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Inspired by a Legend

A music student works on original composition in sound studio.
A faculty member’s gift establishes a scholarship for UCLA undergraduates in Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson’s name.

Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson is still creating good vibrations at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

Adjunct professor and music industry veteran David Leaf has paid homage to the musical legend through many creative outlets. His latest tribute is a $100,000 gift to establish a scholarship for UCLA undergraduates in his friend’s name. The music school is currently raising an additional $100,000 to match it.

A Unique Tribute

“I was looking for a way to meaningfully honor Brian’s legacy that was different from anything I’d done before,” says Leaf, who wrote The Beach Boys and the California Myth and produced BEAUTIFUL DREAMER: Brian Wilson and the Story of SMiLE. “If you look at the 1960s, I would argue that he was one of the most, if not the most, influential and accomplished composers, arrangers, and producers in contemporary music. This just struck me as the right thing to do.”

Presented every other year to a UCLA junior who aspires to compose, arrange, or produce popular music, the scholarship also memorializes Leaf’s late wife, Eva Easton Leaf, and the role Wilson played in introducing the two.

Honor All Around

The inaugural recipient also draws inspiration from Wilson. “I’ve really loved Brian’s music for a long time…. He’s an incredible genius in how he writes melodies and produces his songs,” says music composition major David Ghesser ’21. “When I was told that I was going to be the first recipient of the Brian Wilson scholarship, I was honored to have my name associated with his.”

Wilson feels likewise. “I’m honored by David Leaf’s generosity in creating this scholarship in my name and feel very proud,” says the celebrated musician, who met Ghesser backstage before performing at the Greek Theatre in September and came to UCLA for a film screening and conversation in October. “I hope that the UCLA students it supports will help lead the next wave of great musicians.”

Published December 2019

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