Creating That Big Break

Personal passion: Herb Alpert

The Herb Alpert Foundation assists educational, arts and environmental programs helping young people discover their own potential. The foundation gives annual fellowships of $50,000 to artists in the fields of dance, film/video, music, theater and the visual arts. The program is administered by the California Institute of the Arts and funded by the Herb Alpert Foundation.

“At first, I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems out there,” says Alpert. “Instead of trying to solve any great mystery that’s not going to be solved that easily, I was going to try and zero in on small organizations — do small things in a very efficient way. I zeroed in on arts and education. I’m an artist. I paint, I sculpt, I play the trumpet. I see the artists, in today’s world, really have a tough time trying to express themselves, so wanted to give them a chance to express themselves.

“I’m not the Ford Foundation. It’s not the Rockefeller Foundation. It’s a modest foundation I started in the 1980s. We went into organizations that were doing things like after-school programs.

“I got the idea to try and support midterm artists — who are not quite there but just need a little shove to get over the edge. In searching, we found that CalArts was very supportive of this idea. They had ideas of their own. We collaborated, and we’ve been doing it for over 10 years now.

“The climate for arts today stinks. It’s harder than ever for these artists to get any type of recognition or to be heard or to get any type of funding.

“Another project we are in the process of developing is a Web site which is going to be a resource for professional musicians who graduate from Berklee or Julliard or Manhattan School of Music or wherever. They have their diploma. Now what? This Web site is going to tell them about publishing companies. How do you publish a song? What is a recording contract like? Do you need a lawyer? The job opportunities that are out there for classical musicians, for jazz musicians. The realities of what is really available.”

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