John Zorn will receive an honorary degree at this year’s commencement ceremony in recognition of his outstanding contributions to music and musicians; his accomplishments as a composer, performer and educator; and the indelible mark he’s made on contemporary music.
Zorn developed a passion for music and composing at an early age and began recording during his college years. By the 1970s he had joined the downtown music scene of New York City and started the bands Naked City, Painkiller, and Masada. Over time he built a reputation for his skillful musical compositions for documentaries, underground films, and television.
As an accomplished musician who cares about the community and invests in its future, in 1995 he founded a record label Tzadik for artists who “find it difficult or impossible to release their music through conventional channels.” He’s also the artistic director of The Stone, a nonprofit venue in New York City for avant-garde and experimental music where the public can hear groundbreaking works and the ticket sales go directly to the musicians.
He’s exposed a wide range of audiences internationally to different styles of music from both his extensive travel and through the many musicians who’ve performed his compositions. In 2006, he was named a MacArthur Fellow.