The school district's annual Stairway of the Stars concert is a regular event at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Improvements to the facility have been put on hold.


The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District will present the 68th Annual “Stairway of the Stars” concerts series this month.

The event showcases the music education programs within the district as an estimated 1,000 SMMUSD elementary, middle, and high school students will participate in three separate productions.

SMMUSD has presented this musical tradition for the past 67 years and the annual event showcases the talents of students from every school within the Santa Monica and Malibu community.

Tom Whaley, Visual and Performing Arts coordinator for SMMUSD said, “Stairway for the Stars first started at John Adams Middle School in the auditorium. I believe former Santa Monica High School band director and music supervisor for the district, Dick Wagon was influential in not only its first few years, but also expanding the concept to grow into the Civic Auditorium. Unfortunately, we lost Dick Wagon last year but his legacy still lives on.”

The concert series consist of orchestra, choir and band performances. In a recent press release, SMMUSD Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati said, “These three concerts are the culmination of hard work and dedication by our students and music instructors, and we look forward to exceptional performances again this year.”

Every year the Stairway to the Stars honors an individual who has contributed to the Santa Monica community. This year the Stairway 2017 Honor Award will be presented to Mark Barnard, a Santa Monica High School Alumni.

“It is really an honor to be back home, be part of Stairway to the Stars and have the opportunity to work with these fantastic Santa Monica-Malibu Schools orchestra musicians and their outstanding music teachers,” said Barnard.

Barnard began his music education in the fourth grade at Franklin Elementary School and continued music in the bands and orchestras at Lincoln and Samohi. He experienced his first Stairway of the Stars in 1971, performing in the elementary honor orchestra. He graduated Samohi in 1977 and went to USC Thornton School of Music and the New England Conservatory. He has returned to the Santa Monica community as a guest conductor at the Stairway Orchestra Concert on Mar. 15.

This year Stairway to the Stars will feature Ariel Quintana and Travis Cross as guest conductors for choir and band.

Last year the event brought in an estimated $43,000 in revenue, according to Whaley. The funding covers much of the related concert necessities, such as the honorariums for three guest conductors, transportation, security, staffing, reception, and purchase of the multiple pieces of music.

“Our goal would be to someday generate funding from Stairway to create a fund for students/teachers with specific needs, but up to this point, Stairway is not considered a fundraiser,” said Waley.

The event begins tonight with the Orchestra concert with Barnard. “I am very grateful to all of the Santa Monica- Malibu music teachers, past and present, administrators, parents and students,” said Barnard. “It takes everybody to make the Santa Monica –Malibu music program what it is. And it is worth it.”


All concerts begin at 7 p.m. in the Santa Monica High School’s Barnum Hall auditorium.

The Orchestra concert will be on Wednesday, Mar. 15.

The Choir concert will be on Friday, Mar. 17.

The Band concert will be on Tuesday, Mar. 21.

Tickets will be available online until noon on the day of each concert. Remaining tickets for each concert will be on sale at the Barnum Hall box office. Proceeds from the ticket sales go right back into the districts music programs.

General adult admission is $17 for each concert and youth/student is $12. Visit for tickets.