Music Department History
History and Alumni
Los Angeles Junior College was established on September 9, 1929 by the Los Angeles Board of Education. The college offered "semi-professional courses" for students who wanted to limit their college education to two years, and "certificate courses" for those looking to continue toward university work.
The first Associate in Arts degrees were conferred on June 19, 1931.
Leslie P. Clausen, member of the Department of Music from 1931 - 1972 and Department Chair for the last 26 years of his career, organized the weekly concert series in 1932, a series still in existence as Music 152. He also helped establish the Commercial Music curriculum, and the Music building bore his name for decades.
With the establishment of its Commercial Music curriculum in 1946, LA City College became the first college in the nation to offer a degree in jazz. Indeed, numerous important jazz musicians attended LA City College, including Chet Baker, Irving Bush, Eric Dolphy, Bob Florence, Herb Geller, Jerry Goldsmith, Les McCann, Charlie Mingus, Lennie Niehaus, Tommy Oliver, Jack Sheldon, Julius Wechter and Hal Owen. Our jazz program was also attended by Academy Award–winning composer John Williams, pictured below in with Professor Doug Dutton at an event in 2008.
In 2016, the Herb Alpert Foundation, led by legendary trumpeter and A&M record executive Herb Alpert with his wife Lani, announced a gift of $10.1 million to the LACC Music Department. The historically large gift led to the creation of the Herb Alpert Scholarship, allowing students at any level to pursue a higher education in music with completely free tuition. Our Music Department became synonymous with the name for our newly renovated building, the Herb Alpert Music Center.
Over the years, the Department gradually expanded its Certificates to its current offerings of Instrumental Performer (in either Brass, Guitar, Percussion, Piano, Strings or Woodwinds), Vocal Performer, Composer, and Music Technology.
Many talented musicians have studied at Los Angeles City College, including:
David Alpert, musician/co-owner of A&M Records
Roy Ayers, jazz musician
Chet Baker, jazz musician
Robert Bradley, blues musician
Irving Bush, jazz musician
Eric Dolphy, jazz musician
Jean Fenn, Metropolitan Opera Company
Bob Florence, jazz musician/composer
Don Friedman, jazz pianist
Herb Geller, jazz musician
Jerry Goldsmith, composer, Academy Award® recipient
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriters
M.C. Hammer, R&B musician, Grammy® recipient
Howard Leese,rock musician and producer
George London, opera star, Director of the Kennedy Center
Lebo M, composer
Les McCann, jazz pianist/singer
Charlie Mingus, jazz musician
Lennie Niehaus, jazz musician
Odetta, folk singer
Tommy Oliver, jazz musician
Hal Owen, jazz musician
Dianne Reeves, jazz singer, Grammy® recipient
Robin Russell, drummer - member of New Birth/Nite-Liters
Jack Sheldon, jazz musician
Leonard Slatkin, conductor
Ed Thigpen, jazz musician
Russ Titelman, music producer, Grammy® recipient, songwriter
John Williams, Academy Award®–winning composer
La Monte Young, composer
Today, the Applied Music Program allows for direct transfer pathways to four-year institutions like CalArts, and the Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA.
We need your help!
You can help us compile our list by submitting your name! If you attended the LACC Department of Music in the past and would like your name on our list, send in your Alumni Information Form today.
Email the completed form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or print it out and mail to:
Department of Music Alumni Response
Attn: Caroline Reyes
855 North Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Los Angeles Junior College was established in 1929. The first Associate of Arts degrees were conferred in 1931. That same year, Leslie P. Clausen joined the music faculty. He remained in the department for the next 41 years. Clausen organized a weekly concert series which continues to this day as our Music 152. Clausen was a member of the famed Crescendo Club which provided opportunities for LACC students and brought Clausen into contact with
such luminaries as Edgar Varese, Aaron Copland, and Arnold Schoenberg.
The department has always had a reputation for developing young composers. This concert program from 1938 includes original works by the 19-year-old Leon Kirchner who later taught at the Juilliard School and Harvard University and won a Pulitzer prize, and the 18-year-old Korean-American Earl Kim who taught at Princeton and Harvard.
In 1946 LACC became the first college in the nation to offer a degree in jazz. Throughout the 1940s and 50s, many renowned jazz musicians studied at LACC including double bassist and band leader Charlie Mingus,
[Music] trumpeter Chet Baker,
multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy,
Lenny Niehaus who has collaborated with Clint Eastwood on most of his films,
and pianist Bob Florence.
The studio jazz band was formed in 1946. Since then it has been under the direction of Bob McDonald, Robert Wilkinson, Woody James, Don Simpson, Laszlo Cser, and Laurie Stunts. The band is currently directed by Barbara Laronga.
Jerry Goldsmith started his music studies at USC, but dropped out to pursue what he called a more practical music program at LACC. He of course went on to score hundreds of films, and win an Oscar.
“And the winner is Jerry Goldsmith for The Omen”
Another composer who attended LACC in the 1950s was John Williams, who since then has received 22 Grammy Awards, and 49 Academy Award nominations, and has written some of the most memorable music in movie history.
This concert program from 1949 included a young Marni Nixon who went on to fame as the voice behind Deborah Carr in The King And I, Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, and Natalie Wood in West Side Story.
Other famous alumni include Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame songwriters Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller,
singer and Grammy recipient Diane Reeves,
composer Lamont Young,
folk singer Odetta,
and electronic music DJ and producer DJ Irene.
Another important LACC alumnus is David Alpert shown here with brother Herb and LACC
Professor Dom Disarro. His David A. Albert Music Scholarship has been supporting incoming LACC music students for decades. In 1980 the music building officially became Clausen Hall
honoring the remarkable career of Leslie P Clausen, who served as department chair for the
final 26 years of his teaching career.
The last 10 years have seen remarkable changes in the music department, including a collaboration with Presidential Citizens Medal recipient Margaret Martin and the Harmony Project, an award-winning program that provides music lessons for at-risk youth.
A significant increase in donations to the foundation allowing the department to modernize and
the grow: The addition of three full-time faculty members in 2006. New talented adjunct faculty members. The approval of an Associate of Arts degree for Transfer, which guarantees students entry into a Cal State school. The awarding of hundreds of vocational certificates which prepare students for entry into the music industry. The tripling in size of the Applied Music Program thanks to a generous grant from the Herb Albert Foundation and the creation of the LACC
These changes have contributed to a significant increase in student transfers to all the Cal States and UCs, and schools such as USC, Mount Saint Mary's College, Azusa Pacific, and The San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Students have also transferred to out-of-state schools including the New England Conservatory in Boston, Columbia University in New York, and the
Royal College of Music in London.
And now in 2015 the opening of the modernized Clausen Hall music building, library and listening room, two electronic music labs, over 30 practice rooms, new instruments, recording
studio, and of course the spectacular 190 seat Recital Hall. The Los Angeles City College Music
Department: a tradition of excellence for over 80 years.
Ambitious. Unique. Exciting. Talented. Resilient. Focused. Hard-working.
Since being here, I have gained a sense of belonging, and I just feel like my life has a purpose
that never has before.
Having the music department staff, faculty, students help me grow, inspire me.
Being here as a teacher has really helped me to grow as a musician and grow as an artist as
I want them to find their passion for music and passion for life. They go hand in hand.
I really do feel like these classes and LACC is preparing me for the music industry and for my direction.
Committed. Caring. Challenging. Generous. Brilliant. Inspiring. Supportive.
It's a diverse department not only ethnically, but also professionally. We boast people
that are members of the LA Philharmonic, we have people that have performed at Carnegie Hall.
My professors inspire me just because of who they are. I mean they're so talented, but they're very humble and it's hard to come across very talented people that are humble.
I like to keep the standards really high, but also try to make it as fun as possible, and I challenge myself to try to find new ways to teach things so that it's new for me and it's new for them, and we all kind of learn together.
Anyone who comes to the LACC Music Department not only will feel loved no matter where
they have come from, but they will walk away with passion, and I say that over and over again
but without emotions you really can't be in music.
So I'm very excited about the direction of the department in the in the spring and in the next fall, it's going to be a lot of exciting things happening with our new facilities, our new studio space, so it's a very exciting time for us here.
Office Hours and Location
The LACC Music Department Office (HAMC Room 106) is open Mondays to Thursdays: 9:00AM - 9:00PM
Fridays: 9:00AM - 4:30PM
Saturdays and Sundays: Closed
You can contact our staff with any questions about our department or programs.