July 15, 2013

Jazz Great Kenny Barron ’78 Receives Honorary Doctorate of Music from SUNY

Kenny Barron ’78 holds his Honorary Doctorate of Music. The degree is conferred by the SUNY Board of Trustees.

Kenny Barron ’78 holds his Honorary Doctorate of Music. The degree is conferred by the SUNY Board of Trustees.

(NEW YORK CITY – July 16, 2013) World-renowned jazz pianist, composer and SUNY Empire State College alumnus Kenny Barron ’78 has received the Honorary Doctorate of Music conferred by the SUNY Board of Trustees.

An alumnus of Empire State College and recognized as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, the nation’s highest award in jazz, Barron’s career in music spans more than 50 years and he continues to compose and perform jazz around the world.

Additionally, Barron pursed a career in higher education and for more than 30 years served on the Rutgers University faculty. Barron also has been a teacher at the Manhattan School of Music and is currently on the faculty of the Julliard School of Music.

“Receiving this honorary doctorate is one of the highlights of my musical career and I am truly honored and humbled,” said Barron. “Not only am I grateful for the honorary degree but also for the opportunity to study at SUNY Empire State which has had a huge impact on my career and my life.”

Throughout both of his careers, Barron has been notable for expanding the teacher and learner relationship by mentoring students and musicians.

As an Empire State College student, Barron, like all of the college’s students, was paired with a faculty mentor to help develop and guide him through his program of independent study with the college.

“Kenny Barron embodies so many of the values of Empire State College - community engagement, mentoring, student centeredness, diversity, integrity and collaboration, to name a few, that are the foundation of the college’s teaching and learning,” said former Acting President Meg Benke. “Kenny Barron’s work, achievements and contributions to the arts and the college make him truly deserving of this honor.”

“As an alumnus, Kenny Barron has been an active champion of Empire State College,” said Cynthia Ward, dean of the college’s Metropolitan New York Center. "Through his public support, he has raised the profile of Empire State College, not only in musical circles, but throughout the world.”

Barron was presented with the honorary degree Friday, June 28 at the college’s Metropolitan New York Center event, “Made in America: An Evening of Art, Music and Literature.”

The event was held at the Dweck Center for Contemporary Culture, Brooklyn Public Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn.

About Kenny Barron

Born June 9, 1943 in Philadelphia, Barron earned his B.A. in music from Empire State College in 1978, while balancing classes and touring with Yusef Lateef, a proponent of higher education.

A nine-time Grammy Award nominee, Barron has produced more than 40 recordings as the band leader and hundreds more with artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald, Wynton Marsalis, Yusef Lateef and many other jazz greats. 

In 2010, Barron was selected to receive the nation’s highest award in jazz, the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master. This lifetime honor is bestowed on only those few living legends that have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz.

The Los Angeles Times characterized Barron as, “one of the top jazz pianists in the world,” and Jazz Weekly called him, “the most lyrical piano player of our time.”  Barron continues to top readers’ polls conducted by Jazziz, Jazz Times and Downbeat magazines.

Downbeat named Barron Best Pianist. He was given Jazz Times’ Best Piano Award and named Pianist of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association six times.

Barron’s accolades include being elected to The American Society of Arts and Sciences, receiving the Manhattan Association of Clubs and Cabarets’ Lifetime Achievement Award, the SUNY Empire State College Distinguished Alumnus Award and membership in the American Jazz Hall of Fame.

Barron joined the Rutgers University faculty as a professor of music where, for more than 30 years, he was a teacher and mentor to young musicians including Terrance Blanchard, David Sanchez and Regina Belle. Since then, he has been a teacher at the Manhattan School of Music and is now on the faculty of the Julliard School of Music.

About SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire State College was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career. Students engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to learn at the time, place and pace they choose.

The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at more than 35 locations in New York state and online. Its 70,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more. More information about the college is available here.


Media contact: David Henahan, director of communications

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