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Herb Alpert hits a UCLA high note

His foundation pledges $30 million for a cross-cultural school to highlight ethnic music.

November 16, 2007|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

In what UCLA is calling the largest single gift to music education in the western United States, the Herb Alpert Foundation has given the university a $30-million endowment pledge to establish the cross-disciplinary UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, officials announced today.

The endowment will bring the university's departments of ethnomusicology, music and musicology under a single umbrella for the study and performance of world, popular and classical music, jazz and other genres.

"The landscape of music has changed so dramatically in the last few years and the ways of making, delivering and sharing music have become so diverse, there needs to be a new approach to music education," Alpert, 72, said last week.

"I was looking for a school that would respond to the global environment we are in now," he said, "and UCLA has some real visionaries on staff who have some far-reaching, really beautiful ideas of how to pull it all together."

The Alpert School, which will be housed in existing facilities in the university's Schoenberg Hall, will be inaugurated in 2008. It will be part of the School of Arts and Architecture (UCLA Arts) under Christopher Waterman, who has been dean since 2003. Timothy Rice, a professor in the department of ethnomusicology since 1987, has been named the school's first director.

"The grant will foster collaborative, interdisciplinary interactions between the departments, build on existing strengths and move us in new directions, including more opportunities to learn about the music business and related professions," Waterman said. "The school will create a unified focus and coherent image both for the outside world and internally, so that students can take advantage of what we have."

Waterman expects the endowment, which will be given over three years, to generate about $1.4 million annually.

"A certain chunk of that will go for technology and equipment," he said. "Another will be given to scholarships and trying to recruit the best students and faculty we can. I don't think we're going to have any problem spending it to achieve our aspirations."

"Two things excite me about the possibilities here," Rice said. "One is, from the inception this school will have the best balance between creativity and scholarship, and interesting new ways of thinking about music.

"The other is, in comparison with other schools, to use an astronomical analogy, most are constructed like a solar system," he said. "The sun is always Western classical music. The planets orbiting around it and receiving light and energy from it are jazz studies, world music studies, maybe media technology and a few other things.

"In our school, it will be more like constellations of stars, where each will be their own kind of sun giving off their own kind of light. My challenge will be to make each of these stars shine more brightly."

An interdepartmental faculty panel will begin planning changes to the curriculum before the end of the year, Waterman said. Within two years, the school expects to initiate new courses for the integrated study of the various music disciplines. Students will also be able to take classes about the music business, music in the public sector, and music and health.

Alpert, a Los Angeles native, is an eight-time Grammy Award winner most widely known as a trumpet player and leader of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and as co-founder of A&M Records.

Although a well-known graduate of USC, he made his first gift to UCLA in 1969 and since then has funded scholarships and the university's Music Partnership Program, which provides music education in local schools and nonprofits.

The Alpert foundation, which is closely overseen by Albert and his wife, singer Lani Hall Alpert, funds charitable organizations and institutions. It will have distributed about $100 million by the end of the year since its founding in 1988, according to foundation President Rona Sebastian.

"A lot of the giving has been done anonymously," Sebastian said. "We're a small private family foundation. We don't accept unsolicited proposals, and we don't advertise what's being done.

"But the giving, the philanthropy is so heartfelt. The Alperts' desire is to give back and touch people's lives in a positive way. For them, the deep satisfaction of knowing that they're able to give back is what it's all about."

Among other gifts, the foundation annually presents unrestricted grants to five mid-career artists (the Alpert Awards in the Arts, administered by California Institute of the Arts) and scholarships to four college-bound students (Emerging Young Artists Awards, administered by the California Alliance for Arts Education). Alpert additionally has funded a variety of programs across the country in support of jazz performance and education.

chris.pasles@latimes.com

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