Tuesday, November 24 , 2015, 8:14 pm | Partly Cloudy 59º

Music Academy of the West Celebrates With Cabaret Annual Gala

More than 400 guests join in for the organization's signature fundraiser at Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort

The Music Academy of the West’s Percussion Ensemble performs “Board Games” by Joseph Tomkins for an enthusiastic crowd at the organizations annual Cabaret Gala.
The Music Academy of the West’s Percussion Ensemble performs “Board Games” by Joseph Tomkins for an enthusiastic crowd at the organizations annual Cabaret Gala.  (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk iSociety Columnist | @NoozhawkSociety |

[Click here for a related photo gallery]

Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort Plaza del Sol was adorned in splendor for a special annual event hosted by the Music Academy of the West.

“This evening is the cabaret — this is our signature fundraising gala for the academy and all proceeds benefit the Music Academy’s full scholarship program,” said Music Academy president Scott Reed.

The event also continued a celebration from an earlier Fiesta event honoring Marilyn Horne, the Voice Program director, on her 80th birthday.

Carol Burnett, creative director, left, with Lee Luria, honorary chair, Scott Reed, Music Academy of the West president, and Marilyn Horne, voice program director, celebrated their love of classical music with 400 plus guests at the exclusive Cabaret Signature Gala held at the Fess Parker’s Plaza del Sol. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

“We’ve really rolled out the stars,” Reed said.

“Marilyn Horne has been working with all of our vocalists but the big thing is also our creative director, Carol Burnett, who has been working with our singers and our pianist, hand selecting pieces from her iconic television show, different medleys, and they are actually performing some of them tonight.”

Accolades for Horne include a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording in 1974, a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Gramophone magazine, Kennedy Center honoree in 1995, National Medal of Arts in 1992 and an induction to the American Classical Music Hall of Fame.

She attended the Music Academy in 1953 and, since 1995, has been a member of the faculty, also directing the Voice Program since 1997.

The special event included cocktails, dinner, live auction with academy supporter Jan Hill, and a cabaret show in a setting designed by award-winning event producer Merryl Brown Events.  

One of the unique auction items included a very special dinner and performance with Carol Burnett to be held at the Music Academy.

Burnett teamed up with Horne for coaching sessions on the art of musical comedy with the 23 Academy Voice Fellows headlining this year’s cabaret gala.

“My friend Marilyn Horne got me involved, and they were talking about doing some things with musical comedy and so forth, and so that’s my bag,” Burnett told Noozhawk.

“And so I come in and work with some of the fellows on non-operatic things. So it’s fun. They’re terrific and they’re excited about doing something a little different.”

The advice she shares with students is simple but key to success in the comedy sphere.

“To get out of your own way — in musical comedy it’s difficult for an opera singer to do that and so don’t think about voice production, think about what you’re singing, think about what you’re saying, think about the idea behind the song,” Burnett said.

“So your voices are wonderful, but don’t think it’s all about voice production.”

Widely known for the Carol Burnett Show, she has received a variety of honors, including 12 People’s Choice Awards, eight Golden Globes, six Emmy Awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize, and is an inductee of the Television Hall of Fame.

The value of the Cabaret event runs deeper than just an entertaining night of performances.

“This event and what this event raises for the Music Academy allows us to do new initiatives, allows us to bring wonderful musical performances to the community, brings our faculty members here, brings our fellows here,” Reed said.

“So it’s an incredibly important event. Not only is it fun, it also has a real purpose.”

Reed also shares with the large crowd that 10 instrumentalist students will be the performing at the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall, starting a partnership that will span four years.

The participating musicians will take part in a 10-day musical and educational immersion with the Philharmonic in New York City beginning Jan.3, as part of the Philharmonic’s Global Academy initiative.

“This historic collaboration with the New York Philharmonic is transformative for the Music Academy, our Fellows, and the Santa Barbara community,” Reed said.

“The training opportunities this partnership provides our musicians are unparalleled, both in the summer and throughout the year. We are enormously proud to be working so closely with this iconic musical institution.”

Founded in 1947, the Music Academy is a full scholarship training program for the world’s most talented classical musicians, and each summer brings 140 of the most promising young musicians to Santa Barbara to train with a world-class faculty.

Alumni of the Music Academy include prominent solo artists and members of major ensembles, opera companies, chamber and symphony orchestras, and university and conservatory faculties.

The Music Academy presents more than 200 public events annually with performances by fellows, visiting artists and faculty, who display a variety of instrumental and vocal talents as showcased at the signature gala.

“One thing we’re doing differently this year that we haven’t done before is we’re introducing some of our other instruments. We really want this cabaret to be a spotlight, a showcase of the entire Music Academy program,” Reed said.

“So we’re going to have our percussionists here, our brass players here, we have an outstanding violinist, an outstanding pianist, in addition to what I like to call our vocal powerhouses.”

The cabaret provided a full complement of talents and styles as guests enjoyed performances by the 2014 Voice Fellows who dazzled with an entertaining array of popular music ranging from classical and jazz to Broadway and pop.

Burnett summarized the feeling of the event and encapsulated the talent of the organization.

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful organization and so many terrific talents have come out of it and will continue to do so,” Burnett said.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz

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