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Herb Alpert Pays It Forward

The master trumpeter funds arts education through his foundation

Herb Alpert with trumpet in studio

Photograph by Ramona Rosales

Trumpeter Herb Alpert, 83, famous for his work with the Tijuana Brass, has won nine Grammys.

The first time I picked up a trumpet, I was 8 years old. Today you might say I’m a card-carrying introvert, but I was even worse when I was young. It was so bad, I was almost mute.

I went to this music class, and they had a table filled with instruments. 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, not only with music but also with acting, sculpting, painting or whatever creative form that moves them. 

In the 1980s, I created the Herb Alpert Foundation with my wife, the singer Lani Hall. Since then we’ve donated over $160 million to support the arts and arts education.  

Some of the kids we help are from horrendous backgrounds, where hope is a slim feature in their lives. It’s a transformative thing for kids to experience making art and expressing themselves. If you get good at something, you have a feeling of “My hard work pays off.” From there you can extrapolate successes in other arenas, such as the arts or business. 

That’s what happened with me. I just wanted to be able to pass along that type of feeling if I could. 

—As told to Mike Sager