Ad Astra Music Festival

Est. 2014 in Russell, Kansas

 Artists in residence

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DOMINIC ARAGON is a native of Wichita, Kansas. He currently resides in Boulder, Colorado while pursuing an artist diploma in Voice Performance from the University of Colorado Boulder, where he studies under Dr. John Seesholtz. Dominic has performed concert works by Handel, Mozart, Bruckner, Poulenc, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, and Claussen with various ensembles during his time in the Front Range and currently sings as a chorister with the Colorado Bach Ensemble and the Boulder Bach Festival. He has also enjoyed performing roles including Onegin (Eugene Onegin), Bernardo (West Side Story), Yamadori (Madama Butterfly), Fredrik (A Little Night Music), Falke (Die Fledermaus), Escamillo (The Tragedy of Carmen), and Nardo (La Finta Giardinera). Dominic completed his undergraduate studies at Baldwin Wallace University and his graduate studies at Colorado State University.

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American soprano AANI BOURASSA is a versatile actress of emotional depth, praised for her “brilliant, yet sparkling high notes” (Burlington Hawkeye). In addition to her artist in residency at Ad Astra, noteworthy engagements include Larina (Eugene Onegin) and Second Lady (Die Zauberflöte) with Bel Cantanti Opera; solo recitals featuring the works of Bach, Purcell, and Barbara Strozzi; Passion and Resurrection (Ešenvalds) as part of the Latvian Embassy’s celebration of Latvia’s centennial; a world premiere of The Night Psalms by composer Griffin Candey and Dona Nobis Pacem (Vaughan Williams) with the Marquette Choral Society, as well as other oratorio, choral, and concert work. In addition to performing, Aani works as a producer for Acis Productions, a classical recording label, and sings with the Songs by Heart Foundation, whose mission is to enhance the quality of life for those suffering with age-related memory issues through music therapy.

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Dr. CORIE BROWN joins the faculty at San José State University as Professor of Choral Music Education this fall. She brings diverse teaching experience in both public school and community settings and most recently worked for two years as a conductor and mentor with the El Sistema-based program Fundación Nacional Batuta of Colombia. This resulted in further study on how to better serve marginalized students in the choral classroom, as well as research on methods for collaboration in higher education. As a contralto, Corie has toured internationally throughout Europe, Argentina, and Colombia, and sang at the Oregon Bach Festival and the Ad Astra Music Festival, where she also directs the high school honor choir. Her arrangements are published with Hal Leonard in the Andrea Ramsey Choral Series, and she was a semi-finalist in the SWACDA conducting competition. Corie holds degrees from Alma College in Michigan, the University of Oregon, and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting and Literature from the University of Colorado Boulder.

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Soprano MADELINE APPLE HEALEY is known for her “gorgeous singing" (Washington Post) and “fetching combination of vocal radiance and dramatic awareness" (Cleveland Plain Dealer). This season’s engagements include Ellen Reid’s p r i s m at LA Opera, Michael Gordon’s Acquanetta, Handel’s Messiah with Trinity Baroque Orchestra, Carmina Burana with NOVUS NY, and appearances at Aldeburgh Festival/Snape Proms, Carnegie Hall, and the Ad Astra and PROTOTYPE Festivals. Specializing primarily in early and contemporary repertoire, Madeline is passionate about polyphony and loves working on music that challenges the construct of beautiful sound. Operatic credits include Olympia (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), La Musica/Ninfa (L'Orfeo), Hébé (Les Indes galantes), Papagena (Die Zauberflöte), Despina (Così fan tutte), and Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro). Madeline is a member of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, co- founder of vocal chamber ensemble AMPERSAND, and appears internationally as a soloist and ensemble singer. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, she now resides in Brooklyn, New York. 


SASHA HILDEBRAND is a native of Stafford, Kansas, and is currently working as the Assistant Professor of Theatre and Artistic Director for Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas. Sasha holds a BA in Theatre and Communications from Sterling College, a post-graduate degree in acting from The Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts in Liverpool England, and an MFA in Theatre from the University of Iowa. Sasha’s first love is performance, and she has worked academically and professionally across the country and in Great Britain, specializing in musical and classical theatre performance with such companies as Drury Lane in Chicago, the Chicago Academy for the Arts, the Texas Shakespeare Festival, the National Youth Theatre of Britain, and the Springer Opera House Theatre Academy of Georgia. Directing is equally important to Sasha, with some of her favorite past projects being Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew. Sasha’s other passion is costume design, with over 50 shows completed, including A Little Night Music, Macbeth, and The Boyfriend.

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KATELYN MATTSON-LEVY is a two-time award winner of the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Competition at the district level, a first place recipient in the National Opera Association Competition, and a finalist in both the International Contemporary Opera Competition and Liederkrantz Foundation Competition. On the concert stage, Katelyn has proven herself a recitalist of the highest caliber, described as “…performing with deeply emotional perspective” by the Bellingham Herald after her performance of Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été with the Bellingham Festival Symphony Orchestra. Katelyn has performed with opera companies, symphony orchestras, and music festivals around the country, including Des Moines Metro Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Illinois Symphony Orchestra, Musica Sacra of Cincinnati, Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Southern Illinois Music Festival, and the Bellingham Festival of Music. Katelyn is the voice of classical music in the morning with Radio Kansas. 

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TIMOTHY PARSONS, countertenor and conductor, performs in New York City, where he sings regularly with the Grammy-nominated Clarion Music Society and is a member of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street. His solo engagements include Helicon Baroque, New Vintage Baroque, and New York Baroque Incorporated. Devoted to new music, Timothy premiered 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning Angel’s Bone with the PROTOTYPE Festival and performs new works with vocal ensemble Ekmeles. Timothy has been hailed as a “most dazzling contributor...whose magnificently muscular singing...made one want to coin a new vocal category just for him—the heldencountertenor, ready to sing Wagnerian roles in his powerful falsetto.” (San Francisco Chronicle) International appearances include the Montreal Bach Festival, The Festival Musica Sacra Quito, and the Utrecht Early Music Festival. Timothy is on the voice faculty at William Paterson University and is the Music Director of the Park Slope Singers. This is Timothy’s fourth season with Ad Astra.

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ANNA PIDGORNA (b. 1985) is a Ukrainian-born, Canadian-raised composer and multi-media artist who combines sound, visual arts, writing, and carpentry to create works that are dramatic and picturesque. She works extensively with Ukrainian folk singing, incorporating elements of this style in instrumental music and performing as a pseudo-folk vocalist herself. With an enduring love for the outdoors, Anna draws a great deal of inspiration from the natural soundscape, often imitating birds and animals. Having studied visual art from an early age, she incorporates visual elements into some of her manuscripts. She has been commissioned by Wild Shore Festival, Irish Language Art Song Project, Ludovico Ensemble, Ensemble Paramirabo, 21C Festival, Soundstreams, Toronto’s New Music Concerts, Gryphon Trio, and Thin Edge New Music Collective. She is a recipient of two SOCAN Foundation Emerging Composers' Awards and represented Canada at the ISCM World New Music Days 2013 festival in Vienna. Anna is currently pursuing doctoral studies at Princeton University.


Completing his 2018–’19 season, which saw him singing with Tri Cities Opera as a resident artist, AARON STEPANEK is rising in prominence in the operatic world. While with Tri Cities, Aaron made his professional debut as Sharpless (Madama Butterfly). Subsequent roles were Charlie (Three Decembers) and Captain Corcoran (H.M.S. Pinafore). As a member of the Seagle Music Colony in 2017–18, Aaron became better known as an interpreter of new American works as he portrayed Nick Carraway (The Great Gatbsy) and debuted the role of Rosencrantz in Herschel Garfein’s reimagining of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Aaron is a 2016 graduate of Wichita State University, where he earned a Master of Music in opera performance. He is a native of Hillsboro, Kansas, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts at Tabor College.


GREGÓRIO TANIGUCHI, tenor, presents fresh, compelling performances by utilizing musical rhetoric to move audiences. He aims to show that historical works, thoughtfully interpreted, can be a dynamic and living part of our musical culture and can illuminate classic works for a modern audience. Gregório has empowered narratives with an intuitive sense for storytelling as the Evangelist in Bach's St. John Passion under the direction of John Butt, Æneas in Cavalli’s La Didone, and Adonis in Torrejón y Velasco's La púrpura de la rosa. He is also one of the nation’s finest choral artists, having appeared with Cantus, The Thirteen, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and the Oregon Bach Festival Chorus. Gregório is passionate about being a supportive part of the community of artists. Over the last decade, he has held choral scholar positions and been a studio singer, while also teaching private voice and coaching students in drama and music.


Soprano ALYSSA TOEPFER has been praised as a performer with “unbridled dexterity” (Kansas City Star) and a “marvelous, soaring tone” (KC Metropolis). Stage credits include Musetta (La bohéme) with Opera180, Zerlina (Don Giovanni) with Lawrence Opera Theatre, Adele (Die Fledermaus) with Opera South Dakota, Jemmy (Guillaume Tell) with Wichita Grand Opera, Pamina (Die Zauberflöte) with the South Dakota Symphony, Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi) with Opera South Dakota, and Gretel (Hänsel und Gretel) with Opera Omaha. Currently, Alyssa teaches voice at Ottawa University and Benedictine College, is the assistant choral director at Olathe North High School, and is a member of the Grammy award-winning Kansas City Chorale. Alyssa was a regional finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Born and raised in Sioux Falls, she completed a Bachelor of Arts in music at Augustana University and a Master of Music in voice at UMKC.

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ALAN WILLIAMS is a master’s student in voice performance at the University of Michigan where he studies with Daniel Washington. He placed first in the NANM semifinal round and will progress to the national round this July. Alan performed the role of Melisso in the university’s production of Handel’s Alcina and sang in a master class for Eric Owens in March 2019. Alan graduated with a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance from Northern Arizona University where he studied with Dr. Judith Cloud. Alan received many awards during his undergraduate studies, including placing as a finalist two consecutive years in the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He performed multiple leading roles at NAU. In addition to opera, Alan enjoys playing the guitar, arranging for a cappella groups, and singing jazz music. Alan is thrilled to be singing the bass solos in Handel’s Theodora at the Ad Astra Music Festival, performing opera scenes with the Veneto Opera Summer School, and performing the role of Colline (La Bohème) at the University of Michigan this fall.

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EMMA WITBOLSFEUGEN is a mezzo-soprano from Independence, Missouri. S/he earned a Master of Music degree in vocal performance from DePaul University while studying with Julia Faulkner and a Bachelor of Music from Simpson College under the tutelage of Dr. Kimberly Roberts. During hir college career, Emma performed the roles of Prinz Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus), Prince Charmant (Cendrillon), and Endimione (La Callisto) with Simpson College Opera, and the roles of La Messegiera (L’Orfeo) and Zita (Gianni Schicchi) with DePaul Opera Theatre. Emma has also participated in the choruses of many operatic productions and competed in numerous National Association of Teachers of Singing competitions, earning several first- and second-place distinctions at both the state and regional levels. In August 2018, Emma performed the role of “Alfredo” with Lawrence Opera Theatre for their production of Verdi’s La Traviata. This September, Emma will perform the role of “Beatrice” in the opera Beatrice et Benedict by Hector Berlioz with Landlocked Opera in Overland Park, Kansas.