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What It Takes To Get On ASTRAL's Exclusive Classical Music Roster

Harpist Emily Levin performing at ASTRAL's 2016 National Winners Concert

Skillful young athletes might get their career bearings on a pro team, but what’s the equivalent for promising artists in the classical music world? One organization has mentored some of the best in the field, including guitarist Jason Vieaux, pianist Simone Dinnerstein, flutist Mimi Stillman, soprano Angela Meade, and the string trio Time For Three.

ASTRAL looks for much more than talent.

These musicians are all alumni of ASTRAL, an exclusive career development program based in Philadelphia. Competition for a spot on the Astral roster is stiff, attracting extraordinary classical artists already on the cusp of success.

Astral helps them shape, navigate, and expand today’s classical landscape and their own careers. And getting on the roster takes much more than talent.

Astral started its work over 25 years ago for a small group of emerging classical musicians, and has kept small by design. Its application process attracts artists from around the nation and the world who typically participate in the program two to four years.

Four musicians have been selected for addition to Astral’s current roster. The 2018 artists will debut at the National Winners Concert in the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center on Tuesday, October 9th at 7 PM.

WRTI's Meridee Duddleston spoke to Artistic Director Dan Visconti in the fall of 2017.

[Music: Rolston String Quartet performing at the 2016 Astral Artists Winners Concert.  Beethoven String Quartet No. 8., Op.59, No. 2, "Razumovksy"; Finale, Presto]

Dan Visconti is Astral's artistic director.

Meridee Duddleston: Making a mark in today’s world of classical music requires more than performing like a dream and accepting glorious bouquets. Enter: career development incubator ASTRAL, a local nonprofit attracting emerging musicians. Through videos, recordings, auditions, and interviews, Astral looks for more than talent. Composer Dan Visconti is artistic director.  

Dan Visconti: Right off the bat we have a sense of how people are speaking. So I think it’s very important to us that we’re not just doing that at some later stage, but at every stage.    

MD: Applicants might be asked to describe themselves as musicians. The answers are revealing.

DV: It’s impossible to describe yourself as a musician in such a short amount of time. So that really is helpful for us because it gives us a sense of what that applicant thinks is important about themselves.

MD: In 2017, just six musicians were added to a roster after national auditions held in Philadelphia – bringing the total to just 27. Astral looks for a vision that’s welcoming.

DV: Because it’s not all about them and their ideas. It’s easy for us as artists to get caught up in the art that we’re making, right? But I find that we make our best art when we’re looking at the needs of an audience or local venue.  

MD: And, according to Visconti, those needs mean showing a human side on social media, in the community and on the stage; and at the same time learning business, legal and fundraising basics.  

DV: The point of all of these things is to be able to affect the world and to able to give back, and that music exists because people want it and that it matters to us to figure out what they want and need.  

MD: Because it’s better when real talent hits it out of the park.