Lowell Milken (right) with composer Herman Berlinski in 2000. Berlinski's masterpiece, “Avodat Shabbat,” was recorded by the Milken Archive of Jewish Music.
The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music has received a $1.5 million gift from the Lowell Milken Family Foundation to establish the Lowell Milken Fund for American Jewish Music. The fund will enable the school to build on the work of the Milken Archive of Jewish Music, a collection of recordings, scores and historical materials that document the Jewish experience in America over the past 350 years.
The Milken Archive of Jewish Music was founded in 1990 by Lowell Milken with a vision to record, preserve and disseminate the music born of and inspired by Jewish life in America. It has grown to include more than 600 recordings by 200 composers, complemented by more than 800 hours of oral history recordings, videos, photographs and scholarship. Deemed “the most comprehensive documentation, ever, of music reflecting Jewish life and culture in America” by the Chicago Tribune, the Santa Monica-based archive has earned ASCAP and Grammy awards.
Now, as an academic partner to the archive, the Herb Alpert School of Music will use the fund to advance and advocate for the field of American Jewish music by contributing to research, scholarship and programs in the field at the undergraduate, graduate and faculty levels, while presenting concerts and symposia to engage and educate the community.
“Our goal is to advance cutting-edge research, artistic creativity and interdisciplinary collaboration,” Milken said. “The Milken Archive is a living project, and I believe the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music is uniquely positioned to further both our mission and our impact on current and future generations.”
The newly appointed academic director of the fund is Mark Kligman, who holds the school’s Mickey Katz Endowed Chair in Jewish Music.
“There has never been a concerted effort to significantly research or study American Jewish music,” Kligman said. “With the establishment of this fund, Jewish music — and its history and development — will be given the attention it deserves as an integral part of the American music experience.”
The fund’s inaugural program, American Culture and the Jewish Experience in Music, will be held in November. The three-day conference, which will be co-presented with the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, will focus on the long-term continuities that American flexibility and enterprise have made available to Jewish performers, composers, cantors, collectors and thinkers. It will feature performances of new compositions, panel discussions and lectures on heritage, innovation and interactivity.
“This gift substantially advances our commitment to the field of Jewish music,” said Judith Smith, dean of the music school. “Bringing together academic scholarship with performances and community events, the gift embraces and leverages the unique advantages of the school’s three departments: ethnomusicology, music and musicology.”
Milken graduated from the UCLA School of Law in 1973 and is among UCLA’s most generous supporters. His many contributions to UCLA over the past quarter-century include a transformative $10 million gift in 2011 to the law school, which established the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy. The largest single gift in the law school’s history, it enabled the school to surpass a $100 million fundraising goal well ahead of the original five-year schedule. The donation was followed by another $5 million gift in 2014.
In 2016, UCLA was honored again when Milken donated $1 million for the Lowell Milken Family Centennial Scholars Endowed Scholarship Fund, which provides substantive support to some of the campus’s nearly 700 student-athletes as they pursue their degrees. The gifts have been part of the $4.2 billion UCLA Centennial Campaign, which is scheduled to conclude in December 2019 during UCLA’s 100th anniversary year.