Tony, Grammy and Emmy winning Hadestown star André De Shields received an Honorary Doctor of Arts Degree from Boston Conservatory at Berklee in a virtual ceremony in 2020.
In 2020, Boston Conservatory began offering named scholarships in honor of honorary degree recipients (HDR). To date, there are five HDR scholarship awards: the Sutton Foster Award, the Billy Porter Award, the Alex Lacamoire Award, the André de Shields Award, and the Chita Rivera Award. Boston Conservatory at Berklee offers several student scholarships.
Musical Theater student Jayden Nelson BFA’25 is the Inaugural Recipient of the André De Shields H’20 Scholarship Award at Boston Conservatory at Berklee. De Shields was not available to not attend the Boston Conservatory’s annual Scholarship Tea to meet Nelson, so he sent a video message from his dressing room at the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York after a Saturday evening performance. Watch below:
Jayden Nelson is an 18 year old first-year student in the B.F.A. Musical Theater program at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. He hails from Miami, Florida where he graduated from New World School of the Arts. Nelson has performed in several musicals, including The Wiz (Tin Man), Once on This Island (Agwe), Little Shop of Horrors (Chiffon), and Carrie (Billy Nolan). His dream roles include Lola (Kinky Boots), Donkey (Shrek The Musical), and C.C. White (Dreamgirls). Nelson is very proud and honored to be the first recipient of BoCo’s Andre Dé Shields Scholarship Award.
Nelson writes,”The whole experience has been amazing, and I couldn’t be more grateful! I am so lucky to have a great support system that has helped me grow to the person and artist I am today. I hope that I can also influence others to do the same.”
Each award is given to a student every four years and recipients are selected by the Dean based on their admissions portfolio. Perks for award recipients include being profiled on the Boston Conservatory website during their first year; an invitation to attend Boston Conservatory’s annual Scholarship Tea; and luncheon with the Dean. They receive two free tickets to attend a Boston theater production with the other award recipients and are asked to write a note to the HDR each year of study sharing their experiences. They are also invited to attend Boston Conservatory’s annual Spring Soiree scholarship fundraising event. The award also designates that Boston Conservatory will look for them to be a leader in the campus community.
A showstopper at the age of 75, De Shields was the triple crown winner of the 2019 award season, securing a Tony, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk Award. In an illustrious career that has spanned more than half century, he has distinguished himself as an actor, director, choreographer, playwright and educator, getting his start as the title character in The Wiz. De Shields picked up an Emmy for his performance as the Viper in the NBC special Ain’t Misbehavin’, two Tony nominations for Play On! and The Full Monty, and has established himself as a veritable cabaret king — choreographing two shows for Bette Midler and creating six solo theatrical concerts. In 2019 he was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. De Shields starred in his breakout role, the title character in The Wiz, which ran for more than 1,600 performances and won seven Tony Awards – including best musical. He starred in the original cast of the Fats Waller musical Ain’t Misbehavin’, a role he later revived, directed, and choreographed for the 30th anniversary run. Andre’s first Tony nomination was for Play On!, a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, featuring Duke Ellington’s music. He received another Tony nomination in 2001 for The Full Monty. De Shields’ other Broadway credits include Impressionism and Prymate.
De Shields embraced cabaret early on. Beginning in the ’70s, he created a string of original shows that performed at such landmark New York clubs as Gypsy’s, the Grand Finale, Reno Sweeney, Les Mouches, the Club at La MaMa, the Horn of Plenty, Greene Street, as well as in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London. In 1984, he co-wrote, choreographed, co-directed, and starred in the Broadway musical revue André De Shields’ Haarlem Nocturne. More recent cabaret appearances have included Feinstein’s/54 Below, The Cabaret, Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series, Joe’s Pub, Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York, Old School Square’s Crest Theatre in Delray Beach, Fl. and Aventura Arts & Cultural Center. He is a recipient of the 2018 Bob Harrington Life Achievement Bistro Award.
De Shields recently starred in the title role of St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s King Lear. On opening night, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones issued a Mayoral Proclamation naming June 4, 2021 as “King Lear/André De Shields Day”. New York Senator Brad Hoylman presented Mr. De Shields with a Senate Proclamation on April 8th, 2021 proclaiming the day “André De Shields Appreciation Day”. The surprise proclamation was arranged by producer Tom D’Angora to honor the extensive charity work and activism, along with the public appearances, Mr. De Shields has done for the community this year.
De Shields is the recipient of the 2021 John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. In 2020, he received the 2020 Grammy Award for Musical Theater Album for Hadestown, an Honorary Doctor of Arts Degree from Boston Conservatory at Berklee, the 2020 AUDELCO for Lifetime Achievement and the 2020 Red Bull Theater Matador Award for Excellence in Classical Theater. 2019 honors include The Actors’ Equity Foundation Richard Seff Award, which honors veteran stage actors’ best supporting performances of the year, the Project1Voice Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2019 SAGE Joyce Warshow Lifetime Achievement Award, and The York Theatre Company’s 2019 Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre, among others. He was also inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. He received the Key to the City of Baltimore from Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young in August, 2019. Other accolades include the 8th Annual Off Broadway Alliance Legend Award, the 33rd Annual Bob Harrington Life Achievement Bistro Award, the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award and the 2007 Village Voice Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance. His film and TV roles include Keys, who first appeared in a 2014 episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” He has also appeared on “Law and Order” twice, as Dr. Elvin Simmonds (Custody,1996) and Mr. Miller (Cost of Capital,2006); Dale Rustin on NBC’s “New Amsterdam”; Anton Ego in Ratatouille: The TikTok Tok Musical, the Algebra Tutor in “John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch” on Netflix; Chubby in “Katy Keene” on the CW; and Wyndham on “Almost Family.” He stars in Foxing’s new music video, Draw Down the Moon, and can be heard on the podcasts Live From Mount Olympus as Hermes and One Speckled Hen. He can next be seen as Gavin Plimsoll in Charles Busch and Carl Andress’ comedy film, The Sixth Reel. De Shields is a proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and SDC. andredeshields.com
Boston Conservatory at Berklee provides a progressive learning environment where students are challenged to realize their potential as artists and inspired to pursue their dreams. Long recognized for its specialized training in dance, music, and theater, the Conservatory’s recent merger with Berklee now combines this rigorous, focused instruction with unparalleled access to a broad range of academic and creative opportunities. Set in the cultural, historical, and educational hub of Boston, this extraordinary institution represents the future of performing arts education.
Mission Statement: Boston Conservatory at Berklee provides a transformative, contemporary performing arts education that unleashes potential and empowers artists with the skills, self-awareness, and courage to shape our world and create the future they imagine.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative). She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs. Click here for Cre8sianproject.com’s latest profile on Lia.