All for the Love of Chamber Music

It is not your typical donation.

For the past eight summers, UCLA professor emeritus Henry Bruman has helped underwrite--along with the UCLA Center for the Performing Arts and the university’s music department--a music festival that bears his name.

The free concert series that celebrates classical artists and their works begins today and runs through Aug. 17 at UCLA’s 500-seat Schoenberg Hall. Concerts begin at 1 p.m. Monday and Thursday.

The festival is the brainchild of Bruman, who as a graduate student at UC Berkeley in 1936 saw the Budapest String Quartet perform a series of summer concerts. Suddenly, a whole new world opened for him. Although he has never played an instrument, going to those concerts changed his life.


“It was such a wonderful experience,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘If I can manage it, I want to do [a series],’ and that was the idea for the Bruman series.”

A native of Germany, Bruman came to Southern California at the age of 9. He was introduced to classical music as a fourth-grade student at Jefferson Street School near USC, where he said teachers instilled in him a love of music that has lasted a lifetime.

“I had teachers who were motivated and played records,” said the 81-year-old Westwood resident, who taught geography courses for nearly four decades at UCLA.

In Bruman’s view, exposure to “good music” is slipping away in Los Angeles classrooms. Because of budget cuts and staff reductions, he said, young people are not learning enough about classical music.


“People get exposed to popular music nowadays,” he said. “Classical music isn’t known, and [the members of] our society who do know about it are declining. I want to address that need.”

His hope is that by presenting quality performances, his series will give audiences an appreciation for fine chamber music.

“I want new generations to have exposure to good music like I had in the public school system,” he said. “I know what it can do to enrich one’s life.”

The Bruman series features performances by members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the UCLA music faculty of works by composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Schubert.

Today’s program brings together four members of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, who will perform Prokofiev’s String Quartet No. 1 and Schubert’s String Quartet No. 9.

“It’s a nice opportunity to get together with co-workers and perform in an ensemble,” said Rachel Robinson of Sherman Oaks, a 27-year-old violinist scheduled to perform at today’s concert. "[Schoenberg Hall] has an intimate atmosphere, and you feel like the audience is right there and they are involved in what you are doing.”

The Henry J. Bruman Summer Chamber Music Festival continues today through Aug. 17. Concerts begin at 1 p.m. Schoenberg Hall, UCLA. Free admission. For program information, call (310) 825-4401.