Music Academy of the West Reaches $17.5 Million FINALE Campaign Goal

A standing ovation for Music Academy of the West! The organization recently achieved a $17.5 million campaign goal, thanks in part to a $4.4 million leadership gift from the Hind Foundation.

Rendering of the Hind Hall Teaching Studio Building, courtesy Music Academy of the West.

Rendering of the Hind Hall Teaching Studio Building, courtesy Music Academy of the West.

The 15-month fundraising effort will provide monies to renovate the historic Marilyn Horne Main House, construct a new Teaching Studio Building, purchase 11 Steinway pianos, endow a long-range instrument fund propelling the institution to All-Steinway piano status in perpetuity and increase the Academy’s recently established maintenance endowment.

The new Teaching Studio Building will be named Hind Hall, commemorating a generous $4.4 million gift from the Hind Foundation that completed the $17.5 million campaign goal. The Hind Foundation’s mission is to fund community-based projects and programs that encourage people to work together to build an enduring legacy for future generations.

“Our philanthropic community has truly embraced our vision to create an extraordinary institution devoted to the next generation of great classically trained musicians. This project enhances our campus to provide our fellows, audiences, faculty, and community partners with world-class facilities for education and performance. We appreciate the Hind Foundation’s generous gift to the Music Academy’s future. They join a dedicated group of contributors who have all helped to make this project possible,” says Scott Reed, Music Academy of the West President and CEO.

Margaret Cafarelli, Academy Board Chair, adds, “We are grateful to our matching gift leaders, Shirley and Seymour Lehrer, who generously contributed a $3 million gift to name the Main House for Marilyn Horne. I would like to thank our Board of Directors, who all participated in the FINALE campaign. The commitment our donors have to our vision has been remarkable, successfully meeting our campaign goal.”

The Marilyn Horne Main House will officially be unveiled at an elegant Opening Night Gala on Saturday, June 4, celebrating the opening of the 2016 Summer School and Festival and honoring Horne, the legendary singer and Director of the Academy’s Voice Program.

The Hind Hall Teaching Studio Building will begin construction immediately following the Academy’s 2016 Summer Festival and will open in June 2017, as a part of the Music Academy of the West’s 70th anniversary celebration.

FINALE Campaign Contributors include: Leslie and Philip Bernstein, Linda and Peter Beuret, John C. Bowen and Shelby C. Bowen Foundation, Sharon and David Bradford, Michele and Arnold Brustin, Margaret Cafarelli and Jan Hill, Jo Ann and Howard Chase, Lynn and Andy Chou, Patricia and Larry Durham, Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation, Margo and Robert Feinberg, Julia and David Geber, Judy and Ernie Getto, Bernie Gondos, Paul Guido and Stephen Blain, Hind Foundation, Jackie Inskeep, Ann Jackson Family Foundation, Michelle Joanou, Irma and Morrie Jurkowitz, Linda and Michael Keston, Shirley and Seymour Lehrer, Lucifer Lighting, Leatrice Luria, Kandy Luria-Budgor and Beno Budgor, Mercedes Millington and Jack Mithun, Margaret Morez, Ronnie Morris and Tim Cardy, Dot and Rick Nelson, Ellen Lehrer Orlando and Tom Orlando, Gamble Parks and Gary Douville, Ellen and John Pillsbury, Scott Reed, Dorothy Roberts, Joan and Jerry Rocco, Regina and Rick Roney, Santa Barbara Foundation, Maryan Schall, Lila Scher, Robin Schutte, Linda Seltzer Yawitz, Anitra and Jack Sheen, Eileen Sheridan and Roger Wilde, Maurice Singer, Stephen Singleton and Christopher Teasley, Mary Lynn and Warren Staley, Glenn Jordan and Michael Stubbs, Perrin Pellegrin and Tim Taylor, Elaine and Bob Toledo, Christopher Toomey, Patricia Toppel, Anne and Michael Towbes, Pam and Terry Valeski, Susie and Hugh Vos, Wade Fund, Patty and Nick Weber, Carolyn and Carl Williams, Pat and Joe Yzurdiaga and Cheryl and Peter Ziegler.

Music Academy of the West’s Summer School and Festival takes place from June 13 to August 6 at the Academy’s scenic Miraflores campus and in venues throughout Santa Barbara. For more information, visit

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on April 22, 2016.

Editor’s Pick: New York Philharmonic

Alan Gilbert, courtesy of Music Academy of the West.

Alan Gilbert, courtesy of Music Academy of the West.

Music Academy of the West’s annual summer classical music festival is always fabulous and will be even better this year with free tickets for young people ages 7 to 17 (with paid adults) and special $10 Community Access tickets for all events, including New York Philharmonic’s debut concert at Santa Barbara Bowl. The all-American program features music from Leonard Bernstein’s beloved West Side Story and Aaron Copland’s epic masterpiece Appalachian Spring. Santa Barbara Bowl, 1122 N. Milpas St. Aug. 3, 7 p.m. 805/962-7411,

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Summer 2015.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Music Academy of the West Presents “Carmen” in Honor of Opera Great Marilyn Horne

Music Academy of the West "Carmen," photo by David Bazemore.

Music Academy of the West “Carmen,” photo by David Bazemore.

 The Music Academy of the West will present a new, fully staged production of Georges Bizet’s timeless opera Carmen in honor of celebrated mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne’s 80th birthday at Santa Barbara’s historic Granada Theatre. Directed by David Paul and conducted by James Gaffigan, the performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 1, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 3.

In addition to Music Academy Voice and Instrumental Fellows, the Academy’s production will feature dancers from Santa Barbara’s State Street Ballet, choreography by William Soleau, and a chorus that includes local children.

For tickets and information, call 805.969.8787 or visit

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on July 28, 2014.

Marilyn Horne Named “Honorary La Diva of Old Spanish Days”

Marilyn Horne, courtesy photo

Marilyn Horne, courtesy photo

Viva la Fiesta and Viva la Diva!

This summer, The Music Academy of the West presents the 2014 Carmen Celebration; a special series of events in honor of the legendary opera singer Marilyn Horne’s 80th birthday. As part of this series, the Music Academy has partnered with Old Spanish Days to celebrate Horne, director of the Music Academy’s voice program, in conjunction with her 80th birthday, and recognize her with the official title, “Honorary La Diva of Old Spanish Days.”

On July 23, from 5:30–7:30 p.m., the Music Academy hosts a special private event to commemorate this occasion. The program includes performances from the Music Academy’s production of Bizet’s Carmen and the 2014 Spirit of the Fiesta. (The Music Academy will present a new, fully staged production of Carmen, directed by David Paul, conducted by James Gaffigan, and featuring State Street Ballet dancers at Santa Barbara’s Granada Theatre on August 1 and 3.)

“Marilyn Horne embodies the very spirit of our extraordinary performing arts & cultural community in Santa Barbara, and Old Spanish Days is the perfect partner to help us commemorate our Carmen Celebration in honor of her 80th birthday,” says Scott Reed, president of the Music Academy of the West. “We are thrilled to bestow this honor upon a legend, and true legacy of the Music Academy of the West.”

This year marks the 90th Anniversary of the Fiesta Historical Parade, one of the largest equestrian parades in the United States, which will take place on August 1. As part of the Carmen Celebration festivities, during the parade Horne will ride in an antique carriage sponsored by the Music Academy’s presenting sponsor, Montecito Bank & Trust.

The Granada Theatre will also commemorate the honor of Marilyn Horne’s title “Honorary La Diva of Old Spanish Days” on the theatre’s marquee.

Horne has long been recognized as one of the most influential artists to portray Carmen. Her first major professional engagement was in 1954, when she dubbed the singing voice of Dorothy Dandridge in the film Carmen Jones. Horne went on to sing the title role in Bizet’s Carmen to open the Metropolitan Opera’s 1972-73 season, which featured Leonard Bernstein as conductor, and earned a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording in 1974. Horne’s distinguished career has garnered her numerous honors, including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Gramophone magazine. She was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1995, received the National Medal of Arts in 1992, and has been inducted into the American Classical Music and Hollywood Bowl halls of fame. Among her worldwide prizes are the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters from France’s Ministry of Culture. She was named a National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honors recipient in 2009.

Horne, who attended the Music Academy in 1953, has been a member of the Music Academy faculty since 1995, and has directed the Academy’s renowned Voice Program since 1997.

Please also note these upcoming performances.
• Opera Covers Performance in Lehmann Tuesday, Jul 22 at 3:15 p.m.
• Carmen Opera Performances, Friday, August 1 and Sunday, August 3
• Vocal Masterclass with Marilyn Horne, Wednesday, August 6

For more information, visit

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on July 22, 2014.

If these walls could talk: The hallowed history of La Casa de Maria’s stone house

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

In the Montecito hills, off of El Bosque Road, sits a bastion of peace and serenity in today’s busy world. Heading up the oak tree-lined driveway to the grand stone house at the center of La Casa de Maria, one can’t help but be overcome with feelings of calm and tranquility, as if driving into the distance brought one back to a quieter, simpler time.

This property was originally part of the San Ysidro Ranch, owned by Taylor Goodrich and John Harleigh Johnston. Richard Hogue, of Montana, purchased 20 acres of the ranch in 1886, and named it El Prado Rancho (the meadow). At the time there was an orange orchard on the property, but a few years later Hogue obtained road access and water rights and created the first lemon orchard in the area. Some of those old lemon trees can still be seen in front of the stone estate house that now resides on the property.

In 1924, Hogue sold the property to Emmor J. Miley, a building contactor and one of the pioneers in Kern County oil development. As an oilman, Miley made a sizeable fortune, some of which he planned to show off in his new estate.

Renaming the property Rancho El Bosque (the woodlands), Miley hired architectural designer Mary Craig to design a showpiece house.

Craig was the widow of architect James Osborne Craig, who succumbed to tuberculosis in 1922 at the age of 33. In his short career Mr. Craig played a large role in the development of Spanish Colonial architecture in Santa Barbara, including designs for El Paseo downtown and the Bernard Hoffmann House on the Riviera. Though she did not have any formal design training, Mary had worked at her husband’s side and took over his practice when he died, going on to become a notable architect in her own right, designing Plaza Rubio, the group of cottages below the Santa Barbara Mission; the W.C. Logan Building arcade (222 E. Carrillo Street); the Anacapa Annex to El Paseo; and many private homes in the area.

The 13,000 square-foot Miley home, which remains mostly intact today, features hand-carved teak ceilings, nine distinctive Italian stone fireplace mantels, and courtyard tiles from Spain and Czechoslovakia. It was Miley who put in the monkey tree and star pine tree that now highlight the entrance to the property, and most notably, it was Miley who commissioned hand hewn stone quarried from the fields and banks of nearby San Ysidro Creek for the house and walls around the estate.

“ Mr. Miley used to come up every weekend to see how the work was progressing,” recalls Mary Skewes-Cox, daughter of Mary and James Osborne Craig. “We would go to church on Sunday morning and then from church we went to the Miley’s. They were living in a house on the property and we would go and have breakfast with them and then my mother would go over the work with Mr. Miley. I was just a little girl at the time,” says Skewes-Cox, who is now 87.

“I remember driving around the property. They quarried all that stone for the house on the property. But all of the stonework came right off of that land,” she says.

According to Maria Herold of the Montecito History Committee, “You will see in the inside hall that there are vertical striations of stone. On the inside staircase is where you can see it best. This is a very time-consuming and therefore very expensive treatment of stone that you don’t really need to do, but they went to all the trouble of doing this very special treatment. And of course, the outside is spectacular because of the way the stone is cut. It’s a masterpiece.”

“The beautiful stonework in which the local sandstone was quarried from the place and cut by hand was not done by any particular firm of stone masons, Instead it was done by individuals and very fine stone masons engaged by (building contractors) Snook and Kenyon,” according to a 1985 letter from John de Blois Wack, who later purchased the property.

Pamela Skewes-Cox, the granddaughter of Mary and James Osborne Craig, is working on a book about their lives, along with co-author Robert Sweeney, an architectural historian. In researching Mary Craig, Skewes-Cox found that “she wasn’t outspoken and she didn’t advertise herself in an aggressive way at all, she sort of just kept her nose to the grindstone and she met people and she was very social and people liked her. But it was unusual for a woman in that time to be professionally-oriented.”

She continues, “My mother remembers going up to property with her mother to discuss building this very, very elegant house. They had no lack of money at the time that they were discussing the design and she had free reign to do this elaborate and very expensive home and they were not nervous about it at all because they had money and money to spend and they really wanted a showplace.”

Unfortunately, Miley ran into financial difficulties with the stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, and he was forced to sell the estate before his dream house was completed.

“He literally had to just stop construction,” says Pamela Skewes-Cox. “Fortunately Mary Craig had a mechanic’s lien on the property which meant that if Miley forfeited she and her draftsman, Ralph Armitage, owned the property until they were paid for their work.”

In 1932 John and Ethel de Blois Wack purchased the estate for $100,000.  John was a successful Wall Street investor who had come to the area to raise horses and play polo at the Bartlett field in Montecito and the Fleischmann fields in Carpinteria. He later became president of the Santa Barbara Polo Association. His father was the co-founder of Field and Stream magazine and as a young man he was an editor there. John and Ethel were both avid aviators who flew their private plane all over North America, often checking in on their cattle operation in Arizona.

Soon after the purchase, the Wack’s hired architect Chester L. Carjola to finish the estate house. There has been some debate over how “finished” the house was at this point.

Pamela Skewes-Cox would like to set the record straight. “We have determined by looking at the drawings, my co-author and I, that the great majority of the house was completed, even though the Miley’s had not moved in yet. The working drawings that were done later for Mr. Wack by the architect Carjola, those show basically a finished house and you can see on the drawing where it says unfinished. We studied those pretty carefully and so a great deal of the detail, even the ceilings, were conceived by Mary Craig with Mr. Miley’s input. A lot of people say, ‘well it wasn’t finished and Carjola finished it.’ It’s Mary Craig’s house, there’ s absolutely no hesitancy in my saying that.”

Mr. de Blois Wack’s 1985 letter also states, “it is my feeling that Mrs. Craig should be looked upon as the architect.”

“Mary Craig wasn’t asked by the Wack’s to finish it, for whatever reason, but she was friends with the Wack’s,” says Pamela Skewes-Cox.

When the house was completed in 1933, the property included a swimming pool and tennis courts, as well as additional structures, including a little cottage for Mr. Wack’s mother, Mrs. Lillian Wack, which is now called Santa Teresita; the Browning house for Mr. Wack’s piano accompanist and his family; a garage, stables, and a gardener’s cottage later named the Bayberry House. There was also a large studio called the study, which has since burned, where Mrs. Wack, an accomplished artist, painted portraits in oil.

The Wack’s plunged into the local social scene with gusto and became known for their parties. They were music aficionados—Mr. Wack had even done some professional singing—and one of the wings looking out on the rear court was used as a music room with stone walls, high-beamed ceilings and balcony for an orchestra.  Many famous musicians performed at the Wack’s parties, including conductor Leopold Stokowski, who did Walt Disney’s Fantasia;  Ozzie Nelson and his swing band; Victor Trucco, assistant conductor of the Metropolitan Opera, and the great baritone John Charles Thomas, who served for a year as director at the Music Academy of the West.

Mary Skewes-Cox recalls grand parties at the Wack’s house. “I was in my teens when the Wack’s owned it. They had a coming out party for their daughter Ethel and it was a lovely, lovely party with things going on all throughout the house. I remember the tables were set up on the tennis court and there was music and dancing and it was a wonderful party.”

Held in August of 1941, Ethel Wack’s debutante party had 700 guests; the Royal Hawaiian Orchestra played on the tennis court, which was converted into a terrace for dining and dancing; Ozzie Nelson’s band was in the art studio for more dancing; and there was a sit-down dinner for all of the guests.

The estate was also a site for Pearl Chase’s garden tours. In addition to the citrus orchards and spacious lawns, both Miley and Wack had imported many exotic plants. There was also a “sun garden” with rose and camellia bushes, and a “shade garden” with begonias and ferns.

After a decade in the house, Mr. Wack found that his growing numbers of thoroughbred horses didn’t have enough room on the estate, and the grounds were too rocky for his horses, so in 1942 he put the place up for sale and moved to Hope Ranch to open Yolo Breeding Stables on a 42-acre parcel.

Meanwhile, Mother Eucharia, Mother Superior of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart in Hollywood, asked her cousin, realtor Charles Dunn, to help her find a quiet place for a novitiate, to train their novice nuns. Dunn first looked at the estate ,which later became Marymount School on the Riviera before recommending the Wack estate in Montecito, which the sisters purchased in December of 1942. Because it was during World War II and many estates were up for sale, the sisters were able to purchase the estate for $32,500. On Easter Monday 1943, four sisters moved in, one of them sister Regina McPartlin, and 12 aspiring novices.

They made the upstairs of the main house into a dormitory by dividing the rooms up with freestanding metal frames and curtains, thus the walls and hardwood floors were never marred. “When we stayed in those rooms, because we just had those little cells, we never saw what the whole room looked like. Even though in the morning after we got up and made our beds and got dressed we were supposed to open the cell curtains, when you were in there your curtain was closed. It was really funny because many years later we returned and the cell curtains had all been removed and everything. People were like, ‘Whoa, look at that beautiful ceiling. Was that there when we were here?’ And that was kind of a common experience. All of those teak ceilings,” says Stephanie Glatt, a former novice who is now the director of La Casa de Maria.

“I guess we were busy learning to be nuns and being spiritual and praying and we didn’t spend a lot of time in there. It’s just that it was so strange because everybody felt like the house had been remodeled and it hadn’t, it was just our perception.”

All of the novices (aspiring nuns) and postulants (aspiring novices) had chores assigned to them. Glatt recalls working on the vegetable porch. “There was a big cutting board out there … and of course, we’re supposed to be working in silence. They used to bring the vegetables in newspapers and at that time we’re supposed to be totally sequestered from the world, so we weren’t supposed to read the newspapers. … They would always put the newspapers upside down so we couldn’t read them. It was kind of funny because your eye would catch a part of a headline and you’d kind of try to see what’s going on out there, and then somebody would read the headline and say, ‘Did you see that?’ (Laughs) when we were all supposed to be working in silence.”

The number of postulants and novices continued to increase and under the guidance of Sister Regina the stables were renovated with two dormitories upstairs and two downstairs. A two-story extension was added to the art studio (which burned in 1972) with a recreation and sewing room upstairs and two classrooms downstairs.

The basement entertainment room was transformed into a refectory, where the women would eat all of their meals. “On feast days we decorated tables. Decoration meant the tables, which had blue linoleum tops, and we would get rolls of white butcher paper and roll the roll down and tape it on the underneath side, and then put flowers on. I’m sure every year some group was asked to decorate the tables and every year some group went out and cut poison oak, not knowing it was poison oak because of the lovely color,” laughs Glatt. “They would put it in vases and then someone would go, ‘Oh my god, you got poison oak.’”

The ballroom became a chapel and the musician’s balcony became a choir loft. “You should have heard 90 of us singing in there,” says Glatt. “The choir loft that was pointless because there were 90 of us in the chapel. But the sisters that taught at Mount Carmel lived there and some other visitors would come and they couldn’t fit in the chapel, so they all kind of huddled up there.”

While the aspiring nuns pursued religious life on La Casa’s grounds, the peaceful surroundings were also gaining a reputation in Hollywood. Stars like Irene Dunne, Loretta Young, and Ricardo Montalban came for retreats, holding prayer services in the Novitiate by day, while staying overnight at the Biltmore. In 1955, La Casa de Maria Retreat House formed on the property and became the first retreat center for Catholic married couples.

During the 1960s, there were conflicts between James Francis McIntyre, the Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles who oversaw the Immaculate Heart community and the sisters. They eventually shed their habits in 1970 and became the Immaculate Heart Community, an ecumenical group of men and women. Since 1974, the community has operated the Immaculate Heart Center for Spiritual Renewal in the historic old stone house, opening its doors for private retreats for people of all faiths.

With its long and storied history, the grand house still has new stories to tell. “I always feel that somehow that spirit is still there, you know that all those prayers everybody said there weren’t lost,” says Glatt. “It’s like they’re still hanging out.”


Special thanks to Pamela Skewes-Cox and Maria Herold of the Montecito History Committee for their assistance in researching this story.

Originally published in Montecito Magazine, Fall 2008.

Fast Pitch Offers a Winning Opportunity for Nonprofits

Courtesy Fast Pitch SB

Courtesy Fast Pitch SB

Concise communication is key in today’s world of ever-shorter attention spans. With that in mind, this spring local nonprofits will have the opportunity to participate in a Shark Tank style competition to make three-minute pitches to a panel of judges and a live audience for cash awards, including a $25,000 Judges award and two $10,000 Coaches awards.

Fast Pitch SB, a project of Social Venture Partners Santa Barbara (SVPSB), has already received almost 100 applications from nonprofits looking to receive personal coaching and communications training from experts in the field.

“This is a great way to help an organization have sustainable change,” says Seth Streeter, a member of SVPSB and the “Chief Energy Officer” for Fast Pitch SB.

Courtesy Fast Pitch SB

Courtesy Fast Pitch SB

The opportunity is open for any nonprofit with a compelling idea or project they would like to bring to fruition in the community. After all applications are complete, SVPSB will identify 20 nonprofits to enter seven weeks of communications training to develop their presentations.

From these 20, ten finalists will be invited to present their three-minute “fast pitch” to a panel of judges at the Music Academy of the West on May 15. There will be a live audience populated with potential investors, donors and community members, as well as satellite voting and viewing locations set up throughout Santa Barbara. Nonprofit supporters and community members will be able to gather at these locations to watch a live feed during the event and organizers are working to set up a text-to-vote process to give one organization the Audience Choice award.

I went to watch our sister Social Venture Partners group in Los Angeles do this event (which originated there about eight years ago). It was so great that, “I couldn’t control it, ” says Streeter. “I got so excited I just raised my hand and said ‘let’s do it.'”

The process moved quickly after that. When the event takes place in May, “the whole thing will have happened in nine months,” says Streeter.

“People are really excited about this program,” says Joan Young, executive director of SVPSB. “We all know when we’ve heard a bad talk, but it can be difficult to refine that into the right message … especially if you have a complicated message.”

“In talking to nonprofits who have done this in other places, most said they did it for exposure and money but found the leadership and communications training had a tremendous and lasting effect,” says Streeter.

“As for the communications training, SVPSB will identify 40 individuals (two coaches per team) to work with the nonprofits so that the best possible pitch can be developed. This in itself, can also be seen as a valuable prize,” says Jessica Tade, director of communications and marketing of the Santa Barbara Foundation, which is one of the sponsors of the event.

“We’re really hoping to find organizations that need just this little step up,” says Young, explaining, “Social Venture Partners is a unique group of individuals who pool their money and talents and leverage networks to improve the nonprofit sector.”

“Getting involved is a way to give one donation and support 20 organizations,” says Streeter. For more information about getting involved with Fast Pitch SB click here.

—Leslie Dinaberg

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on February 24, 2014.

Share the Gift of an Experience

GiftofExperience1-704x400Nothing beats the gift of a memorable experience…except perhaps one that you can share with your loved ones. Here are some holiday gift suggestions that can be appreciated together.

Santa Barbara Beautiful

When it comes to enjoying our gorgeous city, the options truly are endless. One of the best ways to soak in the soul of Santa Barbara is to get out on the water. In the early winter months, Condor Express whale-watching charters follow migrating California Gray Whales as they pass through the channel (805/882-0088, and Adventure Sailing Charters (805/794-8703, boats to the Channel Islands, as well as surf trips.

Landlubbers will love a membership to Lotusland, which provides priority access to 37 acres of spectacular collections of exotic plants (805/969-9990, Members of Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (805/682-4726, not only get free entry to this living museum, but also support the garden’s mission of conservation, education and scientific research. Garden lovers, not to mention history buffs and architecture aficionados, will love a tour of the historic Casa del Herrero (805/565-5653,, an elegant Montecito estate and National Historic Landmark. For a truly adventurous gift, take to the skies with Santa Barbara Helicopter Tours (805/845-4500,, offering wine tours, whale watching trips and Channel Islands flights.

Wine and Dine

Oenophiles will appreciate the plethora of tasting and transportation options offered by Wine Canyon Tours (805/453-7047,, Sustainable Vine Wine Tours (805/698-3911, and Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours (805/646-3200,, among others. Got a sweet tooth? Santa Barbara Adventure Co.’s Tasty Cupcake and Wine Tour (805/884-9283, is simply delicious.

The Show Must Go On

Why not treat that special someone to passes for Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which runs Jan. 30–Feb. 9 (805/963-0023, and offers a variety of packages that include movie tickets, parties and tributes and awards ceremonies. Classical music aficionados will love series tickets to Santa Barbara Symphony (805/898-9386,, the “Met Live In HD Series” at Music Academy of the West (805/695-7931, or CAMA’s International Series (805/ 966-4324, If the play’s the thing, then the Broadway Series at The Granada is just the ticket (805/899-2222, for big musical performances, while the black-box intimacy of Center Stage Theater (805/963-8198, hosts a terrific variety of plays and performances, including the locals’ favorite Speaking of Stories (805/963-0408, reader theater series.

Catch Some Culture

Museum memberships make great gifts. Santa Barbara Museum of Art (805/963-4364, members have access to the museum’s renowned exhibitions, grand opening events and other special activities, as well as a connection to a vibrant community of art lovers. MCASB (805/966-5373, also cultivates a unique arts community. Its members form a society of contemporary art lovers, patrons and artists who actively participate in the intellectual and artistic life of the museum. Another great way to catch some culture is via UCSB Arts and Lectures Series (805/893-3535,, which has about a dozen terrific ticket series to choose from—or you can build your own.

Get Active

The gift of physical fitness is a gift that keeps on giving. Why not give golf lessons (805/968-1541,, try stand up paddle boarding (805/881-2115,, or yoga at Core Power Yoga (805/884-9642, or Yoga Soup (805/965-8811, Los Padres Outfitters offers beach horseback rides, day rides or pack trips for horse lovers (805/331-5961,, while Rancho Oso (805/683-5110, in the beautiful Santa Ynez Mountains is a great place for beginning riders to get comfortable with gentle horses and on guided trail rides.


Learn to paint (and sip local wine) at The Painted Cabernet (805/963-9979,, a perfect place for a date-night gift. Market Forays cooking classes and culinary adventures are also a great gift for someone who would enjoy a guided shopping tour through local farmers’ markets and the fisherman’s market, followed by a hands-on cooking class and five-course feast (805/259-7229, Brooks Institute Extension (805/690-7629, offers a variety of excellent workshops for photographers of every level to improve their skills.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in the Winter 2013/14 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine.

Local Arts and Culture Nonprofits Join Giving Tuesday Movement to Encourage Nonprofit Support

image003First there was Black Friday. Then there was Cyber Monday and now we have Giving Tuesday on Tuesday, December 3.

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Ensemble Theatre Company, Ganna Walska Lotusland, Lobero Theatre Foundation, Music Academy of the West, Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation, Santa Barbara Dance Institute, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara Zoo, State Street Ballet, The Granada Theatre, and Wildling Museum have joined Giving Tuesday, a first of its kind effort that will harness the collective power of a unique blend of partners—charities, families, businesses and individuals—to transform the way people talk about, think about and participate in the giving season.

Coinciding with the Thanksgiving Holiday and the traditional kickoff of the holiday shopping season, the aim of Giving Tuesday is to inspire people to take collaborative action to improve their local communities, give back in better, smarter ways to the causes they support and ultimately help to create a better world.

Launched in 2012, Giving Tuesday welcomed more than 2,500 partners from all 50 states in the U.S. The collective efforts of partners, donors, and advocates helped fuel a 50% increase in online giving. Last year more than 50 million people worldwide spread the word about Giving Tuesday―resulting in milestone trending on Twitter.

Sounds like a lovely idea to us!

For more information about the Giving Tuesday initiative and to search participating nonprofits in the Santa Barbara area, visit

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on December 1, 2103.

New Season of “Met: Live” Metropolitan Opera Simulcasts in Hahn Hall

The Music Academy of the West has begun its season of high-definition screenings from ten Metropolitan Opera productions screening simulcasts in Hahn Hall, with Eugene Onegin,  which will screen again at 2 pm on Sunday, October 27.

According to a release from the Music Academy, “since its Moscow premiere in 1879, Tchaikovsky’s fateful romance based on Alexander Pushkin’s verse novel of the same name has endeared itself to opera lovers the world over. Conducted by Russian maestro Valery Gergiev and directed by Fiona Shaw, Deborah Warner’s new production stars soprano standout Anna Netrebko—opening her third consecutive Met season—in her company role debut as Tatiana, the naïve, love-struck heroine. Mariusz Kwiecien portrays the imperious title character, in a much-admired interpretation he has sung in many of the world’s leading opera houses, and Piotr Beczala reprises his acclaimed performance as Onegin’s friend-turned-rival, Lenski. Set in the late 19th century and capturing the splendor and passion of Tchaikovsky’s lyric opera, Warner’s production moves episodically from farmhouse to ballroom, with a powerful snowstorm providing the dramatic setting for the finale.”

The 2013-14 season of “Met: Live in HD” screenings at Hahn Hall will continue with Shostakovich’s The Nose (October 26 and November 24), Puccini’s Tosca (November 23 and December 15), Verdi’s Falstaff (December 14 and February 9), Dvořák’s Rusalka (February 8 and March 2), Borodin’s Prince Igor (March 1 and 16), Massenet’s Werther (March 15 and April 6), Puccini’s La Bohème (April 5 and 27), Mozart’s Così fan tutte starring Music Academy alumnae Isabel Leonard (’05) and Susanna Phillips (’02 and ’03) – (April 26 and May 11), and Rossini’s La cenerentola – starring Academy alumnus Juan Diego Flórez (’95) – (May 10 and 18).
Unlike previous seasons, the Music Academy will screen encores on Sunday afternoons following each subsequent opera’s live Saturday simulcast. Complete “Live in HD” schedule information is available online at tickets may be ordered online at or by calling 805/969-8787.  Free parking is available on the Music Academy campus.
Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine.

Giving Back: Chuck Slosser

Chuck Slosser (courtesy photo)

Chuck Slosser (courtesy photo)

With the same engaging grin and focused attention that have pried philanthropic purse strings loose since he came to town in 1981, Chuck Slosser says he’s excited to tackle retirement after 18 years as executive director of the Santa Barbara Foundation.

What an amazing ride it has been. When Slosser, now 66 took the helm of the Santa Barbara Foundation–Santa Barbara County’s largest private source of funding for nonprofit programs–it had a staff of three, roughly $30 million in assets, and was giving out a few million in scholarships and grants a year.

Compare that to today’s foundation–under Slosser’s leadership, it now has a staff of 23, more than $300 million in assets, and donates about $27 million each year. He’s justifiably proud, but still ready for a slower pace, saying, “I thoroughly enjoyed the foundation and the work that we’ve done here and the great things that have happened in the community as a result. I’ve never objected to the 9 to 5, but it’s really the 5 to 9.”

Slosser and his wife of almost 38 years, Stephanie, who retired from UC Santa Barbara’s biology department three years ago, plan to travel, play golf and do yoga. He’s also interested in playing more basketball (he’s got a regular game at the Boys and Girls Club), taking Spanish lessons, picking up a guitar and a dissertation that have been collecting dust, and perhaps doing some consulting. He smiles. “I really do feel like a kid in a candy store. I want to do that, and I want to do that, and I can’t wait.”

Clearly, Slosser is a man with many interests, which is why the diverse Santa Barbara Foundation was “a dream job come true.” With an infinite variety of grant recipients–Music Academy of the West, Page Youth Center, Special Olympics, Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, Red Cross, St. Vincent’s, Legal Aid, Transition House, Girls Inc. and Wildlife Care Network, to name a few — the foundation was a perfect place for this Renaissance man.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Magazine in January 2009.