NancyBell Coe, whose tenure as president of the Music Academy of the West has been marked by bold capital improvement and programmatic initiatives, has announced her intention to retire after the academy’s 2010 Summer Festival.

NancyBell Coe

NancyBell Coe

Music Academy Board Chairman James Davidson will oversee efforts to name a successor.

“I love the Music Academy, and this decision, which was difficult to make, simply reflects my desire to spend more time with my (still new) husband,” Coe said in a written statement distributed to academy patrons and other supporters. “I know that, despite the continuing financial pressure, the future is very bright for our wonderful and beloved organization, making this an opportune time for new leadership, perspective and energy.”

Since becoming just the third president in Music Academy history in July 2004, Coe has presided over a series of ambitious campus efforts, including the renovation of Hahn Hall before the start of the academy’s 2008 Summer School and Festival. The academy’s stature has grown steadily in recent years, resulting in a record number of applications for its 2009 Summer School and Festival and increased national notice for its programmatic offerings.

“NancyBell Coe has been an outstanding president,” said Davidson, whose term as board chairman will expire in December. “I’ve enjoyed working closely with her these past few years. Her leadership has positioned the academy for a new era of exceptional classical music. She imparts an impressive legacy of growth and excellence as both a cultural and an educational institution.”

Coe and her husband, print broker Bill Burke, will continue to live in Santa Barbara. The couple married two years ago.

“I am very sad that she is leaving,” said celebrated mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, who has directed the academy’s renowned Voice Program since 1997. “I have loved working with her, but I do understand that she wants more life with her husband. I will miss her, but am delighted to know she and Bill will be with us still in Santa Barbara. Aren’t we lucky?”

Jerome Lowenthal, who has been a solo piano faculty member at the academy since 1970, said: “NancyBell has indeed been a bell, whose pure, sweet ring has become the sound of the Music Academy. She will leave us bereft, but grateful.”

— Tim Dougherty is communications manager for the Music Academy of the West.