In Memoriam

Herbert Zipper

HERBERT ZIPPER, an orchestra conductor in his native Austria, concentration camp survivor, former USC School of Performing Arts faculty member and, since 1980, Colburn School of Performing Arts artistic advisor, died April 21 at St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica, of lung cancer. It was just several days before his 93rd birthday.
When the Nazis invaded Austria in 1938, they sent the Viennese musician and conductor to Dachau concentration camp, where Zipper recruited fellow inmates who had been in Vienna and Munich orchestras to give secret concerts to bolster other prisoners.
Later transferred to Buchenwald, Zipper was rescued when his family in Paris obtained a visa for him. He then went to Manila only to be imprisoned again by the invading Japanese. After the city was liberated in 1945, he reassembled the Manila Symphony for concerts in a church. After the war, Zipper came to the United States, became conductor of the Brooklyn Symphony and began his career as a pioneering educator, leading concerts and teaching music to children in the cafeterias and gymnasiums of Brooklyn’s public schools.

HE CONTINUED this effort in Chicago and then, in the early 1970s, he joined the School of Performing Arts at USC. There, and later at the Colburn School, he administered the In-School Concert Program, bringing an orchestra to underprivileged children at schools around Los Angeles. Until he was found to have cancer last fall, Zipper also continued giving concerts and volunteering at Crossroads School, a private academy in Santa Monica.
Just two weeks before his death, Zipper was featured in an article in the Los Angeles Times. “I realized in Dachau that the arts in general have the power to keep you not just alive, but to make your life meaningful even under the most dreadful circumstances,” he said in the article. He was also the subject of an Academy Award-nominated documentary entitled Never Give Up: The 20th Century Odyssey of Herbert Zipper, directed by Terry Sanders.
Zipper is survived by a niece, Lucy Horowitz of Boston, and a nephew, Henry Holt of Virginia. Memorial contributions can be made to the Zipper Orchestra Endowment Fund at the Colburn School of Performing Arts, 3131 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90007.


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In Memoriam

Herbert Zipper

photograph by Carol C. Hogel

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