Lourdes Starr-Demers

Executive Director

Lourdes Starr-Demers, a trained musician with degrees in performance and composition, joins Astral with more than 23 years of experience in the classical music world and a strong track record of supporting highly talented young musicians.  For nine years, Starr-Demers, a woman of color, held senior positions with the Curtis Institute of Music, most recently as Senior Vice President of Artistic Operations, where her work included broadening access to performances through technology and collaborations, diversifying repertoire and guest artists to include more women and people of color, and co-chairing Curtis’ Council for Inclusive Excellence, an initiative she co-founded to explore and address systemic racism in Philadelphia, the Curtis community, and the classical music industry.  Starr-Demers was also the driving force behind the Curtis Summer programs, including the highly successful Young Artist Summer Program and Sphinx Performance Academy at Curtis. She also worked with the Philadelphia Orchestra Association as both the Director of Special Events and Director of Orchestra Personnel and Operations during her 11 years there.

In her volunteer work, Starr-Demers serves organizations in both the musical and education worlds; for the past 12 years, she has sat on the board of Network for New Music, has served board roles for Montessori Schools in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, N.J., and is a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee of the Greater South Jersey Chorus, of which she is an active member.  Additionally, she is a sought-after speaker nationally, having presented on the topic of addressing systemic racism in a conservatory setting and on career opportunities in classical music for students of color.

Photo credit: Sue B Photography

Dan Visconti

Artistic Director

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.

Stefanie Wakeman

Director of Community Partnerships

A licensed social worker, Stefanie Wakeman brings a lifelong love of the arts to her role as Astral’s Director of Community Partnerships. Stefanie has expertise in the areas of training and education, community engagement, and trauma-informed care. Prior to joining Astral, she developed innovative pilot programs with the Drexel University Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice and the Pennsylvania Montgomery County System of Care. Throughout her career, she has had the privilege to support survivors of violence, individuals experiencing serious physical and mental illness, and children and families involved with child welfare and juvenile justice systems. She has served as a training and facilitation consultant for multiple city, county, and state social service organizations, and has worked on federally funded grant projects through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). She holds a Master of Social Work degree from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, where her focus of study was Children and Youth, with a specialization in Non-Profit Management.

Elysa DiMauro

Manager of Artistic Production

Elysa DiMauro brings a combination of business knowledge, arts administration experience, and musical expertise to Astral. She is a classically trained Horn player with nearly a decade of experience owning and operating small businesses in Philadelphia. After completing her Bachelor of Music at Northwestern University and Master of Music at University of Wisconsin-Madison, she went on to serve as Assistant Director and Site Coordinator for the inaugural year of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra’s Tune Up Philly program, where she also spent two seasons as their Horn Teaching Artist and Operations Manager. Most recently she was co-owner and operator of Menagerie Coffee in Old City, Philadelphia, receiving accolades such as Best of PhillyTM and Zagat 30 Under 30. She is eager to use her unique range of experiences to further the mission of Astral Artists.

Nicholas Masters

Manager of Institutional Advancement

As Manager of Institutional Advancement at Astral, Nicholas Masters covers work in development, marketing and event ticketing. He has served as a peer panelist for the Philadelphia Cultural Fund and participated in workshops with the Arts + Business Council of Greater Philadelphia. Before joining Astral, Nicholas spent over a decade as a professional singer, working across the United States and in Europe with such companies as The Metropolitan Opera, English National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Opera Philadelphia. Nicholas holds degrees from McGill University, Yale University and the Academy of Vocal Arts.

Gina Bixler

Office Administrator

Gina Bixler has worked with numerous Philadelphia cultural organizations throughout her career. Before joining the Astral team, she served as a project consultant with the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of Orchestral Music. In this role she partnered with such prestigious organizations as the Mann Center for Performing Arts, Piffaro: The Renaissance Band, the Rosenbach Museum and Library, the National Museum of American Jewish History, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Barnes Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia to create exhibits demonstrating the interdisciplinarity of history and the arts. She is a certified secondary education teacher; however, she endeavors to take learning beyond the traditional classroom. This goal has set her on her current career path. After studying education, social studies, and music history as an undergraduate, she earned a Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies from La Salle University in order to assist cultural organizations share their missions beyond their traditional audiences and better connect with the general public.