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Music Majors Get To Study For Free At L.A. City College, Thanks To Herb Alpert

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Trumpeter Herb Alpert with members of his combo in London in October, 1966. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
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Jazz legend Herb Alpert just gave $10.1-million to Los Angeles City College, fundamentally changing the game for music majors at the community college, who will now be able to study tuition free. The Herb Alpert Foundation's record donation is the largest ever made to a community college in Southern California, according to the L.A. Times.

This is objectively awesome news, especially because of how rare it is for fancy donors to support community colleges. As Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Los Angeles City College Foundation, told The Hollywood Reporter, approximately 40 billion dollars was given to higher education in gifts last year, and less than 2% of that went to the community college system. "Juxtaposed with that is the fact that in the United States, about 80 percent of the workforce has been educated at a community college," Schwartz continued.

"Some kids are in situations where it's a bit of a struggle just to get their mojo working," Alpert told The Hollywood Reporter. "I was just thinking about how expensive it is for kids to go to UCLA or 'SC or one of the major colleges, and I love the idea that we can open the door to help students who are financially challenged to study at LACC, which is a beautiful college. I mean, it's a gem. If you haven't been there lately, the campus is alive and kicking, and there are a lot of great teachers and a lot of great energy there."

LACC has offered music classes since the school's inception in 1929, and—little-known fact—it was actually the first college in America to offer a jazz major. Legions of talented musicians have studied there over the years, ranging from jazz greats like Charlie Mingus and Chet Baker to Academy Award-winning composers like Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams. Forty percent of music students out of the entire nine-college Los Angeles community college system study at LACC, according to the AP.

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The community college system also serves a population for whom an arts-based education might otherwise be out of reach. More than 35% of LACC students had a total family income below $14,000 (the poverty line in Los Angeles is $15,930 for a two-person household, and $24,250 for a four-person household), according to a 2012 student survey. In that same survey, three quarters of LACC students said that financial factors had been a problem to them in succeeding in their classes, and more than 60% said that job obligations had also posed a problem. One can only imagine how transformative the opportunity for a tuition-free music education at LACC could be, or the musicians who might someday emerge from the program.