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Music Academy of the West

About Music Academy of the West

The Music Academy was born of the realization that there was no summer music school of stature in the western United States that could cultivate and train promising young musical talent intent on professional careers as pianists, singers and instrumentalists.

The dream of a visionary group of Southern California arts patrons and celebrated musicians
 – more... became a reality when the Music Academy's first session convened with 54 students on July 7, 1947. The Cate School, in Carpinteria, was made available by founder and headmaster Curtis W. Cate. To this date, Cate remains an integral part of the Music Academy, housing students and the voice program.

The Academy's founders included the legendary German operatic soprano and lieder singer Lotte Lehmann and Otto Klemperer, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra from 1933-39. Madame Lehmann was joined by such distinguished musicians as Ernest Bloch, Richard Lert, Darius Milhaud, Gregor Piatigorsky, William Primrose, Arnold Schoenberg, Reginald Stewart, Lawrence Tibbett and John Charles Thomas, who together with Roman Totenberg, Richard Bonelli and England's Griller String Quartet, formed the faculty in the early years.

Four years after the Music Academy opened, the campus relocated to the John Percival Jefferson Estate in Montecito. This richly wooded and garden-filled nine-acre estate, which sits on a palisade overlooking the Pacific, was bequeathed to the Academy by Mr. Jefferson's personal secretary of 36 years, Helen Marso. She bought the then 18-acre property from the Jefferson's estate and donated it in their memory (just one example of the extraordinary devotion to the Music Academy's mission by its supporters).

Lotte Lehmann directed the voice program until 1962. She was joined at the helm by the celebrated conductor Maurice Abravanel (music director of the Utah Symphony, 1947-79), Academy music director for 25 years. Together they launched the tradition of presenting fully staged operas during each summer's music festival (a tradition that was revived in 1997 with the production of Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims). Lehmann and Abravanel established the reputation of the Music Academy of the West as a serious institution for vocal and instrumental training.

During its 57-year history, this idyllic retreat for the study and performance of music has attracted an amazing host of performing and teaching talent and thousands of gifted students, many of whom have later established critically acclaimed careers. Some 5,200 alumni have passed through the Academy gates, and they fill the ranks of major symphony orchestras and opera houses throughout the world.

In 1995, Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne was appointed Voice Program Director Designate and in 1997, the 50th anniversary of the Music Academy, she assumed the position of Director of the Voice Program.

Since 1998 the Music Academy of the West has been a full-scholarship institution: admission to the Academy is based on musical merit rather than the ability to pay. The music making has reached an unparalleled dimension and attracted enthusiastic and appreciative audiences.

The educational mission of the Music Academy has remained strong and vital for more than half a century and has secured its place as one of the internationally renowned summer conservatories. – lessMore from ZoomInfo »

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