Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Headlines University of the Arts' 136th Commencement Ceremony

Robert L. Battle to give keynote address; bassist/producer/musical director Adam W. Blackstone '04 (Justin Timberlake) and Emmy-winning sound editor Jeffrey Stern '75 ("Boardwalk Empire") to receive Silver Star Alumni Awards

May 1, 2014

Robert L. Battle (left), artistic director of the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, will be the keynote speaker at the University of the Arts' 136th Commencement ceremonies at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia at 10:30 a.m. on May 15, 2014. He will also receive an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree.

Battle is an award-winning dancer and choreographer. He became artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in July 2011, after being personally selected by former artistic director and University of the Arts alumna Judith Jamison '64 (Dance), making him only the third person to head the company since it was founded in 1958. A frequent choreographer and artist-in-residence at Ailey since 1999, he has set many of his works on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II, and at the Ailey School. The company's current repertory includes his ballets "Strange Humors," "The Hunt," "In/Side" and "Takademe." In addition to expanding the Ailey repertory with works by artists as diverse as Paul Taylor, Philadelphia’s Rennie Harris, Jiří Kylián, Garth Fagan and Kyle Abraham, Battle has also instituted a New Directors Choreography Lab to help develop the next generation of choreographers.

His journey to the top of the modern dance world began in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. Battle showed artistic talent early and studied dance at a high school arts magnet program before moving on to Miami's New World School of the Arts, and finally to the dance program at the Juilliard School. He danced with the Parsons Dance Company from 1994 to 2001, and also set his choreography on that company starting in 1998. Battle then founded his own Battleworks Dance Company, which made its premiere in 2002 in Düsseldorf, Germany, as the U.S. representative to the World Dance Alliance's Global Assembly. Battleworks subsequently performed extensively at venues including the Joyce Theater, Dance Theater Workshop, American Dance Festival and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Battle was honored as a Master of African-American Choreography by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2005 and received the prestigious Statue Award from the Princess Grace Foundation-USA in 2007. He is a sought-after keynote speaker and has addressed a number of high- profile organizations, including the United Nations Leaders Programme and the UNICEF Senior Leadership Development Programme.

Also to be honored at the Commencement ceremony are Adam Blackstone BM '04 (Instrumental Performance) [center] and Jeffrey Stern BFA '75 (Film) [right], who will each receive a Silver Star Alumni Award. Blackstone is one of the top bassists, producers and musical directors on the pop and hip-hop music scenes, working with stars such as Jay-Z, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake. Stern is an Emmy Award-winning film and TV sound editor who has worked on such shows as "Boardwalk Empire" and movies including "Silence of the Lambs," "Goodfellas," "School of Rock" and "Do the Right Thing."

Silver Star Alumni Award Honorees
Adam W. Blackstone BM '04 (Instrumental Performance)
Born in Trenton, N.J., Adam Blackstone began playing drums when he was 6 years old and took up the bass guitar in high school in Willingboro "because no one else wanted to play the instrument." Today, he is one of the music industry’s most sought-after bassists, and has added top producer and musical director to his resume as well. He has worked with the biggest stars in contemporary popular music, with playing, production and/or musical director credits with industry superstars such as Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5, Jill Scott and Joss Stone. Blackstone played at a sold-out Madison Square Garden with Jay-Z and Beyoncé on what was then billed as the hip-hop mogul’s farewell tour; with Rihanna on NBC's "Saturday Night Live"; and with Justin Timberlake at the 2014 Grammy Awards ceremony. He is the founder, along with his wife, of BASSic Black Entertainment, which provides live music production, musician staffing, artist development and studio production, and whose clients include Eminem, Drake, Kanye West, John Legend, Pharrell Williams, Niki Minaj, LL Cool J and many others.

Jeffrey Stern BFA '75 (Film)
Jeffrey Stern is an Emmy Award-winning sound editor who has worked on more than 100 films, including "Silence of the Lambs," "School of Rock," "Goodfellas," "The Untouchables," "American Splendor," "Chicago," "Casino" and "The Cove," which won the Academy Award for best feature-length documentary in 2009. Stern was the dialogue editor on the team that won the 2014 Emmy Award for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series for the HBO hit "Boardwalk Empire." He was previously nominated for Emmys for his work on the show in 2012 and for the documentary "Joni Mitchell: A Woman of Heart and Mind." He has worked on films helmed by such legendary directors as Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Robert Altman and Woody Allen. Stern is also an assistant professor of professional practice at the University of Miami School of Communication. He has served as a filmmaker in residence at the North Carolina School of the Arts and as an adjunct professor at the New School in New York City.

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