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Tickets for SMMUSD Stairway of the Stars Concert Go on Sale Friday

On March 22nd and 23rd at 7:30 pm, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will present the 58th 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. One of the highlights of this year’s performance will be the addition of an Elementary Honor Choir, which developed as a result of the district’s expansion of the music program this year.

Each year the band, orchestra or choir is featured at the Stairway of the Stars concert. This year, the guest conductor will be Mr. Lawrence Stoffel. Lawrence Stoffel returned to his native California when he assumed the position of Director of Bands at California State University, Northridge in 2004.

There he serves as conductor of both the internationally recognized Wind Ensemble and the Wind Symphony. As an associate professor of music, he also teaches courses in music education and conducting, as well as being the coordinator of wind studies.

Having most recently taught in the Midwest, Dr. Stoffel served as Director of Huskie Bands at Northern Illinois University (where he was honored in 2004 with the Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award) and Director of Bands at Eastern Illinois University. Earlier teaching assignments also included Director of Bands at the University of California–San Diego, and at the high school level in Pasadena and Buena Park.

Dr. Stoffel holds the degrees of Doctor of Music from Indiana University, the Master of Music from the University of Colorado, and both the Bachelor of Arts in Music and the Master of Education degrees from the University of California–Los Angeles.

With a breadth of scholarly and artistic interests, Dr. Stoffel has been published and lectured on topics wide-ranging—from musical interpretation to copyright law, from the composer Leo Janáãek to the use of religious music in the public schools, from band transcriptions to band discography; his emerging interests include Classical Era band compositions, mariachi music, and banda music from Sinaloa.

His publications are found in both books (Teaching Music Through Performance in Band and Alta Musica) and journals (Czech Music Bulletin and the College Band Directors National Association Report).

Dr. Stoffel frequently presents at California Music Educators Association All-State Conferences, Illinois Music Educators Association All-State Conferences, Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association Conferences, as well as having presented at international musicology conferences in Germany and Austria. Twice he has presented at the Midwest Clinic, an international band and orchestra conference held each December in Chicago.

As a clinician, Lawrence Stoffel has guest-conducted middle school, high school, all-state, college, and community bands and orchestras throughout California, the midwest, Canada, and Australia. His professional affiliations include the College Band Directors National Association, the Music Educators National Conference, the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, and the Internationale Gesellschaft zur Erforschung und Förderung der Blasmusik.

This year's honor award recipient is Mr. Zen Gesner. He was drum major of the SAMOHI marching band for two years, 1987 & 1988, as well as being in the Symphony Orchestra-under the guidance of Gary Horimoto and Doug Hargis. He also served as the drum major during the same time that Larry Stoffel completed his work as a student teacher at Samohi. In Zen’s own words, “those were very exciting years.”

While attending Santa Monica High School, he became an aspiring actor after landing a small part in the school's production of Hamlet, and went on to play supportive roles in the school's rendition of "Nicholas Nickleby" and "The Sound of Music".

Zen’s oldest son, Finn (9 yrs old), has started playing trumpet at Webster Elementary under the caring and watchful eye of Allen Loyd, who was his music teacher at Malibu Park Junior High in 1984. His 2 younger sons, Rory (6) and Tuck (3), have been showing interest, and have started taking piano lessons.

Zen has been working as a producer in the TV and Film business for the last 5 years and has just wrapped production on a romantic comedy feature film that will be coming out this Fall entitled BAGBOY starring Dennis Farina, Brooke Shields, Richard Kind, Larry Miller, Marika Dominczyk, and Paul Campbell.

He is most recognized for his roles as "Sinbad" in the syndicated television series The Adventures of Sinbad, and as a regular cast member on the ABC daytime drama All My Children. He also guest-starred on an episode of the popular sitcom Friends in which he played Rachel Green's boyfriend.

A graduate of the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), Gesner has appeared in several movies since his cinematic debut as an FBI agent in the 1994 comedy Dumb & Dumber, including Me, Myself & Irene, Shallow Hal and There's Something About Mary. In 2005, he was featured in the romantic comedy Fever Pitch starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon.

Zen’s mother, Nan Martin, and his father, Harry Gesner, were both Santa Monica Unified School District graduates, and his mother was the very first female Student Body President of SAMOHI back in the early 40's. She received her Stairway award in the late 60's, for accomplishments on stage and on screen. Zen’s father received his Stairway award in the late 70's for his accomplishments in the field of architecture.

Coincidentally, they both played violin in the school orchestras at Lincoln, and then at SAMOHI. Not having seen each other since high school, his father happened to attend his mother's Stairway award ceremony, and they were reunited after many years, fell in love, and got married. Zen was born a year later and he feels he owes his existence to Stairway!

The ensembles that will perform this year’s “Stairway of the Stars” concert are, the All-District Honor Orchestra and Choir (Elementary), High School Jazz Ensemble, Middle and High School orchestras, choirs and this year the middle and high School bands will be spotlighted and featured. Some of the musical selections this year will be: “Simple Gifts”, “Rodeo” and “Haitian Fight Song”.

Ticket cost is $10.00 and sales to the general public begin on Friday, March 16th, 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.

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