Contact:    Tom Whaley

310-450-8338, ext. 287

For Immediate Release

February 10, 2006











On March 16th and 17th 2006 at 7:30 pm, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will present the 57th Annual “Stairway of the Stars” at the Civic auditorium in Santa Monica. This event remains one of the most popular annual events in the city as it spotlights the talents of the District's music students, teachers and music curriculum.


The guest conductor this year is Mr. Eric Whitacre.  An accomplished composer, conductor and lecturer, Eric Whitacre has quickly become one of the most popular and performed composers of his generation. The Los Angeles Times has praised his compositions as "works of unearthly beauty and imagination, [with] electric, chilling harmonies," while The Philadelphia Inquirer has called him "the hottest thing in choral music."


Though he had received no formal training before the age of 18, his first experiences singing in college choir changed his life, and he completed his first concert work, Go, Lovely, Rose, at the age of 21. Eric went on to the Juilliard School, earning his Master of Music degree and studying with Pulitzer Prize- and Oscar-winning composer John Corigliano.


Many of Whitacre's works have entered the standard choral and symphonic repertories and have become the subject of several recent scholarly works and doctoral dissertations. His works Water Night, Cloudburst, Sleep, Lux Aurumque and A Boy and a Girl are among the most popular choral works of the last decade, and his Ghost Train, Godzilla Eats Las Vegas, and October have achieved equal success in the symphonic wind community. To date, Whitacre's published works have received thousands of performances and sold well over 350,000 copies worldwide.


As a conductor, Mr. Whitacre has appeared with hundreds of professional and educational ensembles throughout the world. In the last ten years he has conducted concerts of his choral and symphonic music in Japan, Australia, China, Singapore and much of Europe, as well as dozens of American universities and colleges where he regularly conducts seminars and lectures with young musicians.


Most recently, Whitacre has received acclaim for PARADISE LOST, a cutting edge musical combining trance, ambient and techno electronica with choral, cinematic, and operatic traditions. Winner of the ASCAP Harold Arlen award, this musical also gained Whitacre the prestigious Richard Rodgers Award for most promising musical theater composer.


Whitacre has received composition awards from the Barlow International Composition Competition, the American Choral Directors Association and the American Composers Forum. His first recording, "The Music of Eric Whitacre," was hailed by The American Record Guide as one of the top ten classical albums of 1997. In 2001, he became the youngest recipient ever awarded the coveted Raymond C. Brock commission by the American Choral Directors Association. His music has been featured on dozens of commercial and independent recordings, and a full collection of his a cappella music will be released under the Hyperion label in spring 2006.

Mr. Whitacre lives in Los Angeles with his wife, celebrated soprano Hila Plitmann and their son.


This year's award recipient will be posthumously awarded to the former Superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu USD, Dr. Neil Schmidt. The music faculty and Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator decided to honor the support they received during his leadership in the district from 1992-2001. Dr. Schmidt was very supportive of music education and he was also responsible for improvement in academic achievement scores, a large grant from the Annenberg Foundation and helping to pass a $75 million building bond during his tenure. Dr. Schmidt was a member of a number of community support organizations such as: Santa Monica Rotary Club, Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica, Boy Scouts of America and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Schmidt also served as a member of the State Department of Education’s Fine Arts Task Force.


Before coming to Santa Monica-Malibu, Dr. Schmidt served as Superintendent for the Lodi Unified School District (1987-1991), Fillmore Unified (1982-1987) and Live Oak School District (1979-1982). Soon after retiring from the SMMUSD, Dr. Schmidt served as the interim Superintendent for the Conejo Valley USD and later became very involved in the Mentor program in Fillmore. He also worked in Fillmore on the successful passage of School Bond Measure E in November 2004. During this time, Neil was instrumental in developing the community swimming pool initiative in Fillmore, which was passed by voters following Neil’s untimely death in December, 2005. Dr. Schmidt is survived by his wife, Julie and his two daughters Corrie, who lives with her husband in Davis California and Sarah, who now lives in Washington D.C.. Julie Schmidt will be accepting the award in honor of her husband on both nights of the Stairway performance.


The ensembles that will perform this year’s “Stairway of the Stars” concert are, the All-District Honor Orchestra (Elementary), High School Jazz Ensemble, Middle and High School Orchestras, bands and this year the middle and high School choirs will be spotlighted and featured. Some of the musical selections this year will feature Eric Whitacre original compositions “October”, “Sleep”, and “The Marriage” as well as exciting band orchestra and jazz band pieces.


Ticket cost is $10.00 and sales to the general public begin on Friday, March 10th, and tickets can be purchased at the Professional Development and Learning Center, (PDLC), formerly Washington West on 2802 Fourth Street, Santa Monica or call 310-450-8338 ext. 79538.


Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District

1651 16th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90404

310-450-8338 — fax 310-581-1138 —