Astral Artists, Le Cirque Chef Alumni Dinner, and illustrator Allen Crawford

Astral Artists

Produced by Karen Smyles

Astral Artists was founded in 1992 by Vera Wilson and is a non-profit organization that plays a vital role in the discovery and development of the nation’s most gifted classical musicians. Selected from a nationwide pool of applicants at competitive annual auditions, Astral artists are provided with invaluable career development guidance; debuts in Philadelphia; numerous performance opportunities via Astral’s critically acclaimed concert series; collaborations with world-renowned musicians; auditions for major presenters, managers, and conductors; and world premieres of compositions written for them and commissioned by Astral. Astral reaches nearly 15,000 community members annually through concerts and extensive community engagement programming.

January 2015, Friday Arts was invited to a behind the scenes look at the live audition process. Talented, young musicians from around the country came to Temple University’s Rock Hall for the opportunity to obtain a coveted spot on the Astral Artists roster. We spent two days capturing the excitement and left wondering how they would ever decide who to put through.

In addition to shooting the actual auditions we had the opportunity to speak with some, including Viktor Valkov, who had just flew in from Texas. Viktor went on to be signed by Astral and we had a chance to talk with him as he prepared for this exciting step in his career.

We also talk with Vera Wilson about her goals for the future of Astral, and Julia Rubio, Executive Director, discusses how Astral works to prepare these musicians for the prominent positions they are sure to hold in the world of classical music.


Le Cirque Chef Alumni Dinner: A Reunion at Nectar

Produced by Monica Rogozinski

No one can deny the influence of Le Cirque, the New York based restaurant known for introducing some of America’s top chefs. Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, Jacques Torres. While those names may be well known, there were hundreds of other chefs that experienced the glory of that restaurant. These guys loved going to work every day. Cooking didn’t seem like a job, but rather a privilege. And when they moved on, they took the spirit of Le Cirque along with them.

For years Chef Patrick Feury of Nectar Restaurant in Berwyn has been talking about gathering some of the chefs that he worked with between 1998 and 2000. And on Thursday, May 14, 2015 he finally did it. The Le Cirque alumni gathered together to prepare an unique dinner as part of the Mid Atlantic Wine and Food Festival. The chefs recount their experiences at Le Cirque and show how they’ve updated their recipes to fit into what’s available and on trend today.


Allen Crawford, Enthusiast

Produced by Michael O’Reilly

In 2014, the book WHITMAN ILLUMINATED: SONG OF MYSELF won a Gold Medal from the New York City-based Society of Illustrators. The author of the original sixty-page poem from 1855 is of course, Walt Whitman, but the illustrator of this 256 page treatment of SONG OF MYSELF is local artist Allen Crawford. Previously known for the character (and advice column of sorts) Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy that originated in the Philadelphia Independent in the late 90’s and early oughts. With SONG OF MYSELF Crawford seems to have a critically acclaimed hit on his hands. He worked on the book, off and on, for over a year, between commercial jobs out of the design and illustration studio Plankton Art Co. that he cofounded with his wife, Susan, in 1996. Their studio’s most notable project to date is the collection of 400 species identification illustrations that are on permanent display at the American Museum of Natural History’s Milstein Hall of Ocean Life in New York. Located in New Jersey, Crawford and his wife are avid naturalists, and FRIDAY ARTS visits them at their home studio, in the pine barrens of New Jersey and at Big Timber Creek, the area outside of Laurel Springs, NJ where Whitman recuperated from a stroke and wrote SPECIMEN DAYS. In Crawford’s view, Big Timber Creek is as important to Whitman as Walden Pond is to Thoreau and yet it is wholly unheralded. Remembered and remarked upon only by a few like Crawford, our production endeavors to attribute this place and these persons to a collective memory, broadcasting out beyond the planet and circulating around the world in a common digital ether.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.