September 20, 2019

Alpert Award Gives Lift to Dancer

For a good couple of minutes I was in shock,” said burgeoning ballerina Hana Goldstone, a light giggle punctuating her otherwise grown-up voice.

The 16-year-old is remembering the moment she learned that The Herb Alpert Foundation had granted her a $40,000 Emerging Artist Scholarship Award to study dance at the college of her choice. “I honestly didn’t believe it. I told my mom, and then she went into shock,” she said.

In July, Ventura resident Goldstone was attending InnerSpark, a.k.a. California State Summer School for the Arts, a program for high school students located at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Informed at the outset that six students would be granted full four-year grants earmarked for study—in animation and film/video, creative writing, dance, music, theater and visual arts—Hana wound up stunned to hear she’d won in the dance category, explaining that “others who have won [Alpert Awards] in the past were modern dancers and not ballet-trained.” 

The high school senior, an only child of divorced parents who strongly support her creative endeavors, wasted no time embarking on a cross-country college-shopping trip. First stop: that Mecca-on-Hudson for dancers, New York City.

“I hope to get into Barnard College. Their dance program is excellent, and it has a ballet track,” Goldstone said. “It’s important to get a good education even if you’re a dancer.”

Goldstone reckons that her “pretty good” GPA should help. Dropping her voice as if sharing a secret, she adds: “I have a 4.5.”

Alpert and his wife, singer Lani Hall, introduced the scholarships at InnerSpark just last year. The bright and gifted Hana is only the second dancer to receive the all-but-unpublicized award from the lavishly generous giant of the music industry.

The scholarships complement the Alpert Award in the Arts, a $75,000 unrestricted gift from the Herb Alpert Foundation that was started in 1994 to support working artists in five areas: art, dance, theater, film and visual arts. The 2009 Alpert Award-winner in dance is Reggie Wilson, a Brooklyn-based African dance specialist.

Alpert owes his fortune to the success of A&M Records, which he formed with Jerry Moss in 1962, as well as his recording career with the Tijuana Brass, the hip American take on Mexican mariachi that he cooked in a Fairfax-district garage along with a good sound-mixing machine. Tijuana Brass has sold 72 million albums and won Alpert seven Grammy Awards.

Still recording and performing, Alpert and his wife have channeled their energies into philanthropy with the arts as a key beneficiary. The musician has funded multimillion-dollar endowments to nurture the teaching programs at Herb Alpert School of Music at both Cal Arts and UCLA. Estimates place Alpert’s philanthropic giving at more than $100 million over the past 20 years. 

“As multi-year gifts, they are extraordinary,” said CalArts President Steven D. Lavine, speaking about the Emerging Artist scholarships. “Herb and Lani have lived the lives of artists, and they get it. They get the struggles. They get the challenges. They’ve been wildly successful, but they didn’t start as successful. They are full of heart, but they are also strategic about their giving. They help with practicalities, equipping artists to make a living in the real world.”

Rona Sebastian, president of the Herb Alpert Foundation, explains that Hana Goldstone’s grant is one step in a continuum of Alpert’s phased approach to nurturing artists.

“He and Lani have devised ways to identify and support gifted young people and help them achieve their dream,” she said.

The foundation begins its support with the Herb Alpert Arts Education Initiative, a five-year early education funding program to provide arts education to 6,000 students in the Lawndale Elementary School District. “The Alperts want every child to enjoy this benefit,” Sebastian said.

The next rung on the ladder targets youth who display a special gift, namely the Emerging Artist college scholarships, followed by the Alpert Award in the Arts.

Wilson, who recently chatted with Tribe while on break from rehearsing a new work in Minneapolis, said the Alpert Award is unusual because it’s unrestricted. 

“I can buy a new car, or travel back to Africa for dance research,” he said.  “But the real prize for me was meeting Herb and his wife. Their generosity of spirit was moving. They are so quiet and supportive, and their way of recognizing risk-taking art means so much. They are not just rewarding excellence; they are targeting artists who are truly pushing the field.”

Back in Ventura County, Hana is pushing into her pointe shoes. “The blisters can be a little unpleasant at times,” she admits. 

Her dance instructor, Colleen O’Callaghan, a former ballerina with American Ballet Theater, said, “When I heard this news, I admit I felt pretty good. Hana is simply the best person to have won this scholarship. She has transformed her dancing over the six years I have worked with her. She has a natural affinity for movement and for music. But what’s exceptional about Hana is her approach to learning classical ballet—she is all hard work. She’s polite, never moody. I never get that teenage eye-rolling attitude from her. Even teachers can learn from her.” 

Kathleen Noblin, executive director of Ventura County Ballet Company, agreed. Noblin cast Hana as the Sugarplum Fairy in her company’s annual holiday season production of “The Nutcracker.”

“Hana Goldstone is heading up,” she said. “She is an extremely diligent, hard-working child. When Hana dances, you cannot take your eyes off her face. She has the muse inside. She has dance in her soul.”

Hana’s ear is tuned to the delicate Sugarplum melody that forms the ecstatic centerpiece of the second act of Tchaikovsky’s score.

“The music is floating and yet precise,” she said.

When told of Tchaikovsky’s love of the celesta, the xylophone-like instrument producing a champagne-bubble effect, she effused, “I love the sound. It’s light and lilting and easy to dance to.”

On the very same late-November evening when Hana will make her solo journey through ballet candy land in Ventura, over the hill, at Royce Hall, Reggie Wilson will be throwing down infectious African-infused choreography at a UCLA Live performance. All roads connect to a nice Jewish boy practicing trumpet in the family’s Fairfax garage.

“If I had a dream, it would be to join a ballet company, whoever would take me,” said Hana, still just 16.

“As for me,” Reggie Wilson, 42, said, “I’d like to apply some of my $75,000 award to having health insurance for the first time in my life.”