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Viennese Award a High Note in Composer's Long Career

January 02, 1994|CHRISTINA V. GODBEY

There are some things 89-year-old Herbert Zipper doesn't do. He doesn't, for instance, use a high-tech computer. And he doesn't work out at a fancy health club.

There are many things Herbert Zipper does do, however. He teaches and composes music, and conducts professional musicians in symphonic programs. He also teaches a twice-weekly counterpoint music class at Crossroads School for the Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica. And he visits China regularly to lecture and teach about Western music.

"I have no time to grow old," said the longtime Pacific Palisades resident and musician, who will celebrate his 90th birthday in a few months.

On Wednesday, Zipper was awarded the Golden Decoration of Honor for humanitarian service to the city of Vienna. The award was presented by the Austrian consul-general, Christian Prosl, at a ceremony in Los Angeles.

"I spent a great deal of time composing and writing for Austria," said Zipper, a native of Vienna. "I wrote for underground theaters, and that was my beginning in the politics of the world."

Zipper is perhaps best-known for music he made in an unlikely place--a Nazi concentration camp. In 1938, the young conductor/composer was arrested and imprisoned at Dachau. As an inmate, Zipper secretly formed an orchestra. He and 14 other musicians risked their lives to perform music for other inmates in an unused latrine.

The music Zipper composed in his head while pushing carts full of stone day after day included "Dachau Song." He said the experience allowed him to appreciate the humanizing power of the arts.

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It was not until years later that Zipper discovered that the song had been passed from one prisoner to another and even to other camps. In 1988, he conducted its world premiere, sung by a chorus of young men at a festival in the Austrian city of Graz.

"(The Austrians) took this as one of the most contemporary and living parts of the rebellion against what happened during the war," he said. "They appreciate my convictions. There is much more understanding of what present Austria is and past Austria is. . . . I think that I have helped (present the truth) in some way."

Zipper's life story is the subject of a book published last year by Crossroads School President Paul Cummins. The book titled "Dachau Song" documents the Austrian-born musician's remarkable life.

After Dachau, Zipper survived a stay at Buchenwald before being released by the Nazis. He later moved to the United States, teaching music history and theory at the New School for Social Research in New York City. He also formed orchestras and is credited with bringing classical music to rural and inner-city schools.

In 1945, he helped reorganize the shattered Manila Symphony Orchestra. During the past four decades, he has also made numerous trips to Europe, China, Korea, Thailand and Hong Kong, working with students and professional musicians. Besides traveling, he enjoys volunteering as a teacher at Crossroads.

Although he could have retired years ago from the classroom and the concert hall, he says he would not want his life to change.

"There are many things I have not done and there are so many things I would still like to do, but time gets short," he said. "I do my best to remain active."

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Albert Sonnenfeld has been appointed to the Marion Frances Chevalier Professorship in French at USC.

The Brentwood resident, a professor of French and comparative literature, is chairman of the USC department of French and Italian. He also served as director of the National Endowment for the Humanities Teaching Institutes.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College in addition to a master's and doctorate from Princeton University.

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The Leukemia Society of America has named a research fund in honor of Harvey Erlich.

Erlich, who survived a bout with Hodgkin's disease and a bone marrow transplant for leukemia three years ago, was honored at the Triumphs Through Technology award ceremony Nov. 12 at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey.

The longtime Culver City resident was selected for his support of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Leukemia Society.

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Beyond Baroque has appointed film curator Tosh Berman as artistic and executive director of its literary arts center.

Berman, who has curated film programs for Beyond Baroque, MOCA, UCLA Wight Art Gallery and the James Corcoran Gallery, has experience in film and television. He has hosted his own cable access program, where he interviewed artists in various fields.

Other appointees for the literary arts center are Sarah Simons, formerly a sales representative for Random House/Ballantine Books, as managing director, and Stephen Tateishi, assistant administrator.

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The American Academy of Family Physicians has awarded the Thomas W. Johnson Award to Dr. Skip Felmar, director of the family practice residency program at Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center. The award is presented annually for contributions to the scope of family practice education in the United States.

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Rachelle Katz has been named assistant dean of the college of business administration and director of the master's of business administration program at Loyola Marymount University.

Katz, a professor of finance and director of finance and computer information systems, is a specialist in the area of financial markets and institutions. She holds a bachelor's degree from Purdue University, a master's of business administration from the University of Michigan and a doctorate from Stanford University.

Mail items to People Column, Suite 200, 1717 4th St., Santa Monica, Calif. 90401.

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