The Colburn School Launches Digital Archive of Music Pioneer and Holocaust Survivor, Herbert Zipper and Renowned Dancer and Teacher, Trudl Dubsky Zipper

Colburn School received the prestigious Save America’s Treasures federal grant to preserve and digitize the collection

(Thursday, June 27, 2024, Los Angeles, CA) After an 18 month process, the Colburn School has launched the digital collection of the Herbert and Trudl Zipper Archives, available at The digital collection, spearheaded by archivist Brendan Morris, involved meticulous organization and careful digitization of select materials from the archives that contains over 20,000 artifacts. Archival materials were chosen for digitization based on their significance and fragility, ensuring their preservation. 

Herbert Zipper, for whom Colburn’s Zipper Hall is named, was a conductor, composer, educator, and a pioneer of the community music movement and held a deep conviction that every student should be able to participate in the performing arts. Trudl Dubsky Zipper, for whom the Colburn School’s Dance Institute is named, was a gifted dancer, choreographer, costume designer, and artist. She was a member of the famed Bodenwieser Dance Group in the 1920s-30s and helped found expressionist dance—now considered modern dance.

Highlights of the digital collection include a touching handwritten letter from Herbert Zipper to Trudl while he was imprisoned in Manila during World War II1930s cabaret music written by Dr. Zippera 1929 newspaper clipping featuring a favorable review of a chamber concert conducted by Dr. Zipperand a wealth of audiovisual materials. These materials include recordings of the Manila Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dr. Zipper and recordings of original compositions by Dr. Zipper. The collection also features the following: 

The Zipper Archives also include materials collected by Trudl Dubsky Zipper. The digital collection includes some of Trudl’s watercolors, dance recital programs, newspaper clippings reviewing her performances, and dance photos from the 1930s. The website also features a timeline that highlights key moments in Herbert and Trudl Zipper’s lives.

The entirety of the physical archives date from approximately 1900-1997. In addition to materials collected and related to Herbert and Trudl Zipper, the archives contain materials from members of the immediate and extended Zipper family, including sister Hedwig “Hedy” Zipper Horwitz/Holt (1907-1989), and maternal uncle (by marriage) artist Arthur Paunzen (1890-1940). Most of the materials consist of the Zippers’ personal collection, but also include materials collected by Crossroads School and Herbert Zipper’s biographer Paul Cummins.

Reflecting on his history with Herbert Zipper, Paul Cummins said “It has been almost three decades now since Herbert Zipper passed (at age 93) and yet so many of those who knew him speak reverently and acknowledge the profound influence he had upon so many lives. Herbert was the soul of integrity. In a world where integrity often seems in short supply, Herbert was a model in all he did and the importance of doing your best and doing it with integrity.  His life story—from Vienna to Dachau/Buchenwald to Manila to the U.S.A.—was an extraordinary odyssey. I, for one, believe he was a great gift in the life of my family and me. Being allowed by Herbert to write his biography was one of the deep privileges of my life.” 

In 2019, the archives were donated to Colburn by Crossroads School and in 2022, the Colburn School was awarded a “Save America’s Treasures” grant by the National Park Service (NPS) in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services to preserve and make the archives accessible. Generous support from Ann Moore also made this important project possible.

The project began with the simultaneous physical organization of the collection and the digitization process, which involved using a flatbed scanner for certain items like papers and photographs and enlisting help from USC Digital Library and their overhead camera operated by a foot pedal for photographing high-resolution images of fragile and oversized materials such as scrapbooks and posters. Additionally, in order to digitize a selection of degrading audiocassettes, USC Digital Repository “baked” a number of cassettes. This process involves gently heating them up to alleviate “sticky shed syndrome,” a common issue in older media, to allow for the safe extraction of audio content. These digital surrogates ensure the preservation of the materials, so they can be studied and appreciated now and by future generations. 

Preservation of the Herbert and Trudl Zipper Archive underscores the Colburn School’s ongoing commitment to keeping alive the history and memory of those musical pioneers impacted by the Holocaust. The school’s Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices is a unique Colburn resource that encourages greater awareness and more frequent performances of music by composers whose careers and lives were destroyed by the Nazi regime in Europe. James Conlon, the Artistic Director of the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices at the Colburn School, has long championed works by these composers and by so doing has drawn deserved attention to composers whose names and works had very nearly been eliminated from history.

The Colburn School also houses other important historical materials from renowned musical artists who lived in Los Angeles. It is home to the archives of cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, one of the great cellists of the 20th century, and the studio of legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz. Designed by Lloyd Wright, this historical landmark once sat in Heifetz’s backyard and was saved from demolition and rebuilt on Colburn’s campus.

About Herbert Zipper

Born in Vienna in 1904 to an assimilated Jewish family, Zipper studied at the Viennese Academy of Music and as the Nazi regime began to spread, he composed for underground theaters that had been banned by the new Austrian government. He befriended many leftist artists and musicians, including the writer Jura Soyfer, before being arrested by the Austrian police with his brother in 1938 and sent to Dachau, the first concentration camp built in Nazi Germany.

Music was, for Zipper, always a source of inspiration and resistance. One of the torture methods of the SS was to force the prisoners to sing on command, both individually and collectively. When he was commanded to sing, he chose to sing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in an attempt to comfort the other prisoners. 

When Zipper first arrived at Dachau, he was assigned the back-breaking job of being a “pack horse,” which meant pushing a cement truck around the camp. This had the advantage, however, of allowing him to talk to other prisoners while working; and it was here that he met up again with Soyfer. Reflecting on his time in Dachau, and this exhausting labor, he said: “I could endure running around with 100-kilogram bags of beans on my back. What I could not stand was the theft of my life.” It was this desire to maintain some semblance of life that drove him to begin to recite poetry for other prisoners. He got to know several other Jewish musicians; and persuaded some carpenters to build some string instruments with stolen wood. By the beginning of July, 1938 he had assembled 14 musicians, and initiated Sunday afternoon concerts. During these illegal concerts, the musicians performed well-known classical pieces, as well as music that Zipper composed for them in the evenings after his day’s work. 

Zipper also composed songs and poems together with Soyfer. One day he suggested that Soyfer compose a poem based on the infamous slogan of the camp, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (Work will set you free). He memorized the poem that Soyfer recited to him a few days later, composed music to it in his head, and hummed it to some fellow prisoner-musicians. This became known as the “Dachau Lied.” Soon the musicians had spread the song throughout the camp, where its martial mood and rebellious lyrics made it extremely popular. Shortly after composing the song, in September 1938, Zipper was transferred to Buchenwald. Here he was assigned to cleaning out the latrine pits, a particularly odious and dangerous job. 

By this time, his parents had managed to flee to Paris, where they struggled desperately to get releases for him and his brother. In February 1939, he was informed that they were to be released. After a brief stay in Vienna they traveled to Paris, to be reunited with their family. As an enemy national, Zipper was briefly detained in a French internment camp. In May 1939, he received an invitation to be the founder and director of the Manila Symphony Orchestra. While there, he also succeeded in acquiring visas for his family to the U.S. Meanwhile, Japanese designs on the Philippines had been becoming increasingly clear, and on December 8, 1941, Japan attacked the tiny nation. In January, 1941, the Japanese army marched in, and Zipper was arrested because of his friendship with Americans in Manila. After a brief stay in jail, he was released in order to establish an orchestra intended to serve Japanese propaganda purposes. He successfully stalled on building such an orchestra, instead joining the underground resistance, as well as passing on important military information to the Americans. 

Following the end of the war, Zipper and his wife decided to join his family in the US, where he worked as a composer, conductor and teacher. He was the music director of several orchestras, including the Manila Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, and Chicago Business Men’s Orchestra. Zipper became a friend and advisor to Richard Colburn, founder of The Colburn School, where he championed the notion that a performing arts education should be available to everyone, a view that influenced Mr. Colburn as he developed his vision for Colburn’s Community School. Dr. Zipper was active in music education until his death on April 21, 1997.

About Trudl Dubsky Zipper

Gertruda “Trudl” Dubsky born in Vienna, Austria on January 31, 1913, was a talented international dancer, choreographer, costume designer, artist, and teacher. In 1922, Dubsky began her formal training as a dancer at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna with Professor Gertrud Bodenwieser. Dubsky’s talent caught Bodenwieser’s eye, leading Dubsky to join her professor’s dance ensemble in 1925. Dubsky gained immediate recognition for her dynamic modern dancing and high acrobatic leaps. At the young age of 16, Dubsky performed a solo with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra at the Imperial Palace. In 1932 she joined with fellow Bodenwieser dancer, Jeannette Rutherston, to establish the Rutherston-Dubsky School of Dance in London and was well received by British audiences for her performances at venues like Rudolf Steiner Hall and Prince’s Hall. In the late 1920s, Dubsky formed a professional and personal relationship with the musician and conductor Herbert Zipper. Zipper would often accompany Dubsky’s performances on the piano, a sign of their artistic collaboration to come.

In 1937, Dubsky was invited to the Philippines to teach dance at the University of the Philippines. In addition to her duties at the University, Dubsky taught ballet/other forms of dance at the Kaethe Hauser School of Creative Dancing, and choreographed/performed in numerous recitals and ballets. Perhaps most importantly, Dubsky founded the Manila Ballet Moderne, a professional modern ballet which performed regularly for the people of Manila. Originally, Dubsky only planned to stay in the Philippines for 6 months, but Hitler’s invasion of Austria forced her to extend her stay. In 1939, Dr. Herbert Zipper joined her in the Philippines when he was invited to assume the role of Conductor of the Manila Symphony Orchestra. Herbert and Trudl Zipper were married in Manila on October 1, 1939. Trudl was also a talented artist, her watercolor paintings of Manila during the Imperial Japanese occupation during World War Two were published in Life Magazine, and later as a book of her collected works: Manila 1944-45: As Trudl Saw It. 

Even after the Zippers left Manila for Brooklyn, they would return every summer during the 1950s and 1960s to lead the Manila Symphony Orchestra and Manila Ballet Moderne’s summer programs. Their crowning achievement came in 1956 when the two organizations collaborated to perform Georges Bizet’s Carmen in the national language of the Philippines, Tagalog. 

Trudl continued as a teacher and choreography throughout her life. In New York, she was invited by actor/producer Erwin Piscator to teach in his workshop at the New School of Social Science’s Dramatic Workshop. After their time in Brooklyn the Zippers arrived in Chicago where Trudl taught at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and the Music Center of the North Shore. Herbert and Trudl then moved to Los Angeles where Trudl taught at the University of Southern California. Trudl Dubsky Zipper died on July 3, 1976 in Santa Monica, California. In 2008, the Colburn School’s Dance Institute was named the Trudl Zipper Dance in her honor.

About The Colburn School

A performing arts institution located in the heart of Los Angeles, the Colburn School trains students from beginners to those about to embark on professional careers. The academic units of the School provide a complete spectrum of music and dance education united by a single philosophy: that all who desire to study music or dance should have access to top-level instruction.

  • The diploma- and degree-granting Conservatory of Music is distinguished by a unique all-scholarship model, renowned faculty, and outstanding performance opportunities. It prepares the very highest level of collegiate musicians for professional careers.

  • The Music Academy is a highly selective training program for gifted young pre-collegiate musicians, designed to prepare students for conservatory study and performing careers at the highest levels of achievement. This program offers residential options and balances performance, musical instruction, and academics.

  • The Community School of Performing Arts welcomes students of all ages, from seven months old to adults. It offers over 120 classes each year in orchestral instruments, piano, guitar, voice, jazz, music theory, drama, and ensembles including orchestra, choir, and chamber music.

  • The Trudl Zipper Dance Institute develops performers of all levels, from aspiring professionals in the Dance Academy to beginners starting in Youth Dance. Students of all levels receive training in ballet, tap, musical theater, and modern genres as part of a comprehensive dance education.

  • Created to serve all units of the School, the Center for Innovation and Community Impact empowers the musical and dance leaders of tomorrow by nurturing students’ passion and ability to serve their communities, preparing them for sustainable careers, and embracing the development of new ideas. The Center embodies Colburn’s commitment to developing young artists with the curiosity, skills, and commitment to make a difference in their field. 

Each year, more than 2,000 students from around the world come to Colburn to benefit from the renowned faculty, exceptional facilities, and focus on excellence that unites the community.

The Colburn Center, designed by Frank Gehry, is a multi-faceted campus expansion of the Colburn School. Located across the street from the School’s existing campus at the intersection of Olive and Second Streets, the Colburn Center will enable the School to expand its mission of presenting programs for the public. Gehry’s design includes a 1,000-seat in-the-round concert hall named Terri and Jerry Kohl Hall, five professional-sized dance studios including a 100-seat studio theater, and gardens that bring fresh air and green spaces to the downtown landscape. The Colburn School broke ground on the Colburn Center on April 5, 2024. The completed project will join Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Grand complex to create the largest concentration of buildings designed by the architect in the world.

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