UCLA has established the Shapiro Family Chair in Piano Performance, made possible by a $1 million gift from alumni Shirley and Ralph Shapiro.

The gift primarily supports a UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music faculty member and students in piano performance. The school also may direct some of the funds to acquire and maintain world-class instruments and bring musicians to campus for master classes and performances.

“I felt an instant connection with Shirley and Ralph Shapiro when I met them,” said Eileen Strempel, the school’s dean. “We share a great love of music and I have been incredibly grateful for their previous generous support. When Ralph told me they wanted to establish this chair, I was so moved. I immediately understood the impact and progress this would make possible for our piano area.”

The gift was inspired by the couple’s passion for music, particularly Shirley’s love of piano. Ralph Shapiro said the family recognizes the importance of faculty chairs to UCLA’s mission; the Shapiros have endowed more than 20 such positions across campus.

Courtesy of the Shapiro family
Ralph, Shirley and Peter Shapiro

“Over the years, we have been proud to partner with UCLA to make a tangible difference in numerous areas,” Shirley Shapiro said. “While we remained home during the pandemic, we were able to continue viewing music performances virtually — and that lifeline became the motivation for recognizing the school’s brilliant piano faculty.”

David Kaplan, an assistant professor of piano performance and music performance, will serve as the inaugural chair holder. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music from UCLA in 2005 and joined the faculty in 2016, the year the music school was founded.

“I’m deeply honored to serve as the inaugural Shapiro Family Chair in Piano Performance,” Kaplan said. “I joined the faculty relatively recently, but my roots at UCLA are much deeper. I wouldn’t be the artist, person and teacher I am today without this school, so I’m thrilled that the Shapiros’ generosity is going to serve many future generations of UCLA piano students.”

Shirley Shapiro earned a bachelor’s degree in education from UCLA in 1959; Ralph earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UCLA in 1953 and a juris doctorate from UCLA School of Law in 1958. He is chairman of Avondale Investment Partners and an investor and commercial real estate holder.

The two have supported UCLA for nearly six decades, contributing to medical research, environmental law, disability studies, education, the arts, children’s welfare programs and many other areas. Both have served on numerous campus advisory boards.