Global music icon Carlos Santana will deliver the keynote address at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music 2020 commencement celebration, which will be held online on Friday, June 19 at 4 p.m. PDT.
The 10-time Grammy-winning artist has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and has produced countless chart-topping hits, including “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va,” and “Smooth.” For over 50 years, Santana’s music has transcended genres and generations with its groundbreaking fusion of Afro, Latin, blues and rock. He was a 2013 Kennedy Center Honors recipient, and his group, Santana, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
In May, he and his wife, Cindy Blackman Santana, released their rendition of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Imagine.” The couple is donating proceeds from the sale of the single through SongAid to WhyHunger, a nonprofit fighting hunger around the world.
“I feel honored to be speaking to young musicians and a new generation of music scholars,” Santana said. “The class of 2020 is resilient, and their voices are needed now more than ever. I want them to use their music as a platform to empower and unite as we seek justice and creative solutions during these challenging times.”
Santana is no stranger to confronting uncertainty. He was born in Autlán, Mexico, and immigrated with his family to the United States when he was a teenager. Prior to his career-launching performance at the Woodstock festival in 1969, he worked as a dishwasher in San Francisco while mastering the virtuoso guitar skills for which he would become known. Santana’s humble beginnings paved the way for a lifelong commitment to social justice and humanitarian work.
In 1998, he and his family founded the Milagro Foundation, which has since granted more than $8 million to nonprofit programs that support underserved youth in the areas of arts, education and health.
“We are thrilled that Carlos Santana will be participating in the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music’s 2020 commencement celebration,” said Eileen Strempel, the school’s dean. “Santana’s global sound and commitment to social justice bridge communities and empower graduates at a time when collective healing — and action — is needed most. His desire to share words of encouragement with our students as they reach this critical milestone is inspiring.”
The virtual commencement celebration will also feature performances by students and student groups including the prestigious Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance at UCLA, as well as student remarks. Virtual departmental receptions will follow the streamed ceremony. The class of 2020 comprises 130 graduates from the departments of ethnomusicology, global jazz studies, music, music industry and musicology.