11 July 2023

Royal Academy of Music celebrates renowned artists at Graduation Ceremony

The Royal Academy of Music celebrated distinguished musicians and educators at its 2023 Graduation Ceremony today at Freemasons’ Hall in London. As the institution enters its third century, it is proud to celebrate a range of artists who move music forward, including Academy alumni and associates who continue to shape the musical landscape.

Legendary composer and Visiting Professor of Composition James Newton Howard received an Honorary Degree (Hon DMus). James is one of the most versatile composers in the industry, who has over 100 film and TV credits. With a career spanning over 30 years, he is a nine-time Oscar nominee, and Emmy and Grammy winner. His film scores include Pretty Woman, The Fugitive, Space Jam, Peter Pan, King Kong and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Dark Knight which he composed with Hans Zimmer.

As part of a speech during the ceremony, James said: “To the graduating students, today is a culmination of your commitment to a pursuit of a life in music. You are about to emerge from the protective embrace of this extraordinary Academy, into a culture that frequently encourages us to take shortcuts. Don’t do it! Don’t settle for average. As the saying goes, you will become what you practice most. Practice excellence, practice creativity; it is a muscle, and it needs to be exercised and strengthened. Never lose sight of your highest aspirations; make every composition, every score, every recital the best you have ever done. A life in music will require a huge amount of work and sacrifice, but it is one of the greatest joys of my life.”

Leading names from a range of musical disciplines were awarded Honorary Membership of the Royal Academy of Music, including recording artist, musical theatre star and Olivier award-winner Beverley Knight, celebrated jazz musician Jamie Cullum, and conductor and Music Director Designate of The Royal Opera Jakub Hrůša. Violinist Hilary Hahn, pianist Maria João Pires and the Academy’s Head of Vocal Studies Kate Paterson also became Honorary Members.

Musicians who were recognised as Fellows of the Royal Academy of Music, an honour reserved for Academy alumni, included pioneering singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier, and prominent opera singers David Butt Philip and Freddie De Tommaso. Musician, music educator and academic Professor Susan Hallam, collaborative pianist Simon Lepper and conductor Jonathon Heyward, who was recently appointed Music Director of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, complete the list of alumni who were celebrated this year.

Her Grace The Duchess of Wellington, Chairman of the Academy’s Bicentenary Development Board, and Chief Executive of Britten Pears Arts Roger Wright became Honorary Fellows of the Royal Academy of Music.

The Academy’s Principal, Jonathan Freeman-Attwood CBE, said: “As we look ahead to our third century, I’m delighted to celebrate this outstanding list of honorands who are shaping the future of music. They represent a breadth of musical genres and areas of the profession in which we are very proud to see Academy students excel across the globe.”

The Academy marked the achievements of these leading artists alongside the 332 graduating students. Academy musicians permeate all areas of the music profession, and lead the way in concert halls, opera houses and theatres across the globe. The Academy is proud of its network of alumni and the significant contribution they make to the music profession and beyond.

Notes to editors

The Royal Academy of Music moves music forward by inspiring successive generations of musicians to connect, collaborate and create. We are the meeting point between the traditions of the past and the talent of the future, seeking out and supporting the musicians today whose music will move the world tomorrow.

From pre-school to post-doc, our students come here from more than 50 countries. We challenge them to find their own voice, take risks and push boundaries. Jacob Collier, Freddie De Tommaso, Edward Gardner, Evelyn Glennie, Elton John, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Felicity Lott and Simon Rattle all learnt their craft here.

Every student benefits from a stimulating curriculum and an ambitious range of concerts and events. Legendary artists come here not just to perform, but to become mentors, friends and musical partners.

A world of music comes to us – and we send music back out into the world. As we embark on our third century, our aim is to shape the future of music by discovering and supporting talent wherever it exists.

Music never stands still – and nor will we.

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