25 years ago, legendary musician, philanthropist and artist Herb Alpert witnessed the gradual decline of funding for the arts in America. As budgets disappeared, emerging artists lost what had been a cornerstone of American culture and education – music instruction and funding for independent projects.
Alpert, a pioneering music icon with nine Grammys, 72 million albums sold and co-founder of A&M Records – the most successful independent record label in history – is famous in the music industry for getting things done. When Alpert decided to do something about the funding crisis, artists found a new champion.
Speaking on his passion for arts education, Alpert explained, “I was a very shy eight year old. I went to this music class and they had a table filled with instruments. I picked up a trumpet. As I learned to play, I began to realize that the trumpet could do my talking for me – it was saying what I couldn’t get out of my mouth. Obviously it transformed my life and that’s why I’m so excited about kids having this same type of opportunity.”
A quarter century and more than $175 million dollars later, Herb Alpert remains one of America’s most important and loyal supporters of the arts and arts education.
Not only did Herb Alpert and his Grammy-winning vocalist wife Lani Hall, create the Herb Alpert Foundation in the 1980’s to invest in arts focused organizations, but they also established the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts in 1994.
The Award is presented annually to five risk-taking, mid-career artists. Over 125 artists have received the unrestricted cash prize ($75,000) in the five categories of Dance, Film/Video, Music, Theatre and Visual Arts over the past 25 years.
“I’ve always loved the artists that traveled the road less traveled…those are the artists that touch me.” -Herb Alpert
Past winners include: Suzan-Lori Parks, Catherine Opie, Carrie Mae Weems, Vijay Iyer, Taylor Mac, Tania Bruguera, Okwui Okpokwasili, Derek Bermel and Michelle Dorrance. It is worth noting that these prominent artists were all recognized with the Alpert Award prior to their MacArthurs, Grammys and Pulitzers. The impact of this award on mid-career, risk-taking artists has been immeasurable.
“Far more than the money, was that somehow, in that year, a few people said that what you do really matters. And that was enough to propel me forward.”
– Victoria Marks, Alpert Award Winner in Dance 1997.
May 13, 2019 in New York city will mark the celebration of 25 years of the Herb Alpert Awards and a chance to honor the 125 winners and the tireless work of the hundreds of prominent panelists from the five disciplines. As Herb Alpert, past winners and panelists take a moment to reflect on how many lives this award has impacted, a new group of five winners will carry the torch for another year.