WESTWOOD—On Wednesday, March 29, UCLA officials announced that musician and Grammy winner Herb Alpert will receive the UCLA Medal, the university’s highest honor. Chancellor Gene Block will present the award at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music’s inaugural commencement ceremony on Friday, June 16, 2017.
“Herb Alpert has dedicated his life and career to the arts and to our greater good,” said Chancellor Block, according to a UCLA press release. “His transformative leadership in the arts and arts education embodies and amplifies UCLA’s highest ideals.”
The campus’s school of music was named for Alpert in 2007, after a $30 million endowment gift from Alpert and his wife, Lani Hall Alpert, through the Herb Alpert Foundation. It was the largest individual gift to higher music education in the area. The school is dedicated to the study and performance of music in its global diversity, as well as in practical knowledge. Students have the opportunity to take courses such as music business and music in the public sector.
“I was looking for a school that would respond to the global environment we are in now, and UCLA has some real visionaries on staff who have some far-reaching, really beautiful ideas of how to pull it all together,” Alpert said in a Los Angeles Times interview in November 2007.
In January 2016, the school became the first independent school of music in the University of California system, after it gained autonomy from the UCLA School of Arts and Architecture.
The foundation also established the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts in 1994. In collaboration with the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), it provides $75,000 fellowship each year to five artists in dance, film and video, music, theater, and visual arts. In addition, the foundation supports nonprofit arts programs and awards scholarships to high school students, through the Herb Alpert Scholarships for Emerging Young Artists at the California State Summer School for the Arts.
Alpert was born in Boyle Heights, in East Los Angeles, on March 31, 1935. He learned to play the trumpet at a young age and experimented with a wire recorder as a teenager. After his army service, he attended the University of Southern California, where he was a member of the marching band.
Alpert initially gained fame through the musical group, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, where he was the founder, songwriter, and trumpet player. The Latin-influenced band debuted in 1965 and became one of the highest-paid acts of its time. Alpert and his band won six Grammy awards and had 14 multiplatinum albums and 15 gold albums. In 1966, Alpert was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for having five simultaneous albums on the Billboard Pop Album chart’s Top 20.
From 1962 to 1989, Alpert and partner Jerry Moss signed artists including Janet Jackson, the Carpenters, and Bill Medley to A&M Records. In the 1970s to the 1990s, Alpert embarked on a solo career. His instrumental hit “Rise” won a Grammy Award in 1979 and made him the only artist to ever hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts with both a vocal piece and an instrumental piece.
In 1988, Alpert launched the Herb Alpert Foundation, which supports arts education and opportunities for people of all ages under the philosophy that art has the capacity to transform lives. In 1997, he and Moss received a Grammy Trustees Award for their achievements. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Alpert with the National Medal of Arts for his significant contributions.
In addition, Alpert established a second career as a painter and sculptor of abstract works, which were exhibited in Beverly Hills in 2010 and Santa Monica in 2013.
According to the press release, the UCLA Medal, established in 1979, is awarded to individuals who have earned “academic and professional acclaim” and whose work “demonstrates the highest ideals of UCLA.” Past recipients include singer Ella Fitzgerald, writer Toni Morrison, actor James Earl Jones, and President Bill Clinton.
“Lani and I treasure our involvement with UCLA,” Alpert, 82, said in the release. “We have enormous respect and admiration for the university’s deep commitment to public education, to its role in fostering trail-blazing research, and to helping serve diverse communities in so many important and thoughtful ways. I am honored to receive the UCLA Medal and to be recognized for sharing the values that this world-class institution represents and celebrates.”