By Don Heckman
Describing Herb Alpert as a philanthropist doesn’t accurately identify the full generosity of his activities over recent decades. Many of his awards have been institutional, to UCLA, USC, CalArts and beyond. And in each of those cases, his generosity has had a significant impact upon the effectiveness of their music education programs.
But Alpert has done much more. For the past twenty years, his Herb Alpert Award in the Arts has annually given $75,000 prizes each to five mid–career, risk–taking artists in dance, film/video, music, theatre, and visual arts.
“Over the last twenty years,” says Alpert, “we’ve been lucky enough to have given a boost to choreographers, musicians, visual and media artists, and theatre makers, those who keep on searching, and making powerful, spirited work. For all of us to enjoy…or not.”
Last Friday, Alpert and his wife Lani Hall hosted the announcement of his year’s awards at an annual award lunch. And, once again, the line up of winners included an impressive array of creative artists.
Here are the winners in the various categories, along with comments from Irene Borger, Director of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, regarding the reasons for their selection:
– Dance: Tap dancer Michelle Dorreance. Chosen for her “inventive sophistication and transporting the field into radically new places.”
– Music: Composer, avant-garde saxophonist and sound artist Matana Roberts. Chosen for her charismatic, powerful renderings of sound.”
– Film/Video: Documentary Filmmaker Deborah Stratman. Chosen for her “important body of films, and the ways she grapples with tough issues.”
– Theatre: Theatre artist Annie Dorsen. Chosen for her “audacious investigations, unrelenting pursuit of ideas, and new theatrical forms.”
– Visual Arts: Post-conceptual artist Daniel Joseph Martinez. Chosen for his “his fearless, continually evolving practice, unwavering commitment to art and politics, to the field, and to Los Angeles.”
Alpert summed up the significance of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts in a final comment, perfectly reflecting the adventurousness of his own long career as an imaginative, improvising jazz artist always in search of new ideas:
“What happens,” says Alpert, “when you support artists with that special spark? You don’t know — and that’s exactly part of the magic.”
It’s a magic that Alpert has either been creating or supporting – and sometimes both – over the course of the music he’s been making from the early days of the Tijuana Brass to his most recent recordings and performances with his wife Lani Hall Alpert.
Add to that the equally magical works Alpert has been producing in his remarkable career as a highly regarded painter and sculptor. No wonder he relates so empathically with the simlarly imaginative winners of his Herb Alpert Award in the Arts.
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Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision courtesy of the Herb Alpert Foundation.