Legendary Jazz musician Herb Alpert was born in Los Angeles, California, to proud parents Tillie and Louis. The Alperts were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Young Herb was fortunate to enter into a family that was very musically inclined. His father, Louis, was a tailor and a talented mandolin player. Herb's mother, Tillie, taught the violin, and his older brother, David, was a gifted drummer. Herb began trumpet lessons at the age of eight. His love of the instrument only grew, and by his teenage years he was performing at local dances and events throughout Los Angeles.
After graduating from Fairfax High School in 1952, he joined the U.S. Army and began frequently performing at military ceremonies. He later attended the University of Southern California, where he was a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band. He dabbled in acting, and appeared in an uncredited role in "The Ten Commandments" among others. But, it was his first love, music, that eventually won out. By 1957, Alpert teamed up with lyricist Rob Weerts to work as a songwriter for Keen Records. Alpert wrote and co-wrote many hit songs during this period, including "Wonderful World" by Sam Cooke.
In 1960, Alpert began his recording career as a vocalist at RCA Records, and soon set up a small recording studio in his garage to expand his own songwriting and recording. Inspired by a rousing mariachi band playing at a bullfight in Mexico, Alpert wrote and funded the recording of a song called "The Lonely Bull." Released in 1962, it garnered immediate radio play and became a top 10 hit.
Alpert renamed his act to Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and began writing more songs for it. By 1964, he had assembled an exceptional team of session musicians for his band, and in 1965, his band became one of the highest-paid performing acts in the country.
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass would go on to win six Grammy Awards. Fifteen of their albums won gold discs, and 14 won platinum discs. In 1966, over 13 million Alpert recordings were sold, outselling the Beatles. That same year, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized that Alpert set a new record by placing five albums simultaneously in the top 20 on the Billboard Pop Album Chart, an accomplishment that has never been repeated.
Alpert embarked on a fruitful solo career in the 1970s, and had his biggest instrumental hit in 1979 with "Rise" (from the album of the same name), which also won a Grammy Award.
In addition to being a beloved songwriter and performer, Alpert is also a storied music producer. He started the incredibly successful A&M Record label and between 1962 and 1992. He managed the label with his partner Jerry Moss. Alpert signed numerous artists to A&M, personally starting the careers of many talented musicians. He has worked with Chris Montez, The Carpenters, Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66, Bill Medley, Liza Minnelli and Janet Jackson (featured vocalist on his 1987 hit single "Diamonds"). Alpert and Moss sold A&M to PolyGram Records in 1992, and went on to start the Almo Sounds Music Publishing company, where Alpert continues to write and record award-winning music.
In 2006, Alpert and Moss were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their work at A&M, and in 2007 Alpert received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
But perhaps, even more significant than his musical accomplishments is the work he has done as a philanthropist.
In the 1980s, Alpert created The Herb Alpert Foundation, which supports youth and arts education as well as environmental issues. Through his eponymous foundation, Alpert has donated tens of millions of dollars to education programs and spearheaded the creation of such luminous institutions as the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music; the Herb Alpert School of Music at Cal Arts; and the Alpert Award in the Arts, which are $75,000 awards that are given annually to five risk-taking mid-career artists working in the fields of dance, film/video, music, theatre, and the visual arts.
Most recently, Alpert has collaborated with the New Visions Foundation in Santa Monica, California, to create the Herb Alpert Educational Village. The Herb Albert Educational Village represents a vision of education in the 21st century, housing several educational programs in one collaborative community: The New Visions Foundation, the students, faculty, and staff of New Roads School and nonprofit partners dedicated to the causes of educational advancement and social justice.
The MY HERO Project is thrilled to be one of the ten nonprofits selected to take part in this unique educational endeavor.
"It is an honor to have been selected to join this incredible village," says Jeanne Meyers, Director and Co-founder of The MY HERO Project. "Being part of the Herb Albert Educational Village gives MY HERO a home to collaborate with innovators and leaders in the field of education, with the goal of enriching all of our programs to better serve and empower students around the globe. It's a dream come true, for which we all owe Mr. Alpert our immense gratitude."
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