Honorary Doctorates


Pat Metheny, Doctor of Music, honoris causaPat Metheny delivers convocdation address

Since beginning his international career in 1974, guitarist Pat Metheny has garnered widespread critical acclaim, demonstrated astonishing versatility as an artist, and has consistently been at the forefront of music technology.

His list of awards and honours includes 20 Grammy Award wins in 12 separate categories – the only musical artist to ever achieve this feat. A NEA Jazz Master, Metheny has also been inducted into both the Down Beat Hall of Fame and the Missouri Music Hall of Fame, and was elected into the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 2018.

On a local level, Montreal’s love for Metheny showed during the ceremony through the audience’s enthusiastic applause and cheers of support. The guitarist is no stranger to the city, having performed at almost every iteration of the Festival international de Jazz de Montreal since its inception, in addition to stops on tour at other times of the year. The last time many attendees saw Pat Methey onstage, he was likely sporting a patent striped shirt and hollow body guitar instead of academic dress and a diploma—as such, Spring Convocation was a unique opportunity to celebrate the legendary artist and welcome him as a McGill graduate. Read more


Zarin Mehta, Doctor of Music, honoris causaZarin Mehta as he accepts his degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa at McGill convocation 2018

Zarin Mehta has led some of the greatest musical institutions in North America. His passion for the music business began in Montreal where he was managing director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal from 1981 to 1990. He then went to Chicago to become executive director and later president and CEO of the prestigious Ravinia Festival. In 2000 he was appointed Executive Director, and later President of the legendary New York Philharmonic. After leaving New York in 2012, Mr. Mehta became Co-Executive Director of the Green Music Center, at Sonoma State University in California.

Here at McGill, we are particularly grateful to Zarin Mehta for his time at the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal. Under his dynamic leadership in the 1980’s, the orchestra gained international renown and attracted a generation of talented musicians, some of whom still teach at the University. The McGill-OSM connection continues to be a source of strength for both institutions and is a pillar of our city’s extraordinary cultural life.

Mr. Mehta has been awarded several academic distinctions, including an honorary doctorate from l’Université de Montréal and the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Institution of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. He is a member of the Order of Canada.


Beverley Diamond, ethnomusicologist

Beverley Diamond speaking at convocation ceremony

An award-winning researcher and one of Canada’s leading ethnomusicologists, Beverly Diamond’s scholarship examines the relationship between music and issues of identity, rights, and social change in indigenous musical cultures in Canada and Scandinavia. Her research has ranged from studies of Inuit and First Nations song traditions to expressive culture in relation to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools in Canada, exploring issues of feminist musicology, indigenous modernity, and the construction of social meaning via audio technologies. Dr. Diamond was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2008, named a member of the Order of Canada in 2013, and in 2014 awarded the Gold Medal by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She has held the Canada Research Chair in Ethnomusicology and is Professor Emerita at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor

Yannick Nézet-Séguin speaking at convocation ceremonyMontreal-born Yannick Nézet-Séguin is one of the foremost conductors of our time. Currently the principle conductor and artistic director of the Orchestre Métropolitain, he also leads the Philadelphia Orchestra and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and in 2020 will succeed James Levine as the third music director of the Metropolitan Opera. Nézet-Séguin has conducted with the Berlin Philharmoniker, the Wiener Philharmoniker, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, has made appearances at the BBC Proms, the Salzburg Festival, Teatro alla Scala, Covent Garden, and the Wiener Staatsoper, and has made several recordings with Deutsche Grammophon. In addition to his honorary degree from McGill, Nézet-Séguin holds honorary degrees from the Université du Québec à Montréal, the Curtis Institute, and Westminster Choir College, and was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2012, and Officer of the Order of Québec in 2015.


Susan McClary, musicologistHeadshot of Susan McLary

Susan McClary is one of the world’s leading feminist musicologists, with research focused on the criticism of classical and contemporary music and its place within larger cultural and societal contexts. Professor McClary first came to fame with the publication of Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality which is considered a founding document of “new musicology” – the idea that music is not a self-contained aesthetic but is directly connected to societal constructs and practices. Professor McClary also has close ties to the Schulich School of Music having taught here for three years beginning in 1991, and being the recipient of many university-wide teaching awards. In 1995, she was the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship which celebrates and inspires the creative potential of individuals across numerous fields of human endeavor.


Robert Godin, guitar manufacturerRobert Godin at McGill convocation

Robert Godin began his career working in his aunt’s Montreal guitar repair shop. The teenage Beatles fan began experimenting with customized guitar modifications, and soon his innovations attracted nationwide interest. In 1972, demand for his work was so great that Godin repurposed an old window-manufacturing factory. That Baie d’Urfé-based business, Godin Guitars, now sells 200,000 hand-finished instruments each year to clients that include Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, John McLaughlin and Leonard Cohen.

Constance Pathy, philanthropistHeadshot of Constance Pathy

Constance Pathy is the president of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and a passionate believer in the transformative power of the arts. After studying international law in her native Netherlands, she studied cello and viola da gamba at McGill and began to establish herself as not only a musician, but as a leading figure in Quebec’s cultural scene. She has served on the Faculty Advisory Board of the Schulich School of Music since 1991 and is a generous supporter of the McGill International String Quartet Academy, which brings some of the world’s finest professional and student string quartets to Montreal each August.


Wayne Riddell, choral conductorHeadshot of Wayne Riddell

Considered one of Canada’s most accomplished choral conductors, Wayne Riddell is credited with having raised the profile of church and chamber choirs in Canada to a new level while exploring a range of musical styles that vary from the standard repertoire to new music by Canadian composers. Founding director of the Tudor Singers, Mr. Riddell and the Singers toured Canada from coast to coast and were frequently broadcast on the CBC. Organist-choirmaster at Westmount Park United, Erskine and American United, and the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, Wayne Riddell is a graduate of McGill, where he has also taught. He is the recipient of many awards, including the first Healey Willan Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts, as well as the Order of Canada.


Boris Brott, conductor
Boris Brott at McGill convocation
Image by Owen Egan.

Boris Brott is a symphony conductor, the artistic director of the McGill Chamber Orchestra and a motivational speaker. He has a 50-plus year history of promoting artistic development, founding the Philharmonic Youth Orchestra of Montreal as a teenager and, more recently, founding the National Academy Orchestra, Canada’s only professional training orchestra for graduate musicians. Mr. Brott has also pushed classical music performances in unexpected directions, by bringing ballet dancers and astronauts to the stage and moving the orchestra itself to the heart of a steel factory blast furnace. In 1992, the maestro went back to school, studying law at the University of Western Ontario. He has since built a second career, using his musical expertise to teach Fortune 500 executives about corporate creativity and team communication.


Kaija Saariaho, composerKaija Saariaho at McGill convocation

Kaija Saariaho was born in Helsinki and studied violin and piano at the Sibelius Academy, before pursuing further studies in Freiburg and at IRCAM in Paris. Her work in the 1980s and 1990s is marked by its emphasis on timbre and use of electronics alongside traditional instruments. She has won the Prix Italia and, in 1989, the Prix Ars Electronica; received commissions from the Lincoln Center for the Kronos Quartet and from IRCAM for the Ensemble Intercontemporain. She has also been the subject of a pan-European collaborative project to produce a CD-ROM Prisma about her work. She was awarded the title of Musical America Musician of the Year for being “among the few contemporary composers to achieve public acclaim as well as universal critical respect”.

Max van Egmond, bass-baritoneHeadshot of Max Von Egmond

Max van Egmond is among the most respected figures in the field of Early Music performance. His recordings, concerts and teaching have influenced generations of aspiring artists. In collaboration with many of the pioneers of the Early Music movement, he has been an articulate and eloquent champion of music from the 17th and 18th centuries. Mr. van Egmond is particularly renowned for his work with Gustav Leonhardt, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Frans Brüggen as bass soloist in the cantatas and passions of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is also a notable interpreter of the Lieder of Schubert and Schumann and the chansons of Gabriel Fauré.


Alfred Brendel, pianist

Phil Nimmons, composer and bandleader


Olivier Latry, organist


Janos Starker, cellist (1924 – 2013)


Joseph Rouleau, bass


Ida Haendel, violinist


Jane Eaglen, soprano

Kent Nagano, conductor of l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal


Anton Kuerti, pianist

Joni Mitchell, singer-songwriter


Père Fernand Lindsay, organist, and founder of Festival d'été de Lanaudière (1929-2009)


Ben Heppner, tenor

Franz-Paul Decker, conductor (1923 – 2014)


Marie-Claire Alain, organist (1926 – 2013)


Norio Ohga, pianist and former CEO of Sony Music (1930 – 2011)


Charles Dutoit, former conductor of l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal


Oliver Jones, jazz pianist and composer

Isaac Stern, violinist (1920 – 2001)


Pierrette Alaire, soprano (1921 – 2011)

Léopold Simoneau, tenor (1916 – 2006)

Paul Sacher, conductor (1906 – 1999)


Witold Lutoslawski, composer (1913 – 1994)

Colin Slim, musicologist


Maryvonne Kendergi, composer (1915 – 2011)

Ray Minshull, former head of Decca’s classical music department


Istvan Anhalt, composer (1919 – 2012)

Maureen Forrester, contralto (1930 -2010)


Kenneth Gilbert, harpsichordist and organist


Alexander Brott, conductor and founder of the McGill Chamber Orchestra (1915 – 2005)


Burt Bacharach, songwriter, record producer, and performer

John Beckwith, composer


Jean Carignan, fiddler (1916 – 1988)


John Newmark, pianist (1904 – 1991)


Violet Archer, composer (1913 – 2000)

Hugh Le Caine, scientist and electronic composer (1914 – 1977)


Clément Morin, conductor and former Dean of Music at the Université de Montréal (1907 – 2004)


Wilfrid Pelletier, conductor (1896 – 1982)


Ellen Ballon, pianist (1898 – 1969)

Pauline Donalda, soprano and teacher (1882 – 1970)


Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor (1879 – 1961)

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