CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Russian-born pianist's visit to Charleston this weekend marks the opening concert of a series that promotes young artists.
The collaboration between Astral Artists, a Philadelphia non-profit organization that helps launch young classical musicians, and the West Virginia Symphony came about because of support by the daughter and son-in-law of the late Mary Price Ratrie, a well-known philanthropist and arts supporter.
The Mary Price Legacy Concert series will help pay for guests from Astral Artists to perform here.
First up is Alexandre Moutouzkine, who will perform Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 in C minor and Mozart's Piano Concert No. 21 in C major with the orchestra.
He is among 23 or so artists currently under the wings of Astral Artists, explained its founder and director, Vera Wilson.
"The whole point of the organization, which I founded in 1991, was that classical musicians, especially those who aspire to be soloists, have no advocacy when they leave conservatories," she said.
They need agents and connections and often lack the resources to figure it all out, she said.
"Astral was created with the purpose to provide that bridge," she said. "We provide just every service to musicians, without cost to them — with a very small exception that if we get bookings for them, we charge a very small fee."
Astral auditions potential musicians, and the goal is that after mentoring they will head out on their own with an agent and a career.
"They all have to be entrepreneurs of some sort. They have to find their niche, that specialty that they should be known for. And each pianist or musician brings something completely different that is their own," Wilson said.
Astral musicians get opportunities to perform both on concert stages and for community groups, often schools and for the elderly.
"That outreach is as much to serve the community as it is to serve the musicians, to help them hone their skills and shape their presentation in such a way that they are going to get the most benefit for the big concerts," Wilson said.
The partnership with the West Virginia Symphony came about because of longtime Astral supporters Jim and Keith Straw. Keith Straw is Mary Price Ratrie's daughter.
"Her mother's legacy was to create this funding for the symphony to be able to have this partnership," Wilson said. "Everybody wins because the symphony is going to get some wonderful artists, and our artists get the opportunity to perform with a really good orchestra."