The Academy of Music returns in person


The Academy of Music returns in person

2021 season sees a return to live performance

By Charles Donelan

OPENING DAY: Maestro Larry Rachleff will conduct the first public concert of 2021 by the Academy Chamber Orchestra at the Granada Theater on Sunday July 11 | Credit: Phil Channing

If you’re wondering what will be Santa Barbara’s biggest show this post-quarantine summer, look no further than the 2021 season at the Music Academy of the West. After a successful pivot to distance learning through the 2020 MARLI – the Music Academy Remote Learning Institute – live performances and audiences are back, as are 110 of last year’s scholars. Thanks to the generous offer from the Academy of Music to readmit all musicians from the 2020 class, the 2021 class represents a first, as the majority of scholarship holders will be involved with the school for their second consecutive year. This striking change means that they will bring with them not only the drive, talent and technique that led them to this elite training program in the first place, but also the additional production skills and digital tools they acquired when they worked with their faculty. distance mentors last summer. It all adds up to an unexpected and powerful combination of familiarity and pent-up creative energy.

In order to understand the type of institution that the Music Academy of the West has grown into in recent years, it is helpful to examine both the changing landscape of classical music around the world and the specific history of this particular institution. . In examining some of the new ideas about artistic forms and professional careers circulating today among classically trained musicians, and looking back on the courage and vision of those extraordinary personalities who founded the organization there are more than Seven decades we can see how Santa Barbara has become the hub of a powerful international network of next generation artists.

The setting: Miraflores and the ideal of Santa Barbara

MASSIAEN’S MASTERPIECE: Jorja Fleezanis, Conor Hanick, Alan Stepansky and Richie Hawley, faculty members of the Academy of Music, perform the Quartet pour la fin des temps by Olivier Messiaen in 2019. | Credit: Phil Channing

Whether you’re a longtime patron of Academy of Music programming or a curious newcomer, you are likely aware that the organization’s campus occupies one of the city’s most enviable locations. Miraflores, the magnificent estate located on the cliff between Santa Barbara Cemetery and the Biltmore Four Seasons, was granted to the organization by Helen Marso in memory of its original owners, Mr. and Mrs. John Percival Jefferson, in April 1951 on the condition that it be used “for a music conservatory only”. Despite the onerous responsibilities associated with maintaining such an impressive property, the organization, which was previously located at Cate School, took it upon themselves to keep the property in good repair and limit its use to purpose. indicated in the grant.

From a 2021 perspective, this decision sounds like genius. Improvements to the property in recent years have created an environment for the study and performance of music unmatched in the world. Thanks to the demands of the pandemic, technological improvements to Hahn Hall, the main performance venue on the Academy’s campus, have enabled it to produce state-of-the-art digital music and videos, the everything within the confines of an intimate space with exceptional acoustics. A partnership between the Academy and Steinway means there are dozens of grand pianos, all immaculately maintained and spread across the many rehearsal studios and performance spaces that abound in the lush gardens and spectacular buildings.

Conrad Tao | Credit: Shervin Lainez

This dream of a location and facility represents the 21st century fulfillment of a truly international cultural ideal which, although it has its roots in the colonization of Santa Barbara and Montecito by wealthy Americans in the years 1910 and 1920, largely belonged to a group of German-speaking Central European emigrants before, during and after World War II. From the 1920s and steadily accelerating in the face of Hitler’s rise to power, a flood of classically trained artists left Berlin and Vienna for the United States. Thanks to the advanced level of filmmaking established in the government-sponsored Berlin conglomerate Universum Film AG, Germany produced the most technologically and aesthetically advanced films of the silent era, until the main architects of this phenomenon see political writing on the wall and scoured for Southern California. Ernst Lubitsch arrived in 1922 and quickly became head of production at Paramount. Directors Billy Wilder, Max Reinhardt, William Wyler and Otto Preminger followed, as well as maestro Otto Klemperer, who became the conductor and artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

When the Academy of Music celebrates its 75th anniversary next year, expect to hear a lot about soprano Lotte Lehmann, the woman who, along with Klemperer and others, founded the organization in 1947. decades, the toast of the music capital of the world, Vienna, Lehmann made Santa Barbara her home from 1937 until her death in 1976. Without her reputation as an entertainer and teacher – she was the original star of the Academy’s signature feature, the Masterclass – the first decade of programming might not have drawn such luminaries as Darius Milhaud and Arnold Schoenberg. It is largely following the example of this initial period, during which the Academy of Music was synonymous with the highest levels of achievement not only in performance, but also in composition, that the administration, the faculty and current fellows owe their common tradition of excellence and innovation. . Thanks to Lotte Lehmann, Otto Klemperer and the many citizens of Santa Barbara and Montecito who have come together to support their project, both in the beginning and in every decade since, the Music Academy of the West continues to embody the highest standards. and the most daring intentions. in music education.

The season: in Granada, Hahn Hall and beyond

Jeremy Denk at Hahn Hall. | Credit: Phil Channing

Since the pandemic has bypassed the recital and concert plans of so many players in 2020, the return to concert halls cannot come soon enough. Thanks to the hard work not only of the staff of the Academy of Music, but also of the people who administer and maintain the Granada Theater, the wait is almost over. On Sunday, July 11, Maestro Larry Rachleff and members of the Academy Chamber Orchestra will take the stage for the first public performance in this space since the Los Angeles Philharmonic concert in early March 2020. The program includes the Stravinsky concert Bird of Fire After, a masterpiece rooted in the period of international musical fermentation of the mid-20th century described above.

The next day, Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE will deliver an opening speech online at 5 p.m. Nwanoku is the founder, artistic director and executive of Chineke! Foundation, the first professional orchestra and junior orchestra in Europe to be composed of a majority of black and ethnically diverse classical musicians. A visionary committed to creating the future of classical music, Nwanoku has mentored, among others, renowned young cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. His intervention is free upon registration on, and that will certainly give us a lot to think about as we move into the next month of intensive music programming.

Beth Morrison | Credit: Courtesy

While the afternoons in Miraflores are mainly devoted to the popular Masterclasses, the evenings feature chamber ensembles made up of fellows and faculty members. These concerts will take place at Hahn Hall, which will also serve as a movie theater this summer, as one of the major positive byproducts of last year’s quarantine season kicks off with dynamic firsts of exclusive video screening recitals for complete the performances in person. For example, on Thursday, July 15, cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Sophia Rahman will appear on video in a Mosher Guest Artist recital featuring works by Bach, Bloch and Dvořák. Supported by a vast technical improvement of the already splendid acoustics of Hahn Hall, these video projection recitals will enable the Academy to present performances that would otherwise be limited by distance and access musicians of the highest level, where that they were based at the time. . Don’t miss Monday, July 26, the appearance in this format of Tyshawn Sorey, the multi-instrumentalist and composer who received a MacArthur Foundation grant in 2017. Operating on the border between classical and jazz, he is the one of the first improvising artists in the world today.

Fans of the Orchestral Experience should mark their calendars over three Saturdays – July 17, July 31 and August 7 – for an extraordinary streak of concerts featuring two appearances by Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas and the season finale with conductor. ‘Marin Alsop orchestra. The final concert, with Beethoven’s Symphony No. & and that of Joan Tower Fanfare for the rare woman on the program, will be repeated, once at 2 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m., with all tickets at just $ 10 as part of the Academy’s community concert initiative.

Something unexpected from the Vocal Institute

In what is perhaps the most intriguing development of a season full of surprises and innovation, Beth Morrison Projects, a distinguished company dedicated to advancing the art of opera and related vocal performance. , will work with musicians and singers on a project called 21c Liederabend, op. MOUTH. The in-person screening of this project at Hahn Hall on Friday July 23 features what the MAW website describes as a “sensory object” that will be distributed to every member of the audience. Designed by Kathryn Hamilton, these objects are designed to be “unwrapped, felt, assembled, tasted or otherwise engaged by the member of the audience holding them, making the audience an integral part of the performance itself.” Stay tuned for more on this exciting experience and for continued coverage of the 2021 Academy of Music season. For more information and to book tickets for these concerts, visit


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