Monk lives … at UCLA

The Herb Alpert juggernaut of extraordinary arts philanthropy surges on the news that The Herb Alpert Foundation has  again spurred jazz education at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. The school will join forces with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, a nonprofit organization devoted to jazz education now based in New Orleans.

For this venture, Alpert spearheaded a triumvirate of jazz superstars, each with a significant commitment to music education. The UCLA dream team for jazz comprises Alpert, the quiet renaissance man with deep pockets for giving; Kenny Burrell, the great jazz guitarist and UCLA jazz professor; and Herbie Hancock, world-renowned jazz pianist/composer and chairman of the Monk Institute.

A little background: The Herb Alpert Foundation donated $30 million to create the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music three years ago. That gift followed a prior $15 million gift for the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts.

The smart partnership with the Monk Institute is funded under the $30 million UCLA grant. It’s a means for UCLA’s existing (undergraduate) jazz program to add a graduate-level degree program in jazz. The prospects for community concerts and events have L.A. jazz buffs paying attention. Burrell spoke yesterday with radio broadcaster Warren Olney on KCRW’s “Which Way, LA?”:

We have rich resources in terms of the funds, a great coming together and southern California will truly benefit from this. We have a great jazz studies program at UCLA with a stellar faculty; Herb Alpert School of Music has united all our programs, now the third new element is the Thelonious Monk Institute for Jazz which is finding its new home at UCLA. Our first step in this marriage is to create a graduate degree program in jazz for students around the world.

Our current students are undergraduates, and they will now mix with the new graduate students in the Monk program. The graduate students are fully funded, this is a scholarship program, and they have to compete for their positions. Six to eight students will be in the first class.

We’re going to be able to present more great programs at UCLA to hear, and many of them will be free.

Both Herb Alpert and Herbie Hancock are my friends for many years. Herbie Hancock and I made records together since the sixties. Herb Alpert is one of the original sponsors of our jazz program; when we were looking for help to get off the ground [Alpert came forward]. Now, he’s given us this multimillion grant for jazz and for music, period, which allows us to combine three of our departments.

I’m still playing because love it, I have a new record coming out this summer, I love it. What can I tell you?

All three gentlemen, I am certain, will more than understand if I use this occasion to celebrate Monk‘s renewed presence in the City of Angels.

monk photo by Roberto Polillo

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