Final Note: Gary Gray

Life Member. Clarinet
12/16/1939 – 12/12/2021

by Juliette Gray

Gary was born in Indianapolis and received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from IU School of Music. Upon graduating, he played in local orchestras and traveled with various jazz bands on clarinet and saxophone. 

After moving to Los Angeles as a teaching assistant to Mitchell Lurie at UCLA, Gary won a prize, given in person by Frank Sinatra, and it was Sinatra who arranged a gig for Gary at Warner Bros., which was the beginning of his studio career, subsequently playing on over 1,500 movies and TV shows

Following, Gary had at least four parallel careers as a studio musician; a recording artist (nominated for a Grammy); orchestra and chamber music artist; and rose to the ranks of professor of woodwinds at UCLA. So it’s not surprising that many students from all over the world came to study at UCLA because of Gary’s reputation. Over the years many of his students have gone on to have prestigious music careers of their own and consider Gary’s influence to have made a profound difference in their lives. 

Gary was talented, respected, modest, generous with his time — counseling his students on the realities of a career in music, taking them to studio calls, giving them reeds when they could not afford them, helping them select the right Instruments, loaning his own larger instruments, attending all their student recitals, and first and foremost a real gentleman. Upon his retirement Gary was the first faculty member in the music department at UCLA to be awarded the title of Professor Emeritus.  

Gary’s last live performance was a sold out house at Schoenberg Hall at UCLA. The concert was a combination of classical, jazz and film music entitled “Jazzical Journeys” and can be heard on many of the digital streaming channels. Gary loved the concept behind this project as it was a culmination of his many SHADES OF GRAY. For a digital version of the brochure from the CD and any other information email

Needless to say, Gary will be greatly missed by many including his wife Juliette, son Tony and sister Carla, as well as many other extended family members in London and Spain, plus numerous colleagues and students. 

To acknowledge Gary’s legacy, the Herb Alpert School of Music has created the Herb Alpert UCLA Scholarship Fund in Clarinet & Saxophone.