Year in Review: 2022-23

5 min read

It was the first full year returning to campus after the pandemic of 2020-2022. It was a year of heralded international guest artists and world-class scholars. It was a year of escalating student accomplishments. It was a big year.

It was a year of big.

“I think there was a lot of pent-up energy,” said Eileen Strempel, inaugural dean of The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. “And it made for a fabulous year of events.”

It was the inaugural rollout of the School of Music’s three new series: the Statement Series, reserved for towering figures in the world of music and scholarship; the Signature Series, highlighting annual programming; and Amplify, a series for voices from our community and the world over, deserving of amplification.

The announcement of the new series meant a year of big concerts.

For the first full year of programming since the global pandemic, The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music programmed ambitiously. The legendary Shujaat Khan dazzled a Schoenberg Hall audience with his virtuoso sitar playing. International opera star Angel Blue returned to her alma mater for her first Los Angeles performance in 15 years. Darius, Chris, and Dan Brubeck took the stage to perform their father’s epic cantata The Gates of Justice. The Brubecks performed in what was the first in the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience’s two-part series Music and Justice. It featured not just the Brubecks, but new world premieres by Dr. Diane White-Clayton and multi-grammy winner Arturo O’Farrill. The second concert in the Music and Justice series featured the west coast premiere of Lera Auerbach’s, Symphony No. 6, “Vessels of Light,” which honored the bravery of diplomat Chinue Sugihara during World War II.

It was a year of big ideas.

Interested in diversifying the repertoire of the concert hall? George Lewis, MacArthur Fellow and musical director of the International Contemporary Ensemble, outlined a program for decolonizing classical music during a one-week residency. Huib Schippers, who was UCLA’s distinguished Regents’ Professor in 2022-23 in the ethnomusicology department, spoke about safeguarding cultural heritage in a constantly moving world. Think country music is exclusionary, “white” music? Nadine Hubbs of the University of Michigan explained country music’s Mexican roots and its many, many Mexican American fans.

It was a year of daring creativity.

The School of Music was the site of multiple world premieres of new music, as well as creative ways of reimagining old classics. Whether it was Antonio Lysy performing Bach in the confines of the Richard Serra sculpture in UCLA’s Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden or the music department’s new postdoctoral scholar in Iranian Music, Shahab Paranj’s curated multi-media concert Diār, audiences were left stimulated and intrigued. The Center for Musical Humanities sponsored groundbreaking symposia and conferences. It often led to breathtaking visuals, like Lea de la Orienté taking the stage in drag at the Asian American and Pacific Island Performance and Pedagogy Symposium. Much the same was true for the multi-media concert Diār, curated by Shahab Paranj, postdoctoral scholar in Iranian Music.

It was a year of student accomplishments.

School of Music students excelled both in competitions and in garnering fellowships. Doctoral student Lily Shababi won the Ingolf Dahl award, doctoral student Breana McCullough won an apprentice fellowship with the Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, and doctoral student Blair Black was named a Dance/USA 2023 Archiving and Preservation Fellow. Master’s student Damon Zavala won a Sphinx orchestral Futurist Fellowship, and master’s student Emma Breen won principal trumpet of the American Youth Symphony. Undergraduates excelled at every level, whether it was voice and piano students sweeping the Pasadena Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota Scholarship Competition, first-place Remy Ohara at the National Trumpet Competition, or Ashley Dao winning the prestigious Beinecke Scholarship.

It was a year of ambitious building.

New faculty bring exciting new perspectives to the School of Music. Johanna Gamboa-Kroesen joined the music education faculty, bringing with her exciting new research about student success. Musicologist Thomas Hodgson left Oxford to join the School of Music, bringing with him a wealth of research and experience about music streaming and ideas about algorithmic justice. Composer and musicologist Jenny Olivia Johnson, whose hybrid scholarly-artistic work has been a leading force in trauma studies, will join the faculty full-time in Fall 2024. So too will musicologist Joy H. Calico, whose groundbreaking work on twentieth-century European music has frequently upended the field.

Completing a big year does not mean slowing down.

“We are excited about building on these accomplishments,” said Eileen Strempel. “Really, we are just getting started.”