Musica Viva CEO Mary Jo Capps received the University of Melbourne’s highest honour this past Friday. In acknowledgement of her significant contribution to classical music and the University, the degree of Doctor of Visual and Performing Arts honoris causa was conferred on Capps. The recommendation was put forward by the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.

Mary Jo CappsMary Jo Capps. Photograph: supplied.

“The Honorary degree acknowledges Mary Jo’s immense contribution to music through her Leadership of Musica Viva,” said Professor Barry Conyngham, Dean of the Faculty of VCA & MCM. “It also signals the impact and value of her many other roles, which for the University of Melbourne include her more than ten-year membership, including as Chair, of the Faculty Advisory Board.”

Delivering the occasional address during Friday’s ceremony, Capps urged graduates to “use their art to rise above the depressing chatter”.

“Society as a whole is searching for deeper meaning, a sense of purpose, something beyond pursuit of wealth and power,” she said. “The arts offer a key component in that search.”

“My wish is for you to be the person standing here decades from now, and able to say: ‘I took this gift of the arts to the world – the skills that I have honed here at the University of Melbourne. I have treasured this gift and used it to open up new opportunities for myself and for others.'”

Steven McRaeSteven McRae celebrates. Photograph: supplied.

Capps was not the only recipient of an award last week. Steven McRae, a principal dancer with The Royal Ballet in London, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Western Sydney University on Thursday.

“Not only has Steven McRae enjoyed remarkable success on the world stage, he has also actively mentored and inspired young Australian dancers,” said Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover.

“McRae has received many accolades from across the globe, and we are proud to add this Western Sydney honour to the list of awards that recognise his dedication and exceptional talent.”

McRae acknowledged the importance of hard work in his career. “In life, talent alone is not enough to ensure success – you have to work hard and take advantage of every opportunity and also accept that not everything is in your control – luck and good timing also have an important role to play,” he said.

Star of stage and screen Bryan Brown was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Western Sydney University.

“Bryan Brown paved the way for many Australian actors and has been pivotal in developing the arts in Western Sydney,” said Vice-Chancellor Barney Glover.