Earlier today, the great Ralph Stanley accepted an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Yale University in New Haven, CT. This is actually the second time he has been so honored, having taken on the title of Dr. Ralph Stanley after receiving an honorary Doctorate of Music from Tennessee’s Lincoln Memorial University in 1976.
He was presented with his degree today by Yale President Peter Salovey, himself a bluegrass musician who we profiled last summer. Following the presentation, a member of the faculty (in cap and gown) kicked off Man Of Constant Sorrow on banjo, as a Yale ensemble played an orchestrated arrangement in tandem.
The decree conferred on Stanley read as follows:
“You are the patriarch of traditional mountain and bluegrass music. From the Clinch Mountains of southwest Virginia to the concert halls of the world, you have taken a distinct American sound and made it your own. Your music has its roots in the gospel songs of your childhood and in the banjo playing you learned from your mother. The Stanley style of picking produces a distinctive and characteristic rhythm, and generations of singers have been influenced by your signature voice with its mournful sounds and raw emotional power. You are a living legend and we sing your praises as we award you this degree.”
Additional honorary degrees were presented today to World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee, poet Rita Dove, and actor Anna Deavere Smith.