The following is an announcement from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District:

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) will present Stairway of the Stars for the 73rd year, a musical extravaganza highlighting the outstanding music education programs, and showcasing the talents of students from every school in the district. Nearly 900 elementary, middle, and high school students will “star” in the “Stairway to the Stars” outdoor concert in the Santa Monica High School Greek Theatre on Saturday, March 16, 2024 at 4 p.m. Purchase tickets:

The district returned to the tradition of bringing choir, band, jazz band and orchestra students together in one big beautiful concert in 2022, so nearly 900 students can hear the music of their peers and share the gift of music with their friends and the communities of Santa Monica and Malibu. This year, the guest conductors will be our own talented teachers, although we will have high school conductors conducting middle school and middle school conducting elementary, so students can become acquainted with their future teachers and conductors.

The 2024 Stairway Honor Award will be presented to Julianna Di Giacomo. Di Giacomo attended Lincoln Middle School and her choral director was Janet Schwabe and at Samohi, her choral director was Linda Anderson. Julianna performed at many Stairway concerts as a student and she graduated Samohi in 1992. She is thankful for the wonderful music education she received while attending schools in the SMMUSD.

Julianna Di Giacomo

Di Giacomo is an American operatic soprano who has had an active international singing career. Raised in Santa Monica, Di Giacomo was first introduced to opera by her tennis coach when she was a teenager. She fell in love with the art form and, after graduating from Santa Monica High School, she pursued studies in vocal performance at the University of California, Los Angeles.

After graduating from UCLA, she entered the Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera (SFO). She made her professional opera debut in 1999 with the Western Opera Theater, the SFO’s touring company, as Donna Anna in a national tour of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

Di Giacomo joined the Young Artist Program at the Santa Fe Opera in 2004. Her first career break came in 2006 when she replaced an indisposed colleague as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the New York City Opera under the baton of Julius Rudel.

She is renowned particularly for her portrayal of Verdi heroines, and these roles have taken her around the world to opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, San Francisco Opera, Teatro Real de Madrid, Gran Teatro del Liceu, Bayerische Staatsoper, Los Angeles Opera, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Teatro Massimo Palermo, La Fenice di Venezia, Teatro Petruzelli di Bari, Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Teatro Maestanza de Seville, and Opera de Oviedo.

On the concert stage, she has appeared with several notable orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the New York Philharmonic. She has most notably had long working relationships with conductors Gustavo Dudamel and Zubin Mehta.

From a review of her performance as Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera: “But the icing on top of the cherry was our heroine sung by American soprano Julianna Di Giacomo. Rarely does any audience get the chance to witness greatness on stage. Those of us there that night can count ourselves among those few. Ms. Di Giacomo’s performance was a tour de force of the human condition. Perfectly acted with the right balance of young love and restrained maturity, she had the audience in the palm of her hand the entire evening. With flawless coloratura and beautifully sustained lyric lines, it was sheer vocal fireworks!”

Her work with the extraordinary Gustavo Dudamel is available on DVD: Verdi’s Messa di Requiem with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, recorded live at the Hollywood Bowl.

Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, recorded live in Caracas. SMMUSD is so happy to present the 2024 Stairway Honor Award Recipient to Julianna Di Giacomo!
Purchase tickets online at

All tickets are non-refundable, general admission. Parking available in the Civic Center parking structure on 4th Street at Civic Center Drive with exit validation tickets offered at the box office.

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