Ad Astra Music Festival

Est. 2014 in Russell, Kansas

sing with us

One of the primary missions of the Ad Astra Music Festival is to engage with all types of musicians. From established professionals to up-and-coming musicians to high school students to volunteers who love music, there is a welcoming place for everyone to share in making music. 


The High School Honor Choir is a group of 40 talented and passionate young singers who spend three days in July in rehearsals, workshops, and performance. The choir is led by Dr. Corie Brown of San José State University.

Application for the High School Honor Choir is now closed.

Ad Astra High School Honor Choir, led by Dr. Corie Brown

Ad Astra High School Honor Choir, led by Dr. Corie Brown

russell community choir

The Russell Community Choir is a mainstay of the Ad Astra Music Festival. Open to anyone willing to commit to the rehearsal and performance schedule, this group has traditionally been composed of community members who perhaps sang in high school or college, or who sing in their church choirs or other community ensembles. The choir is led by artistic director and Russell native Alex Underwood.

Registration for the Russell Community Choir is now closed.

Russell Community Choir, led by Artistic Director Alex Underwood

Russell Community Choir, led by Artistic Director Alex Underwood

young artist program

Our Young Artist Program is tailored to undergraduate music majors pursuing a career in singing. This unique program offers four singers the experience of working as a professional in daily rehearsals and multiple performances each week during the month-long festival. YAs coach with our world-class piano staff and collaborate with the next generation of thrilling musical artists. Four applicants are chosen from across the country to live in Russell, Kansas, from July 1 to July 28, 2019, to perform as soloists, choristers, and chamber musicians. The program demands a high level of preparation, strong sight-reading skills, and thoughtful artistry. Alumni of the program have continued to study voice at major conservatories across the country. The festival provides free housing for the month, a competitive stipend, and assists with travel.

The 2019 Young Artist application is now closed.

Young Artist Testimonials

Victoria Lawal, 2018 Soprano Young Artist

In the transitional period between my undergraduate studies and starting my master's program, I was fortunate enough to join the Ad Astra Music Festival as a Young Artist. There, I was able to perform a wide range of repertoire from Bach to Cole Porter which allowed me to explore different aspects of voice and musicality. I greatly enjoyed working with the conductors and coaches as well as collaborating with the other vocalists hired by the festival. I was elated to be able to spend the summer among premier Bach specialists as well as supporters of contemporary compositions which yielded a wonderful environment for me to learn and grow artistically.

My favorite part of the festival was the close relationship we developed with the community of Russell, Kansas. We truly felt at home and were completely welcomed by town. Ad Astra and Russell will always hold a special place in my heart.

Since my time at Ad Astra last summer, I have performed three roles as part of my graduate program at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and have been awarded a full scholarship as a young artist at the Aspen Music Festival and School for the summer of 2019. I am grateful for the support and training I received at Ad Astra for helping me make this possible.

I could not recommend this festival enough for young singers looking to develop professional skills to support them in transitioning to the “next phase” of their careers.

Cooper McGuire, 2018 Baritone Young Artist

The month I spent singing with the Ad Astra Musical Festival was undoubtedly the most educational and enjoyable month I have experienced as an artist. The entire duration of the festival I was provided with countless tools, opportunities, and resources to become a better musician. It was also the first taste of being a “real musician” because I was treated professionally at all times. There were rigid expectations to learn and perform multiple concerts each weekend, which gave me an accurate understanding of what life as a professional gigging musician may be like. On top of all this fantastic experience and education, Ad Astra provided free housing for their artists and gave generous compensation even to us apprenticing Young Artists—which is a highly uncommon practice for similar programs across the nation.

The skills I gained and the relationships I formed after one month of singing in rural Kansas far surpassed my initial expectations. The small but might community of Russell embraced all of the musicians participating in the festival; some even offered their homes and GREAT food to make us feel welcomed and appreciated. The staff and other professional musicians with the program were also unbelievably kind, fun to work with, and wildly talented. This program ignited my excitement for a career in singing unlike any experience I’ve had before—it was the perfect mix of fun and challenge. After singing with Ad Astra, I entered my senior year of college inspired to be a more sensitive, thoughtful, and articulate artist. I will always cherish my experience with Ad Astra and I highly recommend applying to this Young Artist Program if you are a singer wishing to make significant strides toward becoming a better musician.

Hannah Carlson, 2017 Soprano Young Artist

The Ad Astra Music Festival was such a well-timed experience in terms of my artistic development. The fact that it’s aimed at undergraduate singers and focuses mainly on concert work, sacred work, and choral work gave me a chance to focus on my artistry and musicianship without the pressures that come with singing an operatic role in a summer program.

I was equally impressed with how professionally I was treated. Even as a very "green" 21-year-old singer, I was treated with a level of professionalism that would never have suggested my age. My summer there was a wonderful chance to collaborate with a variety of talented and devoted musicians and was an imperative part of my growth as an up-and-coming professional.