Francisco J. Núñez, founder and artistic director of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Ithaca College at the school’s 2016 commencement ceremony on May 22.
The YPC is a non-profit music ensemble that performs all over the world. A MacArthur Fellow, Núñez has used the chorus to heighten an awareness of the ability of children of any cultural or economic background to rise to unforeseen levels of artistry.
During the commencement ceremony, Benjamin Rifkin, provost and vice president for educational affairs at Ithaca College, lauded Núñez’s involvement with the YPC.
“Your work as founder of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City has provided children of diverse abilities and backgrounds the opportunity to participate in an enriching program of musical education and choral performance,” said Rifkin. “In founding the chorus, you have enabled children to fulfill their musical potential and have created a model of artistic excellence that enriches the broader community.”
Núñez has been revolutionary in expanding and invigorating the repertoire for young voices by commissioning over 100 pieces of new music for YPC from many of today’s most distinguished composers — 80 alone through its Transient Glory and Radio Radiance series. YPC receives invitations to represent the U.S. from countries on four continents, from Japan in 2005 to Finland in 2017. Most recently, YPC returned from Munich after becoming the first American youth chorus in the 54-year history of the Euroradio International Choral Competition to win first prize, and was invited to sing for Pope Francis at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. In 2011, YPC received the nation’s highest honor for youth programs, a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.
Núñez also leads the University Glee Club of New York City, its fifth conductor since the all-men’s chorus was established in 1894, and is sought after nationwide as a guest conductor by professional orchestras and choirs. He composes countless compositions and arrangements in all musical formats and styles for choirs, orchestras and solo instruments, and as a result has received an ASCAP Victor Herbert Award and the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award from the NYU Steinhardt School of Music. Through his Núñez Initiative for Social Change, he is working to bring children and communities together through a program of musical excellence, community and educational efforts.
Honorary degrees were also awarded to New York Times senior video correspondent Adam Ellick ’99 and Kenneth Fisher ’80, chairman and chief executive officer of the Fisher House Foundation. Ellick, who is best known as the reporter who first brought Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai to the attention of the world, delivered the main address.
Nominees for an honorary degree from Ithaca College must possess a record of outstanding achievement, community services, philanthropic endeavors and interest in education and/or humanitarian programs; be known for outstanding scholarly contributions and/or demonstration of some other significant service of benefit to humanity or Ithaca College; and have made outstanding contributions to society in ways that harmonize with the heritage, character and mission of the college.
Previous recipients include playwright Tony Kushner, “ABC World News Tonight” anchor David Muir ’95, actress CCH Pounder ’75, civil rights pioneer Dorothy Cotton, developmental psychologist Howard Gardner and conductor Frank Battisti ’53, M.S. ’64.
For more information on the Ithaca College Commencement ceremony, visit www.ithaca.edu/commencement.