The Crusader Newspaper Group

Long wait for Berklee degree ends with Crusader inquiry 

Mae Ya Carter Ryan, the Chicago prodigy who has wowed audiences with her smooth contralto vocals, finally received her degree from the Berklee College of Music, nearly one year after she graduated from the prestigious Boston school.  

Since graduating from Berklee on May 12, 2023, Ryan and her mother, Ina Carter, had been unable to obtain the physical document, despite submitting the required form and payment. Emails and follow-up calls to Berklee officials yielded no results.  

Their long wait ended just one day after a Crusader journalist contacted Berklee about the problem.  

One hour following that conversation, Ryan told the Crusader she received an email from a Berklee official who overnighted the degree to her address in Bronzeville.   

“Look what I got,” Ryan texted the Crusader journalist, who received a photo of her degree attached with the text message. In a phone conversation later, Ryan said she was glad her long wait was over. 

“I can’t believe that I have it,” Ryan excitedly told the Crusader. “It’s about time.” 

Carter said she is relieved her daughter got the degree that she earned.  

“She worked hard for it. She deserves it,” Carter said.  

Ryan said a senior Berklee official also called her to check up on her after the long wait.  

She graduated with honors from Berklee and received a bachelor’s degree in professional music.  

Berklee is one of the top music schools in the country. Grammy-award winning producer Quincy Jones and singer John Mayer are among the college’s distinguished alumni.  

The College did not offer an official explanation or apology on why Ryan waited for nearly a year to get her degree.  

When the Crusader reached out to Dan Pesquera, a spokesperson for Berklee, he promised a response but never gave one.  

Hours after the Crusader spoke to Pesquera, Ryan received an email from the College. 

“They said they didn’t see my [graduation] form in the system. I told them I had paid [the $40 fee]. They said, ‘oh we’ll refund your money. We’ll send your degree overnight.’” 

Ryan was among 1,150 Berklee graduates who walked down the aisle during the school’s 2023 commencement ceremony, where hip-hop rapper Usher spoke after receiving an honorary degree.  

Since graduating from college, Ryan has completed an internship in Los Angeles with global  firm Universal Music Group.

When she was 12, Ryan also performed at New York’s famed Lincoln Center, where she opened for the Jacksons in an event honoring Berry Gordy, Jr. She has also performed at galas hosted by NBA star Dwyane Wade and rapper Common.  

In 2016, Susan L. Taylor, former editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine, invited her to New York to perform at her birthday party. In 2015, she performed at the 75th Anniversary Gala of the Chicago Crusader at the Loews Chicago Hotel in River North. 

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