founding 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.



executive director

Julia Rubio has served in senior-level positions for several of Philadelphia’s leading classical music and nonprofit 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.



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.



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.



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 from the Yale School of Music.


program & community partnerships manager

A longtime volunteer for Astral, Stefanie Wakeman now serves in the role of Astral’s Program & Community Partnerships Manager. She brings expertise in the areas of training and education, project management, community engagement, and program evaluation. Prior to coming to Astral, she developed innovative pilot programs that 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 provided training and facilitation services 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.



development & marketing associate

Nicholas Masters brings to Astral a decade of experience as a professional singer, having worked across the United States and in Europe. Personal highlights include performances in three consecutive seasons with English National Opera, being named a National Grand Finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, stepping in for an ailing colleague, mid performance, in Verdi’s Don Carlos with Houston Grand Opera, and singing in performances of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the banks of Lake Como, Italy. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from McGill University, a Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music, and an Artist Diploma from the Academy of Vocal Arts.