The honoree: Although the annual affair usually pays tribute to an artist and an arts supporter, CalArts president Steven Lavine said REDCAT's advisory council figured the legendary trumpeter of the Tijuana Brass deserved to be honored at the March 15 affair in both categories.
"No one has had a music career with quite as much accomplishment," said Lavine, speaking of Alpert's co-founding of A&M records, receiving a National Medal of the Arts from President Obama, winning his ninth Grammy just last January and having had five albums on Billboard's Top 20 at the same time. "Frank Sinatra never did that," Lavine said, also noting the musician's "second life as a visual artist," who has had sculptures recently installed in Malibu and in New York City, opposite Lincoln Center.
One of Hollywood's most generous celebrities, Alpert created a foundation that has doled out $130 million to various charities, mostly in support of artists and arts education. Of that, about $30 million has gone to CalArts, home to the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts. Among other projects in partnership with the institute, the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts annually grants $75,000 each to five risk-taking artists to help further their careers.
The crowd: The Emmy Award-winning, Oscar-nominated James Cromwell of "American Horror Story," "Babe" and the upcoming TV series "Murder in the First," served as emcee. The audience included co-chairs Jamie Lynton and Neda and Tim Disney. REDCAT Executive Director Mark Murphy, gallery director Ruth Estevez and Lavine represented REDCAT.
The evening: After cocktails in the lobby, a brass band ushered party-goers into the theater, transformed for the evening of stylish dining by artists Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena via giant silvery clouds of eclectic fabrics floating overhead. Dinner, the awards ceremony and a full-length concert followed featuring Alpert and his wife, the Grammy-winning Lani Hall, former lead singer for "Brasil '66."
Quote of note: "I think creativity is at the heart of all learning," said Alpert in a quiet moment, explaining his interest in bolstering arts education. "It's unfortunate that we don't still have classes for young kids at an early age to experience the creative process for themselves, whether they're making music or writing poetry or whatever they happen to do… It's the creative process that gives people a chance to experience their own uniqueness."
The numbers: Attracting more than 200 guests, the gala raised more than $600,000 from tickets starting at $1,000 and tables for as much as $50,000.
Ellen Olivier is founder of Society News LA.
[For the Record, 11:11 a.m. PDT March 20: An earlier version of this post said co-chairs Maria Arena Bell and Malissa and Bobby Shriver were among the attendees. They were not.]