John Branca And Occidental College Announce $5 Million Gift To Expand Institute For Music

By Amit Chowdhry • Jun 10, 2024

Attorney John G. Branca ’72, partner and head of the music department at Ziffren Brittenham, one of the most respected entertainment law firms in the world, and Occidental College announced a $5 million gift from Branca that will establish the John Branca Institute for Music, a music teaching and learning facility at Occidental College in LA. David Kasunic, associate professor of music at Occidental, will serve as the Institute’s inaugural director.

This transformative gift will support the continued expansion of the Music Department with a wider focus on contemporary music and enhancement of the music business curriculum and will enable for adding advanced technology and up-to-date sound production facilities for use by students in the College’s nationally renowned music program.

The Institute will be working with community colleges, in particular Los Angeles City College (LACC), to establish a direct pathway to increase transfer opportunities for students with diverse backgrounds and perspectives interested in furthering their education in music to come to Oxy. And the Institute will also develop special programming and joint research activities in connection with the Harvard Negotiation Project, which is based at Harvard Law School and directed by Professor Jim Sebenius of the Harvard Business School. Peter Grueneisen of nonzero architecture has been engaged to renovate the Music Department’s facilities.

Over 30 of Branca’s clients have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. His clients have included Aerosmith, the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees, the Beatles catalog, the Doors, Dr. Dre, Fleetwood Mac, Berry Gordy, Enrique Iglesias, Interscope Records, Michael Jackson, the Elvis Presley Estate, the Rogers and Hammerstein Organization, the Rolling Stones and Carlos Santana. And as co-manager of the estate of Michael Jackson (continuing a relationship that dates back to 1980), Branca has shepherded the creation of a successful touring show, an acclaimed Las Vegas production, the Tony Award-winning MJ The Musical, and the forthcoming biopic Michael, directed by Antoine Fuqua.

An Occidental trustee since 2003 and founding member of the Barack Obama Scholars Program Advisory Council, he also works on the board of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which gives scholarships to minority youths for higher education. His uncle was Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca, a three-time All-Star, member of the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame, and friend of Robinson. Branca is also chairman emeritus of MusiCares.

In 1998, a gift from Branca toward the renovation and expansion of the Johnson Student Center at Occidental led to the naming of the Branca Family Patio, honoring his parents, Barbara Werle and John Branca Sr. And his additional philanthropy facilitated the creation of the Branca Family Field at UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium, the Branca Baseball Facility at NYU and the Branca Recruiting Patio for UCLA Basketball. (Following in the footsteps of his great uncle, John’s son Dylan is currently a scholar-athlete at NYU Stern. And Dylan’s brother, JC, is a student at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. His daughter Jessica is active as a manager and consultant in the music industry.


“Occidental College has a diverse student body and provides the best, most personalized undergraduate education in Los Angeles. As a trustee and alumnus, I am proud of the College’s mission and academic excellence.” 

  • John Branca, who graduated from the College cum laude and with honors as a political science major, while citing notable Occidental alumni as President Barack Obama ’83 and Warner Music Group CEO Steven Cooper ’68

“John is a giant in the music business and he is a true believer in the kind of personalized teaching and learning that can only happen at a small liberal arts college. John’s gift, coupled with the state-of-the-art music production facilities we already have in place, will make Occidental a truly exceptional place to study music. We are so grateful to John for his generosity and vision in supporting the John Branca Institute for Music.”

  • Occidental College President Harry J. Elam, Jr.

“Los Angeles City College and our nationally renowned Herb Alpert Music Program are pleased to be partnering with Occidental College on a music pathway. Like our alumnus John Branca, this program will encourage students to pursue the opportunity to transfer from LACC to Oxy.”

  • Amanuel Gebru, president of LACC