founder & president
Vera Wilson was born in Buenos Aires, where she began working with music and musicians at a very early age. Over the course of her career, she has held various positions at some of classical music’s most prestigious institutions, including the Curtis Institute of Music, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh and Boston symphony orchestras, and many others.
Beginning in 1983, Vera served as Executive Director of the Astral Foundation, which provided individual grants for exceptionally gifted young musicians, and later became a Trustee of its Board of Directors. It was during this period that she recognized emerging musicians’ need for direction as they prepared to launch their careers, and Astral opened its doors in 1992.
Julia Rubio has served in senior-level positions for several of Philadelphia’s leading classical music and non-profit organizations, including Executive Director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, Executive Director of the Hatboro-Horsham Educational Foundation, Director of Development of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, and Director of Development of Astral. She has also worked for the Cincinnati Symphony, the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, and the SoundFest Chamber Music Institute in Massachusetts. Julia holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Miami University and a master’s degree in Arts Administration from Columbia College.
KRISTEN L. GOLIA
director of institutional advancement
Kristen Golia began her career in arts management at Intercultural Journeys (IJ) in Philadelphia, where she managed fundraising programs and events, oversaw marketing, and worked closely with its Board of Directors. One of the highlights in her work with IJ included organizing a “Concerts for Life and Peace” tour of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Prior to her work in the arts, she was an elementary school teacher in South Park, Pennsylvania.
BONNIE R. SLOBODIEN
director of education & community engagement
Bonnie Slobodien’s 30+ years of experience in Music Education provided vital preparation for her role at Astral. A graduate of the Philadelphia High School for Girls, she also has a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the Hartt School. A flute player, she also studied in the Master d’Etudes program in Nice, France, with Jean-Pierre Rampal and Alain Marion.
director of concerts & artist services
Leslie Johnson joined Astral’s staff as Administrative Assistant & Concert Manager in 2001, and she now serves as Director of Concerts & Artist Services. A professional singer, she has been soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Beijing National Symphony, and performed roles with the Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Portland Opera, and others. She maintains an active solo, chamber music, and choral performance schedule in the greater Philadelphia region, and holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Westminster College (PA), a Master of Music degree from the Hartt School, and an Artist Diploma the Yale School of Music.
Composer Dan Visconti is updating the role of the classical musician for the 21st century. For his work, he was awarded a 2014 TED Fellowship and delivered a TED Talk for the conference’s 30th anniversary. Commissions have come from the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, Opera Philadelphia, JACK Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, and many others, and his music has been performed in Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Walt Disney Concert Hall, London’s Barbican Theatre, and Sydney Opera House. He has held residencies at the Metropolitan Opera and the California and Arkansas symphonies, and his work has won the Rome Prize, Berlin Prize, and awards from the Koussevitzky Foundation at the Library of Congress, the Fromm Foundation at Harvard, the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Dan is a contributing writer for The Huffington Post and has had speaking engagements at the Clinton School of Public Service, the National Archives, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is the Director of Artistic Programming at Chicago’s Fifth House Ensemble, and works with young musicians at the Ensemble’s fresh inc festival. To learn more, visit danvisconti.com.
box office & communications manager
Before joining Astral’s staff, Devon Turner was the Box Office Manager at Allen’s Lane Art Center, House Manager of People’s Light and Theatre Company, and Box Office Representative at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, where she completed several internships and was instrumental in the management of alternative rock band WILCO’s Solid Sound Festival. Devon graduated with honors from Susquehanna University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History. She also studied in Rome through Temple University, and continues to expand her knowledge of Art History by volunteering at the Barnes Foundation.
Prior to working with Astral, Sarah Totora held development and administrative positions with the Cultural Data Project, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre. She is also active in the local theatre scene as a freelance dramaturg, and as a House Manager at Philadelphia Theatre Company. Sarah earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and her Master of Arts degree in theatre from Villanova University.