Questlove, Aaron Dessner to receive honorary degrees at Commencement

May 2, 2022

When University of the Arts celebrates the accomplishments of the Class of 2022 during Commencement on May 19, it will also recognize two influential and multitalented artists with honorary degrees: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Aaron Dessner.

May 19 will mark the university’s first in-person Commencement ceremony since 2019, and it will be held at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music. The event will also be livestreamed for the public and those outside the university community at

Questlove is an Academy Award–winning filmmaker, drummer, DJ, producer, director, culinary entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author and the unmistakable heartbeat of Philadelphia’s most influential hip-hop group, The Roots. He is the musical director of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where his beloved Roots crew serves as the house band. Moreover, this six-time Grammy Award–winning musician’s indisputable reputation has landed him musical directing positions with everyone from D’Angelo to Jay-Z.

In 2021, Questlove made his directorial debut with the Academy Award–winning feature documentary Summer of Soul, which explores the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. The film premiered on the opening night of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for Best U.S. Documentary. The movie broke the record for the highest-selling documentary to come out of Sundance when it was acquired by Searchlight/Hulu, and it has since gone on to win Best Feature Documentary at the 2022 Academy Awards, Best Documentary at the 2022 British Academy Film Awards and Best Music Film at the 2022 Grammy Awards. In addition, former President Barack Obama named Summer of Soul one of his favorite movies of the year.

Questlove has also written multiple books including the New York Times bestsellers Mo’ Meta Blues and Creative Quest; the Grammy-nominated audiobook Creative Quest; Soul Train: The Music, Dance and Style of a Generation; the James Beard–nominated somethingtofoodabout; Mixtape Potluck; and the newly released Music Is History.

Aaron Dessner is a New York–based musician, composer and producer, best known for his work with Taylor Swift (including the 2020 Grammy Awards’ Album of the Year winner, folklore, and its sister album, evermore) and with Grammy Award–winning alternative band The National, whose albums he has co-written and co-produced since the group’s inception in 1999. Dessner began producing additional projects almost a decade ago, developing his own distinctive sound and approach, and an ability to connect with artists from disparate genres, including Sharon Van Etten and her breakthrough album, Tramp; the craftsmanship of Irish artist Lisa Hannigan; or the gothic blues of singer-songwriter Adia Victoria.

Dessner also collaborates with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon on their collaborative project Big Red Machine and has co-founded international music festivals including the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival in Wisconsin, Boston Calling and the National’s own Homecoming festival in Cincinnati. Along with his twin brother, Bryce, Vernon and a community of musicians and creatives, he launched the 37d03d (PEOPLE) collective in 2016. 37d03d produces multi-artist events and operates an independent record label, all with the goal of supporting and encouraging spontaneous collaboration.