Graduation, or commencement, is one of the most important and memorable ceremonies in life. The music that accompanies the ceremony will often be remembered right along with the events of the day. These are 40 of the most proven and durable songs for helping you celebrate a graduation.
40. Natasha Bedingfield – “Unwritten”
As you graduate, it makes perfect sense to sing, or shout “Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten…” Natasha Bedingfield’s hit is tailor made for events like commencement ceremonies.
39. Carrie Underwood – “Whenever You Remember”
Carrie Underwood is one of the most popular of all American Idol champions. Here she is in a mellow mood of remembering the past and preparing to move forward with heads held high.
38. Billy Joel – “Vienna”
Sometimes in the midst of such a major life event as graduation, it is hard to remember to relax and slow down and let some things unfold on their own. Billy Joel’s ballad from his 1977 album The Stranger helps us keep the importance of slowing down in mind.
37. My Chemical Romance – “Sing”
This song is an anthemic call to raising your voice and being heard even when you face opposition. My Chemical Romance have created a great new song for helping celebrate a point in life in which self-identity is of utmost importance.
36. The Beach Boys – “Graduation Day”
This Beach Boys song is somewhat rare. However, it is well worth hearing and adding to the mix of songs played at the time of graduation.
35. Taylor Swift – “A Place In This World”
This song by Taylor Swift is most appropriate for female graduates. However, its air of quiet confidence in the face of the unknown coming ahead is certainly applicable for graduates of any gender.
34. Florence and the Machine – “Shake It Out”
It is hard to celebrate if you are lost in the fears and insecurities of the past. This is the message delivered by Florence and the Machine. Her towering anthem to confidence in the future will help even the most fearful shake it off.
33. Katy Perry – “Firework”
Katy Perry’s #1 smash hit single is a clear call for positive self-esteem. It is a perfect upbeat song for graduation parties and ceremonies.
32. Celine Dion – “These Are the Special Times”
For a focus on the graduation day itself, Celine Dion reminds graduates to revel in the day as an unforgettable and precious one.
31. Rembrandts – “I’ll Be There For You”
Everyone needs friends as they head from school into the “real world.” This song is one of energetic reassurance among close friends as they face the tough moments ahead.
30. Flo Rida – “Good Feeling”
Flo Rida gave us an outstanding dance and party anthem for celebrating those great feelings that can come with acknowledging what we have accomplished. The Etta James sample in the song is a glorious tribute to upbeat emotions.
29. Queen – “We Are the Champions”
This Queen classic never fails to provoke a warm, possibly tearful, singalong.
28. Nickelback – “Photograph”
Nickelback struck a nostalgic chord with pop audiences on this hit single. Most all of the memories fondly cataloged in the course of the song are events from school years.
27. Foo Fighters – “Times Like These”
If you need a rock song for the graduation soundtrack, this classic hit from the Foo Fighters will fit the bill. It was a top 5 alternative hit in 2003, but extensive use of the song in TV, movies, and video games has helped keep it among the most memorable of Foo Fighters songs. The words speak of a new day in which you learn to live and love again.
26. Rusted Root – “Send Me On My Way”
It’s always an amazing sensation to gather others around to help send you forward in life’s next great adventure.
25. Yael Naim – “New Soul”
Yael Naim sings about being a new soul in the world and the mistakes one is bound to make. However, she is forthright in stating this scary new place brings joy in adddition to fear.
24. Jordin Sparks – “One Step At a Time”
Former American Idol champion Jordin Sparks reminds us that you can reach your dreams taking things gradually and always moving forward. There is no rush, but you can indeed show the world who you are.
23. Kelly Clarkson – “Breakaway”
This is probably the perfect graduation song for those who never felt they completely fit in during high school. However, Kelly Clarkson’s inspiring expression of the desire to spread one’s wings wide to escape the mundane has universal appeal.
22. Miley Cyrus – “The Climb”
Miley Cyrus’ big ballad became an instant inspirational classic when released in 2009. It speaks of keeping focused on the striving for achievement as the most important part of the journey to success. That powerful reminder is particularly appropriate when celebrating graduations.
21. Eve 6 – “Here’s To the Night”
This lush, wistful ballad will leave many graduates misty-eyed thinking of the memorable moments of the years shared with their friends.
20. Mandy Moore – “Extraordinary”
Mandy Moore announced her step into the world of adult recording artists with this tremendous song about spreading one’s wings and becoming truly “extraordinary.” It works perfectly at that moment of leaving high school or college to take one’s place in the larger world.
19. Cast of ‘Rent’ – “Seasons Of Love”
Songs that originated in Broadway musicals often work very well for ceremonial events like graduation. This ode to measuring time through love is a great song to cap the years in high school or college.
18. Mariah Carey – “Hero”
Mariah Carey’s hit “Hero” is a great reminder that if you look deep inside, you can find powerful inner strength. Even if you feel alone, you can find someone within to support and guide you.
17. Grouplove – “Tongue Tied”
Graduation is a time to celebrate our friends. The alternative pop band Grouplove put together an outstanding anthem to friendship that will sound perfect as part of your celebration soundtrack.
16. Baz Luhrman – “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”
This spoken word novelty is one of the most unusual of hit songs. The nuggets of wisdom dispensed here do have resonance.
15. Rascal Flatts – “My Wish”
This song is sung as a gift to a loved one. Rascal Flatts say here nearly all there is to say about dreaming big for someone.
14. The Script – “Live Like We’re Dying”
Before American Idol champion Kris Allen made this song a hit in the US, the Irish band the Script recorded the original version. It is a call to live with purpose and let loved ones know how important they are. These are great sentiments to communicate to a new graduate.
13. Nicki Minaj – “Fly” featuring Rihanna
Nicki Minaj’s hit single delivers a truly uplifting message that is at its most powerful in the chorus sung by Rihanna. It is a perfect song to have at your back when taking on the world.
12. 10,000 Maniacs – “These Are Days”
This 10,000 Maniacs classic from the band’s years with Natalie Merchant as lead vocalist will help identify the time of graduation as a time when you’ll know “that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you.” The song closes with the hopefulness that awareness of direction for the future will make itself known in any moment.
11. Sarah McLachlan – “I Will Remember You”
The tone is a bit wistful for celebrations, but at the heart of this gorgeous song is a promise among friends.
10. Black Eyed Peas – “I Gotta Feeling”
There is no better song to kick off an evening of celebration than this instant classic from the Black Eyed Peas. Use it to kick off your graduation celebration.
9. R. Kelly – “I Believe I Can Fly”
If you have a choir at your graduation ceremony, this is the perfect song to give them to sing. It is pure inspiration for the future.
8. Cyndi Lauper – “True Colors”
Tailor made for those who have endured difficult years, Cyndi Lauper’s 80’s hit is also a warm reminder that all of us are beautiful.
7. New Radicals – “You Get What You Give”
New Radicals are a one-hit wonder, but the one song they gave us is a gem. Portions of the lyrics remain a bit controversial, but the basic point is a celebration of the power of youth. This makes it perfect for honoring the feeling of personal strength and readiness to take on the world after graduation.
6. Lee Ann Womack – “I Hope You Dance”
There is no other song that is better at reminding us of the importance of being totally engaged, keeping our sense of awe at the world, and recognizing the importance of fun in life.
5. Josh Groban – “You Raise Me Up”
One of the key songs that introduced the world to the enormous talent of Josh Groban was also a huge hit in the UK for Westlife. Lyrically, the song is a simple hymn of gratitude to those who lift us higher than we may climb on our own.
4. Idina Menzel – “Defying Gravity” from ‘Wicked’
Since its original release as a part of the cast recording of the hit Broadway show Wicked in 2003, the song “Defying Gravity” has been an inspiration for countless people looking to break out of boundaries and restrictions to find a new life of soaring free of the pull of gravity. It is a perfect song for celebrating graduation and looking forward to a new, exciting life.
3. Green Day – “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)”
This Green Day song relates directly to transitional events in life. It is a song where the band toned down punk influences and create a timeless track that appeals equally to pop and rock fans.
2. Vitamin C – “Graduation (Friends Forever)”
Colleen Fitzpatrick, the former lead vocalist for the group Eve’s Plum, recorded under the name Vitamin C as a solo artist. This song was one of the standout cuts on the album Vitamin C, released in 1999. It was an instant graduation classic pulling in the power of memories in years to come and the value of friends forever. It works well sung live with a chorus as well.
1. Sir Edward Elgar – “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 In D”
This work by English composer Sir Edward Elgar was first played in Liverpool, England in 1901. It was first played at a graduation ceremony in the US in 1905 when Elgar was invited to Yale University to receive an honorary degree. Today, the Trio section “Land Of Hope and Glory” that begins just under two minutes in is played as a processional at nearly every graduation ceremony across the country.
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