Friday, August 8, 2008

Music Academy gets 'green' gift


The Music Academy of the West received its second hefty donation in as many days yesterday, when Irene Cummings, a soprano who sang on television from the late 1950s through 1961, bequeathed her 16-acre avocado ranch to the school.
Cummings’ Santa Paula estate is currently valued at nearly $3 million. A spokesman for the Music Academy said the money made from the sale of the property will be used to endow future opera productions after Cummings passes away.

“It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to leave this property to the Music Academy of the West,” Cummings said. “I can’t imagine a more worthy cause.”
With the money, the Music Academy plans to establish the Irene Cummings Endowed Opera, which will ensure the Music Academy is able to showcase opera productions indefinitely. Music Academy officials said the gift is especially significant since the annual opera production has faced fiscal uncertainty in years past and in the mid 1990s, took a five-year hiatus.
Cummings is a longtime supporter of the Music Academy. Each year she has funded a full scholarship for one of the roughly 135 students who participate in the summer camp program, which consists primarily of college-age students.
Cummings attended the Music Academy in 1951 and befriended Voice Program Director Marilyn Horne, who Cummings said she hoped to honor with her donation.
“I want to help other singers as much as possible, and to this day I have very strong feelings for the Music Academy,” Cummings said. “Marilyn has said she wants to make sure there will always be opera at the Music Academy. Through this gift I am doing my part to make Marilyn’s wish an enduring reality.”
On Thursday the Music Academy received a $3 million donation from local philanthropists Shirley and Seymour Lehrer. This gift will be used to complete fundraising efforts for Hahn Hall, the Academy’s recital facility, which cost $15 million to renovate. A third of this donation is a matching grant and will be given on condition that the Music Academy raise an additional $1 million by the end of 2008.
In return, Music Academy officials announced they would name Hahn Hall’s entrance area Lehrer Lobby and dedicate the 2009 summer school and festival to the couple.”
The Lehrer couple owned a metal manufacturing company in Los Angeles. They now oversee the Lehrer Family Foundation. They also have been longtime supporters of the Music Academy. In 2006, the Lehrer’s gave the Music Academy a $1 million donation for the completion of the Lehrer Studios at the Academy, a facility that consists of 16 acoustically designed practice studios.

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