Astral Artists Appoints New Artistic Advisory Team: Michelle Cann, Mikael Eliasen, Mary Javian

Astral Artists is pleased to announce the appointment of three esteemed classical music industry professionals who make up an array of new Artistic Leadership:  Michelle Cann, concert pianist, pedagogue and Sphinx Medal of Excellence recipient, Mikael Eliasen, musical collaborator, coach and artistic advisor to Opera Philadelphia, and Mary Javian, performer, educator and international public speaker.   

Working directly with Astral’s roster of Artists, the Artistic Advisory Team will provide artistic guidance and support for individual Artist projects, curation and programming, counsel, and feedback regarding collaborations, partnerships, fundraising, public speaking engagements, creating and building digital assets, as well as promotion and distribution, commissioning composers for new works, and all other musical endeavors.

“I am thrilled to bring them together to make up the Astral Artistic Team for a wide range of reasons, including most importantly their expertise, leadership, connections in the industry, and personal warmth. As individuals, I know their perspectives will complement the existing Astral team. Collectively, their expertise will propel us forward in accomplishing our new strategic plan and all that we envision for Astral in the coming years,” said Astral President & CEO, Lourdes Starr-Demers. All based in Philadelphia, the Artistic Advisory Team will have various opportunities to collaborate individually and collectively with Artists who are located around the U.S.

“It is such a pleasure to have a chance to work with Astral Artists in this way. I’m delighted at what the three of us can help provide to these young professionals, as they continue to make careers for themselves in classical music,” said Mary Javian. “This will be an opportunity to utilize the collective expertise that we all bring to the table, in addition to our own areas and careers to support their aspirations as artists,” said Mikael Eliasen. “What an exciting time to be in the arts, which are more important than ever before. Through our work with Astral, it will be tremendous to work closely with these Artists as they continue to advance and design innovative ways to inspire audiences,” said Michelle Cann.

Spanning the next three to five years, Astral’s new strategic direction document was adopted by the Astral Board of Directors to take effect with the start of this new season. Providing momentum and guidance, the strategic direction provides focus that will enhance Astral’s ability to carry out its mission to empower outstanding emerging musicians to shape purposeful and sustainable careers that inspire, connect, and excite diverse audiences. Astral believes that its Artists are leading performers, innovators, and voices in their artforms, expanding and enriching the reach, definition, and significance of classical music.

“After many months of thoughtful exploration, examination and discussion, I am pleased that this strategy work charts a sustainable path forward, building upon Astral’s personalized artist development program which has served arts and culture by mentoring emerging musicians to lead impactful careers for the past 30 years; the new strategic plan should increase Astral’s reach while championing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in all we do,” said Strategic Planning Committee Chair and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors, Chris Rinaldi.

Opening the season with its annual free event for adults and children alike, the Astral Garden Party represents a collaboration with WRTI 90.1 and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Pop Up Garden who is hosting the event at their South Street location on Sunday afternoon, October 2, 2022, from 12 noon to 2 pm. Hosted by WRTI’s Classical Program Director, Zev Kane, the event will offer drink specials provided by brewery Allagash Brewing Company.

Introducing its newest competition winners on the roster, Astral’s Fall Showcase performance takes place on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 at 7pm and will include Sage DeAgro-Ruopp, soprano, Kayla Harriott, soprano, Iwo Jedynecki, classical accordion, and Andy Sledge, bassoon with Astral pianist and collaborator, Byeol Kim. Astral Laureate Eunice Kim, violin, will join as a special guest.

The Astral In Concert series returns with four recitals that highlight Astral Artists in solo performances, with programs that are specially curated and designed by each of them. This year’s series will feature Christopher Goodpasture, piano, Antonina Styczeń, flute, Hannah Tarley, violin and Eric Huckins, horn. The Astral In Concert season will feature world premieres of newly commissioned works by composers George Lewis, Alex Temple, Marc Migó, and Jeff Scott.

Astral is partnering with the Esperanza Arts Center to co-produce a performance of Latinx-inspired music, which includes the world premiere of a newly commissioned work by composer Sergio Delgado, on Saturday, November 17, 2022 at 7:30 pm.

The performance season will culminate with a final spring showcase celebration in the Music Hall at World Café Live, on Wednesday, April 19, 2023 at 6 pm. This special program will include a fun-filled experience that includes performances, cocktails, and dinner, while guests will be free to roam the space to partake in all of the offerings. Performances by Astral Artists Ronaldo Rolim, piano, Zhenni Li-Cohen, piano, Beomjae Kim, flute, Brittany Lasch, trombone, Rachel Lee O’Brien, harp and Natalia Kazaryan, piano.

Astral’s National Competition will take place in May 2023. More information regarding dates, panelists, repertoire requirements, and specific instruments will be available this fall.

Astral dedicates its entire 2022/23 season in loving memory of longtime friend, standing board member, and loyal supporter, James B. Straw.

Tickets and detailed performance information can be found online at

About Astral Artists: Astral is a nonprofit intensive mentoring program where the next generation of socially engaged, gifted artists are provided the resources to cultivate the skills, projects, and relationships needed to lead and innovate in the classical music field. The Astral approach centers on community and audience engagement, social entrepreneurship, and project incubation as the core of artist development, which enables Astral Artists to be change-makers and influencers. For more information, visit 

About Michelle Cann: “A compelling, sparkling virtuoso” (Boston Music Intelligencer), pianist Michelle Cann made her orchestral debut at age fourteen and has since performed as a soloist with numerous orchestras including The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. A champion of the music of Florence Price, Ms. Cann performed the New York City premiere of the composer’s Piano Concerto in One Movement with The Dream Unfinished Orchestra in July 2016 and the Philadelphia premiere with The Philadelphia Orchestra in February 2021, which the Philadelphia Inquirer called “exquisite.” Highlights of her 2021–22 season include debut performances with the Atlanta, Detroit, and St. Louis symphony orchestras, as well as her Canadian concert debut with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. She also received the 2022 Sphinx Medal of Excellence, the highest honor bestowed by the Sphinx Organization, and the 2022 Andrew Wolf Chamber Music Award. Embracing a dual role as both performer and pedagogue, her season includes teaching residencies at the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival and the National Conference of the Music Teachers National Association. Ms. Cann regularly appears in solo and chamber recitals throughout the U.S., China, and South Korea. Notable venues include the National Centre for the Performing Arts (Beijing), the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles), and the Barbican (London). She has also appeared as cohost and collaborative pianist with NPR’s From The Top. An award winner at top international competitions, in 2019 she served as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s MAC Music Innovator in recognition of her role as an African-American classical musician who embodies artistry, innovation, and a commitment to education and community engagement. Ms. Cann studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Curtis Institute of Music, where she holds the inaugural Eleanor Sokoloff Chair in Piano Studies.

About Mikael Eliasen: Danish-born coach and accompanist Mikael Eliasen received his early training in Copenhagen, Montreal, and Vienna. As a renowned pianist and vocal coach Eilasen has traveled the world over, educating musicians with his passionate vision for creativity and excellence, a charismatic spirit, and remarkable ears.  Mr. Eliasen joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in 1986 and became the head of the Curtis Vocal Department in 1988. He retired as Artistic Director of the Curtis Opera Theatre in 2019 where he led the Mikael Eliasen Voice Program as part of Curtis Summerfest for 30 + years. Eliasen has collaborated with numerous singers in recital internationally, including Robert Merrill, Tom Krause, John Shirley-Quirk, Elly Ameling, Edith Mathis, Florence Quivar, Mira Zakai, Sarah Walker, Joan Patenaude-Yarnell, and Curtis alumni Theodor Uppman, Michael Schade, Rinat Shaham, Juan Diego Florez, Meredith Arwady, Eric Owens, and Matthew Rose. As a performer he has also shared the stage with the world´s top tier soloists, including Pamela Frank, Branford Marsalis, Roberto Diaz, Lynn Harrell, and Leonard Hindell. Eliasen’s ability to hear music from many perspectives, while understanding the pressures of a career, as well as the nuance of singing ¨technique¨ make him one of the most valuable set of ears listening to opera today. As a result, Eliasen is a regular at giving packed master classes to key festivals including Aix-en-Provence, the Shanghai Conservatory, Tchaikovsky Conservatory (Moscow), Jerusalem Music Center, National Opera of Prague, Escuela de Musica Reina Sofia in Madrid, and the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin, Germany. Moreover, Mikael´s reach extends to a long association with the young-artist programs at the Royal Danish Opera and the Opera Studio of Amsterdam. While home in the United States, he works regularly at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, LA Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera; and is Artistic Advisor to Opera Philadelphia. Eliasen´s discography includes albums with Albany Records, CBC, Hilversum Radio, Polish State Radio, Kol Israel, Irish Radio and Television, London Records, MHS, and Supraphon. Mr. Eliasen led the San Francisco Opera Center as Music Director from 1994 to 1996 and brought his leadership abroad, once again, as Artistic Director of the European Center for Opera and Vocal Art in Belgium from 1984 to 1994. For thirty summers Eliasen has curated concerts and served as Head Coach for the Chautauqua Institution as both a performer and teacher. Eliasen´s dedication to the human voice has brought him to studios and schools across the world, forever changing the landscape of classical music and the career paths of countless musicians along the way. He is a champion of new music and composers and lives in Philadelphia with his husband and cat.

About Mary Javian: Mary Javian’s goal as a performer, educator, curator and public speaker is to use music to create positive social change in communities. She has presented around the world in these areas for two decades. Ms. Javian has toured and performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and other world-class ensembles as a double bassist. She has served as principal bass of the IRIS Orchestra and has recorded with the Philadelphia and IRIS orchestras, the Tanglewood Music Center, Network for New Music, Dolce Suono Ensemble, and the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music. She has performed recitals and given master classes in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Ms. Javian has received fellowships from the Tanglewood Music Center, the National Repertory Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Verbier Festival, where she is now a member of the faculty. As chair of career studies at Curtis, Ms. Javian has created a dynamic social entrepreneurship curriculum that develops the entrepreneurial and advocacy skills that 21st-century musicians need. Her project-based classes help students create community partnerships that sustain both artistic and social value. Her students have gone on to start their own educational programs, innovative ensembles, and music festivals around the world. For a decade, Ms. Javian curated a critically acclaimed concert series for LiveConnections at World Cafe Live, featuring boundary-crossing collaborations and emphasizing newly commissioned music blending styles and cultures. She has also curated performances for Intercultural Journeys, an organization that promotes peace and cultural dialogue through music; and works with Curtis students to create concerts for families and new audiences through innovative partnerships with arts organizations across Philadelphia. Ms. Javian is frequently asked to speak about social entrepreneurship and community-based work, and has contributed to several books on these subjects. She has presented at numerous universities and conservatories; has consulted with organizations such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New World Symphony, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the Savannah Music Festival; and has led workshops for programs across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Ms. Javian currently serves on the boards of two music education nonprofits, Project 440 and the VOCES8 Foundation in the U.S. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, Ms. Javian studied double bass with Harold Robinson. She joined the Curtis faculty in 2011 and assumed her current position in 2016.

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