Ad Astra Music Festival

Est. 2014 in Russell, Kansas


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A Kansas native, MATTHEW PIATT is in his seventh season as an assistant conductor and prompter with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He has also served as an assistant conductor with San Francisco Opera since 2006. Matthew was the first pianist/coach to be awarded an Adler Fellowship with the San Francisco Opera. He has played keyboards with the San Francisco Opera orchestra in L'elisir d'amore, Nixon in China, and the world premieres of Appomattox by Philip Glass and The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene by Mark Adamo. At Lyric's recent Barber of Seville performances, the Chicago Tribune wrote that Matthew “accompanied the recitatives stylishly at the harpsichord.” Through Lyric Unlimited, a Lyric Opera community engagement initiative, he has performed with Renée Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma to promote arts education in Chicago public schools. Additional collaborations have included performances with Ailyn Perez and Marjorie Owens. He has also worked with the Houston Grand Opera Studio, including recitals for the McNay Art Museum of San Antonio and the Dallas Wagner Society. He earned his bachelor's degree in piano from the University of Houston, graduating summa cum laude. He received his master's in collaborative piano at the University of Michigan, where he studied with Martin Katz.

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PAUL A. LEE is currently Assistant Professor of Piano at the University of West Alabama, where he teaches courses in music theory, history, and class piano as well as lessons in the piano and organ studio. In addition to his work at UWA, Paul also collaborates with the faculty and graduate students of the University of Alabama, particularly in the trombone and violin studios. His recent engagements have included multiple recitals in Arizona, doctoral violin recitals in Alabama, and a performance in New York City with the Litha Symphony Orchestra. He and long-time collaborator Dr. Alex Lapins (tuba and euphonium) have performed throughout the Southwest and South. Paul holds undergraduate degrees from Virginia Tech (piano and mechanical engineering), a master’s degree in collaborative piano from the University of Tennessee, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in collaborative piano from Arizona State University.


Pianist JUAN SEBASTIAN AVENDAÑO has performed in his native Colombia, Brazil, and the United States as a soloist, chamber musician, and collaborative pianist. In 2015 he earned first place at the Cali Philharmonic Concerto Competition and won the Jaqueline Avent Concerto Competition in Tennessee. Juan has earned first place in piano accompaniment at the Vocal National Competition hosted by the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra and an honorable mention in the 2018 Western Michigan Concerto Competition; he has also won the Young Artist competition of the Banco de la República two consecutive years in Colombia. Juan has garnered many performance experiences while attending music festivals including Bowdoin International Music Festival (Maine), Gilmore International Keyboard Festival (Michigan), Sewanee Summer Music Festival (Tennessee), Cartagena International Music Festival (Colombia), and Femusc (Brazil). Currently he is a Phyllis Rappeport Opera Fellow at Western Michigan University, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in Piano Performance under the tutelage of renowned pianist Lori Sims.