Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West already exists as a world-class school for the best young classical musicians. But Monday they entered into a deal with the New York Philharmonic, which under the baton on maestro Alan Gilbert, continues to be one of the world’s most prestigious orchestras.
“This is one of the most important endeavors and partnerships that we’ve ever embarked on,” said Music Academy President Scott Reed. “And I think it will be exciting for the Santa Barbara community and the fellows that attend our program.”
Under the partnership, Alan Gilbert will come to the academy over the next four summers to participate in many activities, while up to five members of the
Philharmonic will serve as guest faculty for one week each summer.
It also goes the other way. Every year through 2018, up to 10 fellows from the Music Academy will be chosen to fly to New York for an all-expense paid apprenticeship with the Philharmonic.
The Music Academy started thinking about partnering with a major orchestra several years ago. The precedent was set with the Tanglewood music festival and its partnership with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Academy hosted one member of the New York Philharmonic to sit on a jury two years ago, and 18 months later, the plan was put on paper.
“The most important thing is that the training needs were prioritized and the Santa Barbara community would really benefit from this extraordinary music,” Mr. Reed said. “This is not a whistle-stop trip for the New York Phil. They will really be immersing themselves in this community.”
In 2015 and in 2017, the New York Philharmonic will play at the Music Academy’s Summer Festival, with appearances at the Granada and the Santa Barbara Bowl, the latter being the closest, Mr. Reed said, to concerts in Central Park. Music director Alan Gilbert will conduct the Academy’s orchestra in 2014 and 2016 and Philharmonic Assistant Conductor Joshua Weilerstein, a Music Academy alumnus, will conduct its Concerto Night concert in July 2014.
The New York Philharmonic was also looking to expand its commitment to education and its profile on the West Coast. Mr. Reed said that by teaming up with the Academy, the Philharmonic gets access to about “30 different universities and conservatories” because the Academy pools its students from the best of the best during the summer.
“Santa Barbara is appealing not just because it’s beautiful here,” Mr. Reed said. “But the engagement of this community when it comes to the cultural arts … people fill the halls here … it’s unusual to see. In many ways, it’s what the world of classical music is seeking out.”
The Music Academy’s 2014 Summer School and Festival runs June 16 to Aug. 9, including a fully staged production of “Carmen,” and appearances by sextet Eighth Blackbird, Jonathan Biss, Jeremy Denk, Daniel Hope, Joshua Roman, Deborah Voigt, the Tak·cs Quartet and composer-conductor Thomas Adès.
Three years from now the Music Academy will celebrate its 70th anniversary, and Mr. Reed says that’s one more reason for this partnership, to “land on a milestone year for the academy. … It’s about the next generation of musicians playing with the greatest orchestra in the country.”