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Two $500,000 Gifts Cap Music Academy’s Fundraising Campaign

The Music Academy of the West concludes its seven-year, $15 million effort to raise funds to renovate its recital hall.

The Music Academy of the West concluded its recital hall renovation fundraising campaign in dramatic fashion Saturday, announcing just before its season-ending community concert at The Granada that a pair of donors had each pledged $500,000.

With the donations, the academy fulfilled the conditions of a $1 million challenge grant announced just nine days earlier, thus meeting its campaign fundraising goal of $15 million.

“I can’t think of a better way to bring this outstanding fundraising effort to a close and to mark the end of another exceptional summer season,” Music Academy Board Chairman James Davidson said.

The Music Academy’s recital hall renovation fundraising campaign officially commenced in 2001, when benefactors Stephen and Carla Hahn contributed $6.1 million toward the renovation and maintenance of the academy’s primary recital facility, then known as Abravanel Hall. The building has since been named Hahn Hall in their honor.

The campaign gained critical momentum Aug. 7, when Santa Barbara philanthropists Shirley and Seymour Lehrer announced plans to donate $3 million, including a $1 million challenge grant earmarked for the recital hall renovation fundraising effort. To receive the latter gift, the academy was required to raise an additional $1 million by year’s end.

Montecito philanthropist Leni Fe Bland was among the donors whose gifts were announced Saturday. Well known for her civic leadership and generous support of local nonprofit organizations, Fe Bland has received numerous honors over the years, including a lifetime achievement award in 1998 and a woman of the year award in 2005.

The other $500,000 gift is from an anonymous donor who contacted the academy Saturday morning. A total of 116 donors have contributed to the recital hall renovation fundraising campaign.

Hahn Hall was completed just before the start of the academy’s 2008 Summer School and Festival on June 23. Featuring vastly improved acoustics and numerous other enhancements, the building and associated site work were completed in 10 months at a total project cost of $15 million.

According to campus officials, the project was completed on time and on budget, and the associated recital hall renovation fundraising campaign was fulfilled ahead of schedule.

“We are exceedingly pleased to have met our campaign goal early. We now look forward to focusing our fundraising efforts on our full-scholarship program and future facility upgrades to further enhance the Academy’s instructional program,” said Scott Reed, vice president for Institutional Advancement at the Music Academy. “Although our primary campaign needs have been fulfilled, we encourage community members to be part of this historic time at the Academy by sponsoring a seat in Hahn Hall or adding their names to the impressive Donor Fountain that will be constructed in a nearby courtyard early next year.”

In addition to the $1 million matching grant toward the recital hall renovation fundraising campaign, the Lehrers made an unrestricted gift of $1 million, and donated another $1 million to fund future facility renovations at the academy. The Lehrers previously donated $1 million to fund the creation of Lehrer Studios at the Academy, a practice facility completed in 2006. In recognition for the Lehrers’ latest gift, the Music Academy will name Hahn Hall’s elegant entrance area Lehrer Lobby, and dedicate the 2009 Summer School and Festival to the couple.

One day after the Lehrers’ gift was made public, the academy announced that soprano Irene Cummings had bequeathed her 16-acre Santa Paula avocado ranch to the academy. Valued at almost $3 million, the property will be used to endow future academy opera productions upon Cummings’ passing.

“We’ve enjoyed a remarkable run of good fortune, and are boundlessly appreciative for the generosity of our many donors,” academy President NancyBell Coe said.

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

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