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In True Steinway Style, Music Academy’s 70th Anniversary Gala a Grand Affair

Event treats guests to fine fare and spirits, a performance by world-acclaimed pianists, and the unveiling of a new prized possession


The Music Academy of the West held its 70th Anniversary Gala on the beautiful Miraflores campus in Montecito that surpassed expectations for the lucky guests who attended the festive affair.

More than 300 MAW supporters embarked May 21 upon the renowned oceanside campus, which is noted among the nation’s top preeminent summer schools and host of music festivals for young classically trained artists.

The academy offers full scholarships to select groups of fellows, including tuition, room and board, and the unique opportunity to train, study and perform live on campus and at multiple venues across Santa Barbara — all under the guidance of internationally renowned guest conductors, facility artists, and soloists.

The glamorous black tie affair celebrates the commencement of the 2017 Summer Festival. This season will feature more than 200 events and the obtainment of 55 Steinway pianos.

According to Scott Reed, MAW president and CEO, the pianos are part of the All-Steinway distinction that highlights the academy’s continued commitment to excellence by providing the fellows, faculty and guest artists with the best instruments possible for the study of music.

“We are proud to have acquired a full complement of 55 Steinways for use on our campus and our community,” Reed said.

Guests strolled down a red carpet in tuxedos and elegant floor-length gowns, and posed for pictures in front of the strategically placed Steinway pianos.

Champagne and a variety of refreshing spirits were offered to guests as they mingled during the cocktail hour.

Classical melodies flowing from a patio adjacent to Hahn Hall served as a precursor for the evening's much-anticipated concert — a rare performance by world-acclaimed pianists Yuja Wang and Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

Inside the dimly lit, dark wood-paneled theater, the classical pianists enthralled the audience with a variety of solo and duel performances during the hourlong concert, which also served as a prime opportunity for the seasoned musicians to debut the academy’s new Steinway Hamberg Model D Concert Grand piano.

Guests were in fine spirits after the concert as they made their way to the Miraflores courtyard to dine under the stars as the Marilyn Horne House, adjacent to the courtyard, was aglow with festive lighting.

Belle Hahn Cohen with husband Daniel. Click to view larger
Belle Hahn Cohen with husband Daniel.  (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

Belle Hahn Cohen and her husband, Daniel, were among the crowd of music enthusiasts and longtime supporters of the academy. Belle, the daughter of late philanthropist Stephen Hahn — the theater was named in his honor in 2008 — shared with Noozhawk that the concert brought back fond memories.

“I grew up going to the academy as a child and always attending events with my dad. My dad's soul loves music, and I loved watching him light up,” she said. “I knew Scott Reed as an intern, and now he's the most amazing president. I remember attending concerts at Abravanel Hall before it was Hahn Hall and sat in a completely different space.”

Hahn went on to say that she enjoyed attending summer concerts with her father at the former concert hall, but recalls that he longed to build a true concert hall — one with comfortable seating and rich with state-of-the-art acoustics.

“Once the hall was completed, he was so thrilled with the result,” she said.

Cultivating relationships with MAW board members, faculty and artists was essential to her father, and remains a family tradition that Hahn proudly upholds.

“Marilyn Horne was his dear friend and mine, and we support her yearly song competition as I know my dad would have wished for," she said. "She’s a living legend and an incredible person. I love how the young, talented musicians bring such joy to our community, and with an older father, I really got to see the pure bliss music brought to his life. And I love knowing we are bringing that support to others.”

Guests enjoyed a delicious three-course meal of spring salad, and a choice of horseradish-crusted Atlantic salmon, filet mignon with bearnaise or roasted chickpea rissole, followed by a slice of rich chocolate anniversary cake that was specially prepared by the talented chefs from Seasons Catering.

Welcome remarks and a round of heartfelt acknowledgements from Reed and Margaret Cafarelli, board chair, were offered during dinner to esteemed donors, visiting artists, faculty and board members.

In a surprise announcement, Reed and Gavin English, general manager of Steinway Piano Gallery in West Hollywood, presented Seymour and Shirley Lehrer with the inaugural Key to Success Award. The couple were honored for their continued leadership, vision and valued contributions to MAW.

Key to Success award recipients Seymour and Shirley Lehrer. The couple, Mozart sponsors, were honored for their continued leadership, vision and valued contributions to the Music Academy. Click to view larger
Key to Success award recipients Seymour and Shirley Lehrer. The couple, Mozart sponsors, were honored for their continued leadership, vision and valued contributions to the Music Academy.  (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

“Shirley and Seymour have been ardent supporters of the Music Academy for decades. Their unique commitment to the support of young musicians has made a significant impact on the furtherance of the mission of the Music Academy to ‘train the next generation of classical musicians,'" said Maurice Singer, event co-chair. “In addition, they have been outstanding leaders in the effort to make the Music Academy an ‘all-Steinway’ institution.”

The evening’s extravaganza raised about $600,000, with all proceeds from the event benefiting the academy’s full scholarship program that grants 140 fellows from across the county and around the world an opportunity to study and perform with faculty and world-class artists during the eight-week festival that runs through Aug. 5.

MAW will host a variety of events throughout July, including Academy Festival Orchestra concerts July 8 and July 15, the Elixir of Love opera July 27 and July 29, and the largest classical event in Santa Barbara, the 70th Anniversary Community Concert at La Playa Stadium on July 31 featuring the New York Philharmonic.

In their continued effort to expand community outreach, MAW offers $10 Community Access tickets for all festival events to adults, and children ages 7 to 17 who are accompanied by ticketed adults are granted free admission.

The academy will livestream up to 20 events during the festival via Facebook Live and the academy’s YouTube channel. Click here for more information about the 2017 Summer Festival, guest recitals, master classes, lectures and live competitions.

Special guest artists and acclaimed pianists Yuja Wang and Jean-Yves Thibaudet perform. Click to view larger
Special guest artists and acclaimed pianists Yuja Wang and Jean-Yves Thibaudet perform.  (Music Academy of the West photo)

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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