Ad Astra Music Festival

Est. 2014 in Russell, Kansas

Shelby Kyle Matlock will be a sophomore at Northern Arizona University (NAU) studying music education with Edith Copley.  She has worked with Simon Carrington, in the Inaugural National American Choral Directors Association Honor Choir in London.  She has performed under the direction of Anton Armstrong the past two summers at the Oregon Bach Festival.  There, she sang Verdi’s Requiem conducted by Matthew Halls, and Bach’s Singet dem Herrn with Helmuth Rilling. She was the soloist for the premier of Magnificat by David Childs.  At NAU, Shelby sang You Could Drive a Person Crazy at the Horizon’s Concert Series with guest artist, pianist Anthony de Mare.  She was soloist for I Lie, by David Lang (Chamber Singers),  Arabisk Dans by Edvard Grieg (Women’s Chorale) and a chorus member in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.  

Shelby, a Hays native, studied with Joe Perniciaro at Fort Hays State University throughout high school and currently studies with Deborah Raymond at NAU. Shelby is the soprano Young Artist for the 2015 Ad Astra Music Festival singing Schumann’s Spanisches Liederspiel, a set of Richard Hundley songs, as well as serving as the soprano soloist in Zelenka’s Miserere in C minor. In addition, she will be singing with the Ad Astra Chamber Choir and the Russell Community Choir.


Ellen Bialek, a Chicago native, recently graduated with honors, receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Music with a concentration in vocal performance at the University of Illinois. Ellen has worked under the instruction of Barrington Coleman and Elizabeth Fischer-Monastero and has had a chance to work with brilliant vocal coaches, such as, Julie Gunn, Michael Tilley, and Filippo Ciabatti. She has worked with many conductors both nationally and internationally, including: Andrew Megill, Eric Weimer, Ian Hobson, Andrea Solya, Paul Vermel, and Raphael Schluesselberg. She has been cast in three Lyric Theatre @ Illinois productions, most recently as one of the six Parisian Grisettes in a production of The Merry Widow. Ellen is a 2014 winner of the Thomas J. Smith Competition and Scholarship, and competing as part of the student division, she has won the 2013 Bel Canto Foundation Bella Voce Award, and was also the junior division winner of the 2012 Bel Canto Foundation opera competition. Ellen serves as the mezzo-soprano Young Artist for the 2015 Ad Astra Music Festival, where she’ll sing Schumann’s Spanisches Liederspiel, a set of Copland’s Emily Dickinson songs. In addition, she will be a featured soloist with the Russell Community Choir and Ad Astra Chamber Choir.


Nathan Patrick Hilger is a Russell, KS native and a rising senior Music Theatre major at Oklahoma City University. He studies voice with William Nield Christensen and coaches with Brian Osborne. While a Russell High School student, he studied voice with Ft. Hays State University’s Joe Perniciaro. At OCU, he’s been cast in multiple productions, including Barbiere di Siviglia, Ned Rorem’s Our Town, and The Pirates of Penzance. His most notable roles include Pan in Batboy, Underling in The Drowsy Chaperone, and John Jasper in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He has also joined the Canterbury Choral Society in singing Leonard Bernstein’s Mass and Brahm’s Ein Deutches Requiem. And with the Defiant Requiem Foundation he has performed Verdi's requiem. Additionally, he's performed in masterclasses with Florence Birdwell and Jen Waldman.

Professionally, Nathan has performed with the Music Theatre of Wichita's productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Finian’s Rainbow. And with the Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre he has performed  in South Pacific. Nathan is one of the tenor Young Artists for the 2015 Ad Astra Music Festival where he’ll sing Schumann’s Spanisches Liederspiel in addition to singing with the Ad Astra Chamber Choir and the Russell Community Choir.


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.


Riley King, baritone from Lawrence, is currently a student at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas. He is studying Music Education where he’ll graduate in December 2015. While at Bethel, Riley played Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance and Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha. In the Bethel College Concert Choir, Riley performed Orff’s Carmina Burana and Mozart’s Requiem with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Daniel Hege. At the annual Masterworks Concert at Bethel, Riley performed James Syler’s Blue and Haydn’s Creation. He also has performed as a soloist with Broadway’s Rachel de Benedet and Arthur Marks.

Riley is the leader of Open Road, a small men’s ensemble which performed at the Kansas Music Educators Association annual conference. He is a recipient of the Hohmann Conducting Scholarship. In addition to his singing, Riley played cello in the Bethel College Philharmonia and timpani in the Bethel College Wind Ensemble. Riley is the baritone Young Artist with the 2015 Ad Astra Music Festival where he’ll sing Schumann’s Spanisches Liederspiel, a set of John Musto songs, and he will be the baritone soloist in Bach's Cantata 131. In addition to this, he will be singing with the Ad Astra Chamber Choir and the Russell Community Choir.