At a time when live entertainment has all but vanished, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts has announced a continued commitment to fostering emerging talents in the arts with its first-ever fellowship program. The program, the Walter and Peggy Grauman Fellowship in Music, was made possible by a donation from Peggy Parker Grauman and her late husband, Walter. The program will provide an emerging classical pianist or strings player with a $15,000 award, in addition to mentorship at The Wallis. The Center also announced the formation of the Steven D. Cochran Memorial Fund, which will help support programs at The Wallis dedicated to education, arts learning, and community engagement. The two endowments will be managed by the Wallis’s education and outreach initiative, GRoW @ The Wallis.
“Philanthropic investments of this magnitude speak to the dedication of our Wallis Family members and the priority they give The Wallis as a cornerstone institution of our community and a bright hope for our future,” said Wallis Executive Director and CEO Rachel Fine in a statement. “These two tremendous and significant funds, the first endowment gifts we have received since before The Wallis’s 2013 opening, fortify our mission and vision, as well as underscore our core values at a critical moment in time.”
According to The Wallis, the Grauman Fellowship in Music is not only the Center’s first fellowship program, but also the first of its kind in Los Angeles County. The fellowship, which will last a season, will go to a classical pianist or string player transitioning from formal training to the professional world.
Director of Education Mark Slavkin, who oversees GRoW, said the fellowship is not just another competition. “We didn’t feel the world needed one more competition,” he told the Courier. In addition to the annual $15,000 stipend, the fellow will receive mentorship from The Wallis, including live performance opportunities, audition help, and opportunities designed to prepare them for a career as a classical musician.
“Walter and I have made a special effort over the last 50 years to help advance the training and talent opportunities of so many outstanding young musicians here in Los Angeles County,” Grauman said in a statement. “I am excited that now The Wallis will have the ability to provide opportunities to talented, young string musicians and pianists through a mix of performance and professional learning opportunities during their fellowship year at The Wallis.”
The fellowship also includes an element of public service. “Obviously artistic excellence is an important value to us,” Slavkin said. “But so is relevance and the idea of making a difference in the world–that the issues that you’re raising, the stories that you’re telling, the themes that you’re addressing are relevant to the world as it exists.”
In applying for the fellowship, musicians must submit plans for a community-based project to expose and educate new audiences in Los Angeles to classical music. The program will focus on communities without regular access to the arts, from underprivileged school children, to adults living in long term care facilities.
The Wallis has not opened up the application process yet, but hopes to select its first Grauman Fellow in time for next fall’s season. If live performances have not reopened by then, though, Slavkin says that they will defer the fellowship to the following season. He encourages prospective applicants to check www.thewallis.org for updates.
In addition to the Grauman Endowment Fund, the Wallis also announced the creation of the Steven D. Cochran Memorial Fund, a more general purpose endowment similarly dedicated to educating and inspiring young music listeners. The Cochran Memorial Fund honors former Wallis Board member Steve Cochran, who passed due to illness in 2019. Cochran was passionate about sharing his love of classical music and served as Chair of the Education Committee at the Wallis.
Even through his battle with illness, Cochran continued to attend matinee performances held for school groups–something that long made him smile. “That same smile would come to his face,” Slavkin recalled. Following his memorial, Cochran’s husband and Wallis Ambassador Dan Clivner solicited donations from friends and family and made a sizable donation of his own. The $500,000 endowment will generate about $25,000 in interest each year, which will go to support different programs and projects each year.
“The Wallis is the cultural heart of Beverly Hills and the greater Los Angeles region,” Clivner said in a statement, “and these funds will help bring youthful vitality to The Wallis and ensure the beat goes on for a long, long time.”