Santa Monica resident Paul Haggis, who won two Academy Awards three weeks ago for producing and writing the film Crash, appeared on behalf of For The Arts at the annual Stairway of the Stars concert Friday, March 17th.

Stairway of the Stars showcases the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s elementary, middle, and high school choirs, bands, and orchestras.

Haggis is a founding member of the For The Arts steering committee.

For The Arts is a fundraising campaign by the school district’s Education Foundation.

The foundation hopes the community-wide effort will raise $15 million to ensure that school district students receive a broad introduction to art disciplines such as music, visual arts, dance, and drama.

“I believe in the power of music and arts education for all students,” Haggis said. “I am committed to the work that For The Arts does to ensure that this vital aspect of a child’s education remains a part of our community’s public schools forever.”

Singer Jackson Browne and The Doors drummer John Densmore have made previous guest appearances at Stairway.

This year’s guest conductor was composer and lecturer Eric Whitacre, who writes repertories for choirs and symphonies.

He composed his first concert work — Go, Lovely, Rose — at age 21 even though he began formal training in a college choir.

Whitacre earned a master of music degree from the famed Juilliard School in New York and studied with composer John Corigliano, who won a Pulitzer Prize and an Academy Award.

There was also a posthumous tribute to Neil Schmidt, superintendent of the school district from 1992 to 2001.

Schmidt, who passed away in December 2004, had supported music education during his tenure as superintendent.

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