Credit: Phil Channing

It’s tempting to call it “the miracle at Miraflores.” After a strikingly effective pivot season in which faculty and fellows beamed in their performances from all over the world, 2021 will forever be remembered as the summer that the Music Academy of the West returned the restorative power of live music to Santa Barbara. Thanks to social distancing, vaccines, and not least to some gloriously good timing, audiences will soon be able to choose among more than 70 classical music events beginning on Monday, June 28, and continuing through Saturday, August 7, with an additional week of online programming extending until Saturday, August 14. Highlights include orchestral concerts at The Granada Theatre featuring outstanding conductors Larry Rachleff, Marin Alsop, and Michael Tilson Thomas, along with a star-studded lineup of guest artists performing and teaching in a variety of capacities. Most of all, we can look forward to welcoming more than 100 brilliant young musicians as fellows and 65 faculty and teaching artists to our community over the course of what promises to be an unforgettable season.

Music Academy President and CEO Scott Reed acknowledges not only the undeniable impact of the pandemic but also the inspiration of recent movements for social justice on programming decisions for 2021. The Academy’s Innovation Institute will be opened by keynote speaker Chi-chi Nwanoku, the founder of Chineke!, an orchestra dedicated to championing change and fostering diversity in classical music. The season’s opening night gala, Return to Miraflores, takes place on Saturday, July 10, with performances by Ben Bliss, Jeremy Denk, Conor Hanick, Nino Sanikidze, and the Takács Quartet; violist Richard O’Neill will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Fans of contemporary opera and vocal music are in for a treat, as Musical America’s 2021 Artist of the Year Beth Morrison will be in residence for four weeks. Morrison and her organization’s executive director, Jecca Barry, will collaborate with the Vocal Institute’s singers and pianists on two special filmed productions, 21c Liederabend, Op. MAW., a celebration of songs by contemporary composers; and Miraflores, a selection of opera scenes as reimagined for the camera by Creative Director James Darrah and conductor William Long. 

While the orchestral concerts this year may be scaled back slightly in terms of the number of musicians on stage, the impact of these concerts on the community will not. All tickets for the Saturday, August 7, concert at the Granada featuring conductor Marin Alsop are only $10, and there will be 100 $10 tickets available for each of the other three concerts at the Granada. 

The new x2 Series of chamber music at the Academy’s Hahn Hall pairs fellows with their faculty mentors. While several of these performances will be held in front of live audiences, others will be available digitally as part of the Music Academy Concert Hall Online initiative. The Mosher Guest Artists are always exciting, and this season’s group includes pianist Conrad Tao, who will perform live in Hahn Hall on Tuesday, August 3. The other three Mosher Guest Artists will join the festival through an innovative series of recital premiere screenings. Soprano Sasha Cooke, cellist Steven Isserlis, and multi-instrumentalist/composer Tyshawn Sorey represent a dream team of contemporary music’s most inspiring artists. To learn more about the Music Academy of the West’s 2021 season, and to begin planning your attendance (tickets go on sale to the public on Wednesday, June 25), visit

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