Trigger Alpert: Jazz Musician
Jazz bassist Herman “Trigger” Alpert was born in 1916 in Indianapolis and studied music at IU in the 1930s. Asked to join the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1940, he appeared with the band in the film Sun Valley Serenade the next year. He played with Miller until being drafted in 1941. When Miller volunteered in 1942, he selected Alpert as a member of his all-star Army Air Force Band. The two remained friends until Miller’s death in 1944.
Alpert went on to work with Tex Beneke, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Woody Herman, and others. In 1956, he recorded his only album as a leader: Trigger Happy! He left the music business in 1970. Alpert died in 2013 at the age of 97. —Carmen Siering
David Anspaugh: TV & Movie Director
Born and raised in Decatur, Indiana, David Anspaugh studied secondary education at IU, and shot 16 mm films of Vietnam War protests, live music, and sporting events in his free time. He later attended film school at the University of Southern California and began a career producing and directing several of the 1980s’ most illustrious television shows, including Hill Street Blues (for which he won two Primetime Emmy Awards), St. Elsewhere, and Miami Vice.
His big screen directing debut was the film Hoosiers (written by his closest friend at IU, Angelo Pizzo—see Page 88.), followed by several others, including Rudy and Moonlight and Valentino. Anspaugh moved back to Bloomington in 2014, where he
has taught at IU and directed and acted in plays with the Bloomington Playwrights Project. —Tracy Zollinger Turner
Kenny Aronoff: Drummer
While he is best known for the 17 years he spent as the concert and studio drummer for John Mellencamp, Kenny Aronoff has shared the stage with a huge roster of pop and rock icons, including Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, and Johnny Cash.
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Aronoff came to IU to study classical music in the mid-1970s, then turned his focus toward jazz and fusion for a handful of years before auditioning for Mellencamp.
In addition to playing and recording, Aronoff taught percussion at the IU School of Music as an associate professor in the 1990s. Now 68, he continues to perfor as a musician and motivational speaker. He recently released an autobiography called Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll. —Tracy Zollinger Turner
Howard Ashman: Artistic Genius
Lyricist, writer, director, and producer Howard Ashman earned an M.F.A. from IU in 1974. One of his early theater collaborations with lifelong professional partner Alan Menken was 1982’s Little Shop of Horrors, which Ashman later turned into a screenplay.
Ashman and Menken were pivotal in the “Disney Renaissance” era, beginning with The Little Mermaid in 1989 and continuing with Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Among their many awards, they earned Oscars for Best Original Song in 1986 (Little Shop of Horrors), 1989 (The Little Mermaid), and 1991 (Beauty and the Beast).
Returning to IU in 1987 to present a Collins Lecture, Ashman attended an IU Theatre performance of Little Shop of Horrors. IU was the first university granted permission to stage the musical, thanks to Ashman.
Ashman died of complications from AIDS in 1991, at age 40, shortly before the release of Beauty and the Beast. Howard, Don Hahn’s 2018 documentary on Howard Ashman’s life is now streaming on Disney+. —Carmen Siering
David Baker: Jazz Educator
Born in Indianapolis, jazz musician David Baker earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from
IU in 1953 and a master’s degree the following year. Originally a trombonist, he switched to the cello after sustaining jaw injuries in a car accident.
An IU School of Music faculty member beginning in 1966, Baker founded IU’s jazz studies program in 1968, one of the first at an American university. He served as its chair until 2013.
Baker’s body of work includes more than 65 recordings, 70 books, and 400 articles. Among his many accolades, Baker was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2000 and a Living Jazz Legend by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2007. He died in 2016 at the age of 84. —Carmen Siering
Brady Barr: Herpetologist
Of the more than 100 wildlife documentaries he has hosted for National Geographic television, Brady Barr is best known for his seven-season stint hosting Dangerous Encounters with Brady Barr.
Barr grew up in Bloomington and graduated from Bloomington High School South. He earned a B.S. in education at IU in 1987, then taught high school science in Indianapolis before receiving a master’s degree in 1994 and a Ph.D. in biology in 1997 from University of Miami.
Barr was the first known herpetologist—someone who studies reptiles and amphibians—to have captured, studied, and released all 23 extant species of crocodilians in his career. He authored a children’s book about crocodiles and citizen science, appeared numerous times on The Tonight Show, and in 2017 received the IU School of Education Distinguished Alumni Award. —Rodney Margison
Jonathan Banks: Actor
Jonathan Banks, best known for portraying Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, has strong ties to IU. His grandfather was a Monroe County farmer and stonecutter who helped lay the foundation for Franklin Hall, and his mother and daughters all earned IU degrees. Banks studied theater at IU in the 1960s, appearing in The Threepenny Opera with future Academy Award winner Kevin Kline.
With more than 50 movies and 70 television shows to his credit, Banks has six Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Wiseguy (1989), Breaking Bad (2013), and Better Call Saul (2015–17 and 2019). He is the only actor with nominations in this category for three different shows, two of which are for the same character. —Carmen Siering