The Gatsby Gala Honors Stephen Grimm

St. Monica Academy’s Gatsby Gala Raises Funds for Classical Education and Honors Maestro Extraordinaire Stephen Grimm

Stephen Grimm St. Monica Academy Ostia Award

On Saturday, April 21, St. Monica Academy friends, parents, and benefactors attended the Gatsby Gala to raise funds to support the school’s classical, Catholic education. The event was held at the Pasadena Hilton and included silent and live auctions, dinner, dancing, and live music from the Halpin Family Band.

Due to the generosity of the SMA community, the event brought in more than $250,000. Proceeds benefit the school’s annual operations including scholarships and make it possible for St. Monica Academy to maintain its mission of providing an excellent classical education at an affordable rate of tuition.

The event honored Ostia Award recipient Stephen Grimm for his service as SMA’s choir director.
Treasurer of the Board Mr. Khushro Ghandhi presented the award with a beautiful tribute to Mr. Grimm’s musical genius and the centrality of choral music in SMA’s program.  In particular, Mr. Ghandhi praised Mr. Grimm for his understanding of the primary benefit of choral singing: spiritual formation.

After receiving the award, Mr. Grimm announced that he will be back again next year and then invited all of his current and past students to join him in the front of the ballroom for a performance of Ave Maria and Shut de Door.


Mr. Grimm has been serving SMA’s students since its inception in 2001.  Below is the Ostia Award tribute as it appeared in the Auction program.

The award takes its name from the Italian port town where St. Monica and her child St. Augustine shared a vision, a glimpse of heaven. Stephen is an especially appropriate winner of this award: he has often brought us to experience, from the mouths of our own children, heavenly beauty.

The fifth of Bill and Irene Grimm’s 17 children, Stephen grew up immersed in classical music. At the age of 5, he started to compose his own tunes on the piano and when he was 8 he joined the St. Philip’s boys’ choir and began formal piano study. By high school, he was performing all over Southern California as the accompanist and sole baritone for the Grimm Family Singers. By the time he reached college, Stephen had internalized a large repertoire of music, was composing his own and was an accomplished pianist and accompanist.

Throughout his busy career as a professional vocalist, director and accompanist, Stephen made time to teach voice, piano and choir to countless students, mostly children, often pro bono. Few professionals have the patience to work with children, but Stephen Grimm has made it his life’s work. At one point, he was conducting five choirs driving hundreds of miles a week—Saints Felicitas and Perpetua Church, Thomas Aquinas College, Mayfield Senior School, St. Francis High School and Christ the King Homeschool—mostly youth choirs, all successful choirs—either in festivals, recordings or grateful parishioners.

In 2018, Stephen is still conducting—a grateful group of adults in Pasadena Pro Musica but also the St. Monica Academy Choir. That’s 107 teens! His choirs, even of children, are always notable for the beauty of their tone quality, even when, as at SMA, he teaches all students, without auditions. His philosophy is that “anyone can be taught to sing.” We believe him because we have seen him turn “tone deaf” kids into star performers! It can be done, but it takes heroic patience. There may be the occasional bursts of exasperation, but Stephen’s students are never fooled by his gruffness: when he is upset, they know it was because he cares about them and about the music, and that he expects excellence from them.

Stephen has been blessed in his life and career with the support of Laura, his beautiful wife of 40 years, who is also a talented musician. He is also the proud father of three children, Gabriel, Elizabeth and Gregory, and the even prouder “Papa” to 15 grandchildren!

Part of the mission, the vision, of St. Monica Academy is to put students in possession of their cultural legacy. Thanks to Stephen Grimm, our students have an appreciation and love of their musical heritage, especially of the Church’s choral traditions. Our graduates have taken that love with them all over the world. Thank you, Mr. Grimm, for sharing so much heavenly beauty with us!


St. Monica Academy, an independent, Catholic, coeducational school for grades 1-12, is at the forefront of a renaissance in classical education, a time-honored method of teaching that inspires students to excel academically and morally. Founded by parents in 2001, the school provides 250 students in grades 1-12 with an academically rigorous education using a classical curriculum.


Stephen Grimm St. Monica Academy Ostia Award Stephen Grimm St. Monica Academy Ostia Award Stephen Grimm St. Monica Academy Ostia Award