Down Beat Magazine once described this year’s commencement speaker, Ron Carter, as “the epitome of jazz elegance and rectitude.” The bassist, who earned his Bachelor’s degree from Eastman in 1959, before doing graduate work at the Manhattan School of Music, is well known today as a Grammy-winning composer and performer.

His versatility as a performer is startling ? he has made a name for himself as a performer of both jazz and classical music, learning the piccolo bass in the mid-1970s in order to “reinvestigate acoustic sounds and give the public a viable listening option.”

Carter’s musical multidimensionality makes him a fitting choice for commencement speaker, because the Eastman curriculum is designed to allow students to explore the numerous musical options that go hand in hand with performance, composition and education.

Because of his achievements, Carter will receive UR’s Hutchinson Medal on May 19. This award, which recognizes outstanding achievements and service to community, state or nation, is the highest honor UR gives its alumni.

Carter’s appearance isn’t the only special aspect of this year’s ceremony May 19. This is the first year in which Eastman’s commencement ceremony will be separate from the one held at River Campus.

Eastman graduates, if they so choose, can finally sleep in on Sunday morning. Many UR students will have to get up for the 9 a.m. college and nursing commencement ceremony located on the Eastman Quadrangle. In the past, Eastman students have attended this ceremony before returning to Eastman for a more individualized ceremony.

Eastman’s own commencement ceremony will begin at 11:15 a.m. Student groups like the Eastman Wind Ensemble will perform in between talks by faculty members, administrators and student leaders.

Carter will receive the Hutchinson Medal after giving his talk. He recently donated more than 700 recordings from his personal collection to the Sibley Music Library. The recordings, which date from the 1960s to the 80s, feature Carter frequently as a sidemen and sometimes as a leader, with numerous big name jazz artists. Carter has played with the likes of Cannonball Adderly, Thelonious Monk, Hubert Laws, Lionel Hampton and Joe Henderson. He was also a member of the legendary Miles Davis quintet of the 1960s.

Carter’s appearance, along with the speeches of many other well respected members of the Eastman community, are sure to inspire graduates as well as alumni and family members. With this example of an extraordinary alum, the musicians who walk out of the Eastman Theatre Sunday will be ready to make their marks on the world.

Weiss can be reached at

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