Ad Astra Music Festival

Est. 2014 in Russell, Kansas


Baritone Brian Mextorf is quickly gaining recognition as a dynamic performer and a sensitive musician. Brian was recently named a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, North Carolina District and the 2nd place winner of the Southeast Region, as well as a winner of the competitive 2014 Schuyler Career Bridges Grant. Most recently heard as Aeneas in Opera Saratoga's new production of Dido and Aeneas, Brian also spent the 2014-15 season as an Emerging Artist with Virginia Opera. 

On the concert stage, Brian was recently heard singing Judas in Bach’s Mattäuspassion with The Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He has been featured as bass or baritone soloist in Handel's Messiah with the Monmouth Civic Chorus, Bach’s B Minor Mass and Magnificat with summer festival choirs of Westminster Choir College conductors Joe Miller and Ryan Brandau, Mozart’s Requiem (Oberlin Orchestra), and Fauré’s Requiem (Williamsport Choirs). Also an avid recitalist, Brian has given eight full recitals in the past five years.

Brian is a native of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and is an alumnus of The Oberlin Conservatory of Music (B.M. 2012), Westminster Choir College (M.M. 2014), the Opera Theatre of St. Louis Gerdine Young Artist Program (2012), The CoOPERAtive Program (Fellow 2012/13). 



Mezzo-soprano, Janie Brokenicky is a newly appointed instructor of music at Kansas State University, where she’ll teach music theory and applied voice. Janie is also founding the Flint Hills Children’s Choir based in Manhattan, KS. She is just finishing her three-year tenure as the Assistant Professor of Choral Music at Tabor College in Hillsboro, KS, where she conducted the women’s choir, Concerto Bella Voce, and taught applied voice as well as courses in music theory, sight singing and ear training. Prior to joining Tabor College, Janie taught vocal music at Riley County High School for five years and founded the musical theater department. Teaching honors include the 2009 Kansas Horizon Award for outstanding achievement as a first year teacher and the 2010 KCDA Young Director of the Year Award.

She received her Bachelors in Music Education and Secondary Education Mathematics from Kansas State University in 2007 and a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance and Choral Conducting in 2012. Janie studied private voice with Dr. Patricia Thompson and choral conducting with Dr. Julie Yu and Dr. Joshua Oppenheim. She has been a guest soloist with the Wichita Chamber Chorale, Kansas State University Symphony Orchestra, Fort Hays Symphony Orchestra, and Flint Hills Chorale. In 2011, she was runner-up in the NATS West Central Region Graduate Division competition. Currently, Janie is a member of the Flint Hills Trio, with pianist Amanda Arrington and cellist Dr. David Littrell from Kansas State University, and Spire Symphonic Chorus based out of Kansas City, MO. Last summer, she was the mezzo-soprano soloist for Mozart’s Requiem with the Russell Summer Concert Series. In addition to teaching and performing, Janie served four years as the KCDA women’s choirs co-chair.



Francis Williams, a native of Long Island, NY, is pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Vocal Performance from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, where he is a voice student of Eric Rieger. At Westminster, he collaborates frequently with renowned pianist, JJ Penna. As a member of the 40-voice Westminster Choir, he has performed on tours in Oklahoma, Texas, and in California. With the Westminster Symphonic Choir, he has worked with conductors such as Jacque Lacombe, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Daniele Gatti, and Joe Miller. He has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. He worked as a chorister with the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina for the past two summers, with directors such as John La Bouchardiere and Tony Award winner Garry Hynes.

Past credits include Tchaikovsky's Iolanta (Almeric) with Westminster Opera Theatre, Handel's Acis and Galatea (Acis) with Westminster Opera Workshop, and John Adams' El Niño (Chorus), Janaceck's Kat'a Kabanova with the Spoleto Festival USA. Francis is a tenor Young Artist with the Ad Astra Music Festival and will be singing the role of Jonathan in Handel’s Saul and a set of Ned Rorem songs. In addition, he will be singing with the Ad Astra Chamber Choir and the Russell Community Choir.



Aani Bourassa is praised for her “powerful, yet sparkling high notes,” soprano, Aani Bourassa, is a versatile actress of emotional depth.  During the 2014-2015 season, she performed the role of Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and Julia in scenes from Loren Maazel’s 1984 at the Castleton Festival.  Ms. Bourassa will next be heading to Iowa to record a CD of previously unrecorded pieces by Carl Czerny.


Other recent performances include Elisabetta in scenes from Maria Stuarda, Juliette in scenes from Roméo et Juliette, Gilda in scenes from Rigoletto, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with the Bay View Music Festival and Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with the Genesius Guild of the Quad Cities and the University of Illinois Opera Theater.  Equally comfortable on the concert stage she has sung the soprano solos in Bach’s Cantata 140 (Iowa Wesleyan College Chorale), Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra), the Vivaldi Gloria (Holy Family Catholic Church), Bach’s Magnificat (Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra), and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass (Trinity Lutheran Seminary).  


Ms. Bourassa received her Master’s Degree from the University of Illinois: Urbana Champaign where she studied with Yvonne Gonzales Redman.



Soprano Megan Pachecano most recently performed the roles of Anne Page in Vaugh Williams' Sir John in Love with Boston’s Odyssey Opera, Adina in Donizetti's L’elisir d’amore with New Rochelle Opera, Norina in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale with Salt Marsh Opera, Gianetta in L’elisir d’amore with Opera MODO, Zerlina in scenes from Mozart’s Don Giovanni with the Somerset Valley Orchestra, Crobyle in Massenet’s Thaïs with The Opera Company of Middlebury, covered Serafina in Donizetti’s Il campanello di notte with Garden State Opera, and performed as a Studio Artist with Opera New Jersey, where she she covered Pitti Sing in The Mikado, and later toured in their outreach production of Hansel and Gretel. Ms. Pachecano holds a Master of Music in Classical Voice from Manhattan School of Music where she sang the roles of Susanna in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Annabel Lee in Shultz' Gargoyle Garden. She received her Bachelor of Music in Voice Performance from The University of Texas at Austin. A frequent soloist of concert repertoire, Ms. Pachecano has sung Handel's Messiah with the Helena Symphony, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, Little Organ Mass, Beethoven’s Die Ruinen von Athen, and Mozart's Great Mass in C minor with the Astoria Symphony Orchestra, Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 and Mozart’s Exsultate, jubilate with the Round Rock Symphony Orchestra, Mozart's Requiem with the Russell Arts Council's Summer Concert Series, and Handel’s Israel in Egypt with the Westminster Choral Festival. Other appearances include concerts with Opera Theater of Connecticut at the Sanibel Music Festival and with the Caramoor International Music Festival. In the recording studio, Ms. Pachecano was a soloist in Corigliano’s A Dylan Thomas Trilogy, Part I: Fern Hill on the Naxos recording American Choral Music, and created the role of Elizabeth on the cast recording of Stephen Melillo's Son of the Storm.