Abigail Washburn to deliver commencement address at Colorado College - Colorado College

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For Immediate Release

Leslie Weddell
(719) 389-6038


Lt. Gov. Joseph Garcia and jazz guitarist Johnny Smith also to receive honorary degrees

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – May 11, 2012 – Musician Abigail Washburn, a 1999 graduate of Colorado College, will be the commencement speaker at Colorado College’s commencement ceremony at 8:30 a.m., Monday, May 21, on Armstrong Quad, 14 E. Cache La Poudre St. In addition to Washburn, Colorado Lt. Gov. Joseph Garcia and legendary jazz guitarist Johnny Smith also will receive honorary degrees at the college’s 130th commencement ceremony.

Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler will present the 525 undergraduate members of the Class of 2012 and five master of arts in teaching students with their degrees.

Armstrong Quad is located directly north of the intersection of Tejon and Cache La Poudre streets. Cascade Avenue will be closed from Uintah to Cache La Poudre streets from 8 a.m. to approximately 1 p.m. for the commencement ceremony.

Washburn’s music is inspired by her deep interest in Chinese language and culture; in fact, she is the second person to have ever majored in Asian studies at Colorado College. Washburn explores the intersections of American and Chinese music, creating a unique fusion of American roots and Chinese folk music. She connects American old-time music to chamber music, indie-rock, electronica and Chinese folk songs with a disregard for convention that exemplifies the adventurous spirit of CC graduates.

As a 2012 TED Fellow, Washburn has inspired countless listeners in describing the many detours she undertook from her initial post-graduation plan to study law in Beijing and improve America-China relations. Washburn’s music and its stories forge emotional connections across cultures, and as she herself notes, she has most likely contributed more to America-China relations as a musician and cultural ambassador than she would have as an attorney.

While Washburn was teaching American music at Sichuan University in 2008, an earthquake in Sichuan province killed more than 88,000 and displaced more than 5 million people. With musician Dave Liang of the Shanghai Restoration Project, she returned the following spring to record a benefit album, “Afterquake,” in which the acoustic and electronic music incorporates the voices of relocated and orphaned children from the area. Washburn performed at the Shanghai Expo in 2010, released another critically acclaimed solo album in 2011, and last winter was sponsored by the American Embassy in Beijing in a tour of the Silk Road, where she collaborated with local traditional musicians across China’s “Wild West.” Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet, featuring Bela Fleck, Casey Briessen and Ben Sollee, performed at CC in February 2009.

Garcia, the second honorary degree recipient, held a number of high profile positions before being elected as Lt. Governor of Colorado, including serving as president of two colleges in the state. As president of the second largest community college in Colorado, Pikes Peak Community College, Garcia maintained oversight of three campuses that serve more than 16,000 students each year. As president of Colorado State University-Pueblo, he spearheaded an ambitious campaign to increase enrollment by constructing new residence halls and a student recreation center and by re-establishing sports programs. Within two years, his efforts contributed to a two-fold increase in freshmen enrollment and helped the university avoid financial difficulties.

While executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies under former Gov. Roy Romer, Garcia managed and maintained budgetary responsibility for agencies such as the divisions of banking, financial services, real estate, insurance, civil rights, securities, and the Public Utilities Commission.  His work in the Romer administration ultimately led to his White House appointment as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development representative for the Rocky Mountain States. He is married to Colorado College English Professor Claire Garcia.

Also receiving an honorary degree is Smith, one of the 20th century’s finest jazz guitarists, who has influenced an extraordinary number of musicians from widely varying traditions.  His expansive career has spanned nearly five decades, from the mid-1940s to early ‘90s during which Smith was acclaimed as one of the most intelligent and technically gifted guitarists of all time. His most critically acclaimed album, “Moonlight in Vermont,” features saxophonists Stan Getz, Paul Quinichette and Zoot Sims in arrangements that are stunning for their virtuosic turns and spare elegance.  Recognized as one of Down Beat magazine’s top two jazz records for 1952, “Moonlight” would go on to become one of the period’s most influential albums.

Smith was staff guitarist at NBC, playing for such bandleaders as Benny Goodman and the legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini. He recorded prolifically for cutting-edge labels Columbia, Concord and Verve, and played with many of the finest musicians of the “Golden Age of Jazz,” including not only Get, Quinichette and Simus, but Bing Crosby, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Ray Brown and Hank Jones.  Smith’s influence on other guitarists is the equal of any of his major contemporaries, and if one considers the variety of artists he has inspired, there is likely no one with his reach and impact.

In the event of inclement weather, commencement exercises will take place in the Colorado Springs World Arena, 3185 Venetucci Blvd., in Colorado Springs. If weather is a concern, listen to Colorado College’s radio station, KRCC-FM 91.5, for announcements.

For information, directions or disability accommodation at the event, members of the public may call (719) 389-6607.

About Colorado College
Colorado College is a nationally prominent, four-year liberal arts college that was founded in Colorado Springs in 1874. The college operates on the innovative Block Plan, in which its approximately 2,000 undergraduate students study one course at a time in intensive 3½-week segments. The college also offers a master of arts in teaching degree. For more information, visit www.ColoradoCollege.edu <http://www.ColoradoCollege.edu>.