On Friday 15 December 2017, the University of Melbourne bestowed its highest honour on Musica Viva CEO Mary Jo Capps, admitting her to the degree of Doctor of Visual and Performing Arts honoris causa in recognition of her extensive contribution to music and the University.
The recommendation was put forward by the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (VCA&MCM), supported by the Governance and Nominations Committee and the University Council.
“The Honorary degree acknowledges Mary Jo’s immense contribution to music through her Leadership of Musica Viva,” said Professor Barry Conyngham, Dean of the Faculty of VCA&MCM. “It also signals the impact and value of her many other roles, which for the University of Melbourne include her more than ten-year membership, including as Chair, of the Faculty Advisory Board.”
Delivering the occasional address during Friday’s ceremony, Capps urged graduates to “use their art to rise above the depressing chatter.”
“Society as a whole is searching for deeper meaning, a sense of purpose, something beyond pursuit of wealth and power. The arts offer a key component in that search.”
“Let’s just consider for a moment the whole issue of economic analysis,” she added. “Has everything become so commoditised that we need to measure human endeavour in terms of its direct market value? I’m a firm believer in acknowledging loudly the huge economic impact the arts have… but how has that become our first line of defence?”(Full transcript attached)
“Michael Sandel, the political philosophy professor famous worldwide for his online Harvard Justice course, would be urging us now to ‘reclaim our collective moral compass’ in the arts. Each one of you today needs to be an inspirational advocate for the fact that the arts are essential because they are, not because of what they might be traded for in the marketplace.”
“My wish is for you to be the person standing here decades from now, and able to say: ‘I took this gift of the arts to the world – the skills that I have honed here at the University of Melbourne. I have treasured this gift and used it to open up new opportunities for myself and for others.’”