and several native American languages, such as Zapotec, Mixtec, Nahuatl, Mayan, and Purépecha.
Downs leads the multi-instrumental band La Misteriosa, and frequently works with her husband, saxophonist and producer Paul Cohen. Her other collaborations include duets with Caetano Veloso, Juanes, Norah Jones, Carlos Santana, Mercedes Sosa, and others.
Her immense talent has carried her to some of the world’s most prestigious stages, including performances at the Obama White House, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Academy Awards, and the Latin Grammy Awards. She has acted in several films, including Frida and Mariachi Gringo, and appeared on the soundtracks for Bobby Z, Real Women Have Curves, Hecho en México, and Tortilla Soup, among others. She also worked on the composition and arrangements for the musical Como agua para chocolate, which premiered at the Public Theater in New York City.
Berklee’s honorary doctorate recipients are recognized for their achievements and influences in music, and for their enduring contributions to American and international culture. The Valencia campus previously awarded honorary doctorates to Eddie Gómez (2013), John McLaughlin (2017), Al Di Meola (2018), and Imogen Heap (2019).
Join this celebration by connecting live through the Berklee Valencia YouTube channel on Saturday, July 11 at 6:00 p.m. CEST.