Dee Dee Bridgewater, one of the world’s leading jazz performers, will receive an honorary Doctor of Music degree at UM-Flint’s 2012 Winter Commencement.
Bridgewater has had an impact as a radio host, and is known for her global humanitarian efforts. Raised in Flint, the daughter of a jazz trumpet player, she was part of a female vocal trio, the Iridescents, and sang with her father’s ensembles.
After high school, she studied at Michigan State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, touring the Soviet Union in 1969 with Illinois’ jazz band. She then pursued a career in New York as a jazz singer, working with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. She performed at the Village Vanguard club, and collaborated with leading jazz interpreters such as Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, and Max Roach.
Several of her early recordings were nominated for and won Grammy Awards. On Broadway, she performed the role of Glinda the Good Witch in the musical The Wiz, for which she won a Tony Award in 1975.
Bridgewater joined the international touring company of the musical Sophisticated Ladies, and starred in Lady Day, a biographical stage work depicting the life of singer Billie Holiday. In 1998, she won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. In 2001, she began hosting JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater on National Public Radio.
Bridgewater’s humanitarian efforts resulted in her appointment as ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 1999. She has mentored in master classes at UM-Flint and at the Virgil Carr Center in Detroit as part of a residency with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She won another Grammy Award in 2011 for Best Jazz Vocal Album for Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie with Love from Dee Dee. The album was also recognized in France as Best Jazz Vocal Album.