President Linda Schott has announced that Ellis Paul—a national acclaimed singer-songwriter who hails from Presque Isle and has spent more than 20 years touring as a musician—will deliver the commencement address during the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s 105th Commencement Ceremony, to be held on Saturday, May 17. During the event, an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree will be presented to Paul.
“We are honored to have a Presque Isle native who has achieved so much in the world of music address our graduating class this year,” President Schott said. “Ellis Paul is a powerful example of achieving your dreams through hard work and perseverance. We look forward to hearing the message he will share during our commencement exercises and hope they will inspire our graduates as they prepare for the next step in their journey. We are also very pleased to be honoring Ellis for his contributions to the arts by conferring upon him an honorary doctorate degree.”
A veteran, constantly-touring troubadour, Ellis Paul is one of the most respected artists in the folk genre. The New York Times has said of Paul: “Despite his success and sense of history, Mr. Paul remains an Artist with his eye on the future and an interest in discovering the transformative power of his music.”
As one of the top American singer-songwriters, Ellis Paul has won numerous national awards including an unprecedented 14 Boston Music Awards. His literate streak has inspired the frequent use of his songs in TV shows as well as several blockbuster Hollywood films with stars such as Jim Carrey, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black.
He has performed with countless acclaimed musicians, including: Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Patty Griffin, John Mayer, Ani DiFranco, Dar Williams, Shawn Colvin, and the country band, Sugarland. At the request of Woody Guthrie’s daughter Nora, Ellis was invited to the Woody Guthrie archives, picked an unreleased lyric and wrote the song God’s Promise which is an official co-write with his hero, Woody Guthrie.
In addition to performing more than 150 shows annually for the past 25 years, Ellis Paul has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., The Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio, Carnegie Hall in New York City, as well as festivals, clubs, schools and community coffeehouses all over the globe. Through the record label Black Wolf Records, which he co-founded in 1994, he has released over 20 musical projects, as well as books and films/videos.
Ellis Paul’s latest album, Chasing Beauty, was produced by Kristian Bush, with his Grammy Award-winning country band Sugarland backing him. Ellis also writes music for the entire family. His latest children’s album, The Hero in You, won the prestigious Gold Parents’ Choice award and will be coming out as a children’s book and CD this fall by Albert Whitman & Company. The songs are centered on true American heroes throughout history, including: Rosa Parks, Ben Franklin, Jackie Robinson, Woody Guthrie, Martha Graham, and more. This collection of songs was created by Ellis Paul to remind both parents and children of the importance that these individuals had on American culture and history, and to inspire kids to reach for the same great heights that these wonderful characters achieved.
Ellis Paul has returned home for several performances and honors. His last visit in 2012 included a concert fundraiser, a mini-performance and musical activity for children, and his induction into the Presque Isle High School Athletic Hall of Fame. He graduated from Presque Isle High School in 1983. He was a star athlete, the State Champion in Cross Country and he still holds school track records. Ellis attended Boston College on a track scholarship and was the captain of the Cross Country team. It was there after a knee injury that he started playing guitar and making his mark in the Boston folk scene, which eventually launched his national career. Ellis was honored by his college and received the Boston College Arts Council Alumni Award for Artistic Achievement in 2004.
When he’s not on tour, he resides in Charlottesville, Va. with his two children.
During his hometown visit, Ellis Paul will also present a benefit concert at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 18, in the Campus Center to help the University raise funds for its Auditorium Renovation Project.
The University’s Commencement Exercises are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 17, in Wieden Gymnasium.