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Leslie Ridley-Tree Makes $1 Million Donation to Music Academy of the West

Fundraising for new Luria Education Center now nearly complete with philanthropist's latest gift

Decisively bolstering the Music Academy of the West’s fundraising efforts ahead of a key building’s planned opening this summer, philanthropist Leslie Ridley-Tree has contributed $1 million toward construction of the Luria Education Center, including a central campus courtyard that will bear her name.

Leslie Ridley-Tree
Leslie Ridley-Tree

With the gift, the Music Academy has only to raise $533,000 to fully fund the $10.8 million project, which is currently taking shape in the heart of the academy’s storied Miraflores campus at 1070 Fairway Road. Once completed, the multifunction educational facility will add immeasurably to the Music Academy’s programmatic capabilities, further burnishing the institution’s stature as one of the world’s premier classical music training sites, Music Academy president Scott Reed said.

“This transformative project would not be possible were it not for the remarkable generosity of people such as Leslie Ridley-Tree,” he said. “We are especially grateful and proud to receive this gift, which constitutes a declaration of confidence in the Music Academy of the West by one of the community’s foremost philanthropic leaders.”

Ridley-Tree has long been financially supportive of the Music Academy, and has provided funding for equipment to screen Metropolitan Opera simulcasts in Hahn Hall as well as a full scholarship awarded to a Music Academy Fellow each summer.

“I envision the Music Academy’s central courtyard being a popular gathering place for Fellows to share ideas and simply enjoy one another’s company,” Ridley-Tree said. “The thought of talented young musicians and members of the community getting together in such beautiful surroundings is what inspired me to contribute to this worthwhile project.”

The Luria Education Center, named in honor of longtime Music Academy benefactors Leatrice and Eli Luria, will feature greatly improved facilities for Academy Fellows and the 30 community organizations that utilize the Miraflores campus year-round. In addition to a new masterclass venue, the center will feature an expanded music library and listening area, the latest in computer and networking technologies, critically needed individual and ensemble practice rooms and teaching facilities, an enclosed dining pavilion and adjoining outdoor courtyard, a pair of lounges, and a catering kitchen and serving area. The center, which will function as the locus of campus activity, will better enable the academy to fulfill its mission of training the next generation of outstanding classical musicians, said Music Academy board chairwoman Sharon Westby.

“This magnificent facility is really a testament to the vision and tenacity of a select group of individuals, beginning with Lee Luria, whose leadership on this and several other academy initiatives has been absolutely invaluable,” Westby said. “The Music Academy is truly blessed to count the likes of Lee Luria and Leslie Ridley-Tree among its many advocates and benefactors.”

Work on the Luria Education Center began in August 2010 and is scheduled to be completed this summer. The project’s $10.8 million price tag includes construction and furniture, the funding of a maintenance endowment, and the acquisition of 11 new Steinway pianos. The academy is relying exclusively on private donations to fund the project. All donations to date have been in the form of cash gifts and short-term pledges, eliminating the need for financing. The fundraising campaign will draw to a close by the start of summer, according to Reed.

Designed by Thomas Bollay Architects in collaboration with acclaimed architect and academy board member John Burgee, the Luria Education Center will blend seamlessly with the distinctive architectural profile of the campus’ adjoining historic main building, and mark another milestone in the academy’s stewardship of the Miraflores campus for Academy Fellows and faculty artists as well as the Santa Barbara community.

Frank Schipper Construction Co., which was the lead contractor for the renovation of Hahn Hall in 2007-2008, is serving in the same capacity for the Luria Education Center.

The Music Academy will present a production of Rossini’s comic opera classic The Barber of Seville, as well as performances by pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Valentina Lisitsa as part of its 64th Summer Festival. The academy will present some 200 events over the course of this year’s Summer School and Festival, which runs June 20 through Aug. 13.

Additional highlights will include appearances by soprano Christine Brewer, New York Philharmonic concertmaster Glenn Dicterow and the Takács Quartet, as well as conducting turns by Leonard Slatkin, Peter Oundjian, Larry Rachleff, Warren Jones, Nicholas McGegan and Daniel Hege. Legendary mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne will return for her 15th season as director of the academy’s acclaimed Voice Program.

Click here for tickets and information on the 64th Summer Festival, or call 805.969.8787. Click here for more information on the Music Academy of the West.

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

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