The Music Academy of the West’s Summer Festival Highlights

Posted on Feb 8 by SEASONS Magazine


Clockwise from top left: guest artist Susanna Phillips (’02,’03), Alan Gilbert conducting the New York Philharmonic, guest artists Stephen Hough, Speranza Scappucci (’96), James Darrah, Pamela Frank, and Matthew Aucoin. Photos courtesy Music Academy of the West.

Clockwise from top left: guest artist Susanna Phillips (’02,’03), Alan Gilbert conducting the New York Philharmonic, guest artists Stephen Hough, Speranza Scappucci (’96), James Darrah, Pamela Frank, and Matthew Aucoin. Photos courtesy Music Academy of the West.

The Music Academy of the West is turning 70 this year and celebrating all summer long. The festivities began January 11 at the anniversary kick-off, held in New York City’s Lincoln Center.  However, starting June 12 and going through August 5, the party is moving West to Santa Barbara.  Since 1947, every summer, the Music Academy hosts young musicians from around the world at its Montecito campus, cultivating their talents, creating new art, and engaging appreciative local audiences.

The Summer School’s 140 fellows and the nearly 70 faculty and guest artists comprise the talents of this year’s festival.  Featuring over 200 masterclasses, recitals and performances, the 70th Summer School and Festival is the largest classical music event in Santa Barbara history.  “Our 70th anniversary gives us the opportunity to honor the Music Academy’s distinct history while launching innovative programs boldly into the future,” says Scott Reed, Music Academy President and CEO.

The kick-off party’s big reveal was the announcement of an upcoming historic performance by the New York Philharmonic.  Made possible by a first-of-its-kind partnership between the New York Philharmonic and the Music Academy of the West, the ocean front concert taking place at Santa Barbara City College’s La Playa Stadium marks Alan Gilbert’s final appearance as the orchestra’s music director. Maestro Gilbert will conduct Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, featuring Music Academy alumna soprano Susanna Phillips, tenor Joe Kaiser and bass Morris Robinson as soloists in the work’s iconic “Ode to Joy.” By virtue of live streaming, this event, along with masterclasses, performances and competitions, is accessible to music lovers near and far. The performance for over 7,000 attendees closes with a firework show over the Pacific, a perfect summer evening.

The buzz continued all night long at Lincoln Center as Reed revealed more Festival highlights. Among them, the announcement of new opportunities for Academy alumni to receive funding for further involvement and creation of new creative projects, an inaugural Solo Piano Competition where the winner will receive a cash prize and a national tour in Steinway & Sons venues, and the launch of a new Commissions and Premieres program. By hosting contemporary composers during the Festival and beyond, the Commissions and Premieres program kicks off its pursuit to make Santa Barbara a leading destination for classical music and the creation of new art.

Further festival highlights unveiled include an array of distinguished guest artists the festival will see this summer, such as Stephen Hough, Speranza ScappucciPamela Frank, Timo Andres, Martin Beaver, Nicholas Mann, Robert deMaine, Robert McDonald and Matthew Aucoin. Prominent faculty appointments were announced as well including Jeremy Denk, Jerome Lowenthal, Conor Hanick and Takács Quartet, the Academy’s first string quartet. A rendition of Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, starring 20 voice program fellows, chosen from a pool of over 500 applicants, is expected to be the opera event of the summer. 

Santa Barbara will see more than just musical performances this summer. In recognition of the Academy’s All-Steinway distinction, the Academy inaugurates the 2017 Summer School and Festival with its elegant 70th Anniversary Gala.  Further, The Academy’s commitment to pushing boundaries is epitomized with its two day event, The Classical Evolution / Revolution Conference.  On June 19 and 20, experts from the fields of music, technology, arts, business and media will engage in a discussion about the evolution of classical music in our current culture.  Additionally, Christopher O’Riley, of NPR’s From the Top, will cover personal stories of some of the Academy’s musicians.  The Music Academy and the UC Santa Barbara Library have renewed a partnership dedicated to the preserving and digitizing the Academy’s archive of open reel tapes.  

“The Music Academy’s vision and leadership to bring this historic event to Santa Barbara is unprecedented. Our city is already known for its excellent arts and cultural offerings, but this will create even more awareness about the attractive events that are taking place here year round,” Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider says. With countless events taking place over the course of the summer, this festival is not to be missed.  Whether you’re a local or just passing through, spending some of your summer days in Santa Barbara should be at the top of your to-do list.

For more information, visit

—Danielle Moss


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