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Mission & History


The Music Academy of the West makes a unique and enduring contribution to the world of classical music by:

  • Advancing the development of the next generation of great classical musicians
  • Cultivating discerning, appreciative, and adventurous audiences


The Music Academy of the West was founded in 1947 by a group of visionary Southern California arts patrons and musicians, including the legendary soprano Lotte Lehmann and the famed conductor Otto Klemperer.

Initially serving 54 young artists, the Academy’s first four summer sessions took place at Cate School in Carpinteria. To this day, Cate remains an integral part of the Music Academy, housing Fellows and the Academy’s Voice Program.

Also contributing to the Academy’s beginnings were Ernest Bloch, Richard Lert, Darius Milhaud, Gregor Piatigorsky, William Primrose, Arnold Schoenberg, Reginald Stewart, Lawrence Tibbett, and John Charles Thomas, who together with Roman Totenberg, Richard Bonelli, and England’s Griller String Quartet, formed the faculty in the early years.

Four years after it opened, the Academy relocated to its current home, the former estate of John Percival Jefferson.