PHILADELPHIA, PA – Astral Artists, a nonprofit intensive mentoring program that specializes in developing the early careers of classical musicians, is pleased to announce the winners of its 2022 National Competition. Selected from an initial pool of candidates from across the United States, and following a competitive audition and interview process, four exceptionally gifted rising-star artists have been invited to join Astral’s program with the start of the 2022/23 season. They are:

Sage DeAgro-Ruopp, soprano
Kayla Harriott, soprano
Iwo Jedynecki, classical accordion
Andy Sledge, bassoon

“We’re thrilled to be returning to live auditions after this unprecedented time of pandemic restrictions,” says Artistic Director Dan Visconti.” Our four 2022 National Competition Winners brought their ingenuity to the fore by creating curated programs showcasing their performance acumen, public speaking, and personal vision – and through a rigorous process they’ve truly distinguished themselves as artists creating at the forefront of today’s fresh musical thinking.”

“We are grateful to the many performers and conductors who made up our competition panel this year. Astral’s 30-year history provides deep connections to some of the most active, innovative, and impactful musicians who understand the ever-changing arts and culture industry.  We are thrilled to welcome these new Artists to our roster, and provide them with opportunities to expand their artistry, connect with audiences and craft purposeful and sustainable careers,” says President & CEO, Lourdes Starr-Demers.

Philadelphia audiences will be able to hear Astral’s newest artists at the 2022 Astral Showcase Concert, which is planned to take place in mid-October 2022. Further details and ticket information will be forthcoming later this summer.


This year, Astral auditioned voice, small chamber ensembles, woodwinds, brass, and percussion candidates for placement in its esteemed program of approximately 25 musicians. Applicants undergo a competitive three-round process. Following the application round, live auditions candidates were invited to Philadelphia, where an independent panel of industry-leading musicians, managers, conductors, and presenters from across the U.S. adjudicate each discipline. The panels then recommend candidates for the final, interview round of the National Competition.

Once awarded a place in Astral’s career development program, National Competition Winners receive customized career development mentorship, a robust portfolio of promotion assets, innovative performance opportunities, community engagement opportunities, artistic exploration, and networking with top professionals in the field.


Sage DeAgro-Ruopp, soprano

Sage DeAgro-Ruopp, a native of northern Michigan, began her studies with Duane Mahy at the Oberlin Conservatory. Throughout her studies she has sung under the baton of conductors Timothy Weiss, Ari Pelto, and Yannick Nezet-Seguin. DeAgro-Ruopp has performed in concert as well as masterclasses with renowned musicians such as Mikael Eliasen, Barbara Hannigan, Marilyn Horne, and Corrado Rovaris. She holds a performance diploma from the Oberlin Conservatory, as well as a BM and MM from the Curtis Institute of Music under the tutelage of Mark Schnaible. Her most recent roles include Johanna from Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, and Rosina from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Outside of conventional operatic practices, DeAgro-Ruopp enjoys collaboration and involvement with contemporary composers and musicians as well as composing for dance. 

Kayla Harriott, soprano

Soprano Kayla Harriott is a native of Queens, NY and is currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia. She was awarded 1st Place at the Georgia State Metropolitan Atlanta Music Competition and 1st Place Winner in the Rome Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Concerto Competition. Recent roles include Violetta in La Traviata at the Bayview Festival; Amahl in Amahl and the Night Visitors, and Clara in Werther with Georgia State University’s Opera Theater; Margaret in The Telephone, The Fairy Godmother in The True Story of Cinderella, and Rapunzel in Into The Woods with the Shorter University Opera Theater;  Mable in the Pirates of Penzance and Rosina in The Barber of Seville with the Atlanta Opera Studio Tour. Always seeking self-growth, she participated in the artist development program FLIP Young Artist Program with Georgia State University, and in The American Spiritual Intensive Young Artist Program in Bayview, Michigan. She was accepted into the prestigious LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts and received her Bachelor of Music degree from Shorter University.

Iwo Jedynecki, classical accordion

Classical accordionist Iwo Jedynecki is the winner of top prizes at over thirty international music competitions, and has performed in his home country of Poland, the United States, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Germany, Austria, Spain, Croatia, Switzerland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Hungary, and Italy. He regularly collaborates and performs with three different award-winning duos: pianist Aleksander Krzyżanowski, accordionist Hubert Giziewski, and in Duo Karolina Mikołajczyk & Iwo Jedynecki, where a video of one of his violin-accordion transcriptions gained more than a million combined views on Facebook and YouTube. In 2019 he worked with world-renowned composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki, receiving official approval to perform his violin-accordion arrangement of the Sonata no. 1 for Violin and Piano. He received his doctoral degree in 2022 from The Feliks Nowowiejski Academy of Music Bydgoszcz in Poland with a dissertation about 19th Century music for piano and harmonium.  Upon receiving a Fulbright Scholarship, this fall he begins his studies as the first ever classical accordion Artist Diploma student of New York University.   

Andy Sledge, bassoon

Andy Sledge (they/them) is Assistant Professor of Bassoon and Music Theory at the West Virginia University School of Music, where they bring a passion for communication and nuance to their work as a performer, teacher, and collaborator. They have commissioned and premiered works by composers of their generation, along with works for unaccompanied electric bassoon. Their recent recital programs have included explorations of identity, dissent, and memorial through music for bassoon. Andy has performed with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, West Virginia Symphony, Nashville Sinfonietta, and the Opera Theater of Connecticut. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Andy produced audio and video performances including Yale’s annual Bassoonarama and Norfolk Chamber Music Festival’s virtual 2020 season. Andy is a D.M.A. candidate at the Yale School of Music, and they hold a Master’s in Music from Yale and a Bachelor’s in Music from Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, where they received the Founder’s Medal for graduating with highest honors of their class.


Astral Artists is a nonprofit intensive mentoring program specializing in developing the early careers of extraordinary classical musicians. The Astral approach is forward-thinking, concentrating resources on a small number of rising-star performers and chamber ensembles with the potential to be change-makers and influencers. Cohorts of artistic visionaries leave the program ready to build a future for classical music and serve various communities. For more information, visit

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