Arts·Archives

Joni Mitchell's career advice for music students

On this day in 2005, the living legend received an honorary degree from McGill University and during a symposium about her legacy she shared some important lessons with music students. Watch this story from the CBC Archives.

On this day in 2005, the living legend received an honorary degree from McGill University

Dr. Joni Mitchell

Digital Archives

17 years ago
15:12
A Joni Mitchell conference and an honorary degree are two indications of the singer-songwriter's importance to Canadian music history. Artwork and music by Joni Mitchell. Special thanks to SL Feldman and Associates and the McGill Faculty of Music. This clip has been edited for copyright reasons. 15:12

Joni Mitchell has been having conversations with CBC about music, creativity and inspiration since the 1960s, but on this day in 2005, that discussion hit academia.

You may have studied Mitchell's poetic lyrics or innovative music as an undergrad long before that date, but it wasn't until 2005 that the Saskatchewan-raised artist received her first honorary degree from a Canadian institution, never mind the decades of accolades that preceded. McGill University made Mitchell a Doctor of Music in January of that year, and to celebrate, a symposium was held in Montreal to discuss Mitchell's cultural impact, with the singer-songwriter herself in attendance.

CBC was there too, and in this 15-minute feature for The National, we follow Mitchell from her arrival at McGill, and in her own words we get a sense of her legacy, through archival footage (like this clip from 1967) and new interviews. 

The lessons Mitchell imparts to students, however, are the words that resonate the most. The young musicians in this clip are looking for career advice, and she leaves them with a question to consider.

"Do you want to be a star, or do you want to be an artist?" she says. "You have to know who you are, what kind of music you want to make."

Visit the CBC Archives for more throwbacks like this one.

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