Guest Artists

Craig Russell started teaching at Cal Poly in 1982, after earning his doctorate at the University of North Carolina. While at Cal Poly, he received numerous awards from the university, the California State University (CSU), and scholarly organizations throughout the world. They include the 2007 Wang Family Excellence Award in recognition of CSU faculty who distinguish themselves by exemplary contributions and achievements in their academic disciplines; the 2007 Cal Poly Distinguished Research Award; the 2007 Cal Poly College of Liberal Arts’ Distinguished Research Award; the 1996 President’s Arts Award; the 1994-95 CSU Trustee’s Outstanding Professor Award, CSU’s highest honor; and the 1994-95 Cal Poly Outstanding Faculty Award. In 2013 he was inducted into the prestigious Reial Acadèmie Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi (one of a few North American scholars to be inducted into the Spanish Royal Academy).

In addition to teaching traditional courses such as Music Appreciation and Music History, he pioneered popular classes such as The Beatles; Music of the ’60s: War and Peace; and Popular Music Styles of Latin America.

His publications have also won numerous awards. His book “From Serra to Sancho: Music and Pageantry in the California Missions” won the 2010 Edna Kimbro award as the most distinguished publication dealing with missions. “J.B. Sancho: Pioneer Composer of California” won the Historical Society of Southern California’s Norman Neuerburg Award for outstanding writing in early California history in 2007.

His compositions have been performed internationally to significant acclaim. The San Luis Obispo Symphony Orchestra has performed Russell’s concerts in Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

Russell has collaborated several times with the professional choir Chanticleer. Together they have produced a DVD and film, “Mission Road” — often broadcast on PBS — and four CDs, including: “Mexican Baroque,” nominated for a Gramophone Award; “Matins for the Virgin of Guadalupe; Our American Journey,” nominated for a Grammy Award; and the CD titled “Mission Road.” They have gone on concert tours of the California missions, performing Russell’s editions of Mexican cathedral music, California mission music and music from the Jesuit missions of Bolivia.


John Astaire earned his doctorate in percussion performance at Indiana University. He has performed as a soloist with many contemporary touring music groups, including the Aguava New Music Ensemble, Kylix Contemporary Music Ensemble, the Percussion Plus Project (percussion ensemble), Indiana University New Music Ensemble, and the Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Wind Ensemble, with which he toured as a guest, performing Joseph Schwantner’s “Concerto for Percussion.” He has performed with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra, Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, Camerata Symphony Orchestra, San Luis Obispo Symphony, Felix de los Ingenios Early Music Ensemble, and Keith Brion’s internationally acclaimed New Sousa Band. He has appeared on recordings with the Aguava New Music Ensemble, Durande Flute and Percussion Duo (co-founder), and Kylix Contemporary Music Ensemble. In the pop music world has appeared on such releases as the 2009 Independent Music Award-nominated album “Inland Territory” by Zoe/Rounder recording artist Vienna Teng, and the Japan-based avant-garde acoustic/electric ensemble Sound Gate Project’s 2009 release (Japan only), headed by composer Mutsuhito Ogino. As an educator, Astaire has been invited to deliver lectures, master classes, and individual coaching sessions at DePauw University, Indiana University, and Cal Poly. As a composer, he has composed music for San Diego State University’s production of Seneca’s “Octavia,” and for the Indiana University Percussion Ensemble. Originally from California, his primary teachers have included Gerald Carlyss and Kenneth Watson, under whom he also studied the Hungarian cimbalom, on which he has performed both domestically, and abroad at the Cimbalom World Association’s 2003 World Congress, held in Appenzell, Switzerland.


Theresa Slobodnik is from the San Francisco Bay Area, where she received her early ballet training from Marjorie Stevens, Lee Salsbury, Patrice Nissen (RAD), modern with Virginia Toy, and jazz with Rec Russell. In San Luis Obispo she studied with Eunice Pierce, Mary Cowden Snyder, and Gilbert & Sydna Reed. Professional credits include Cuesta College Dance Theatre, Civic Ballet of San Luis Obispo, The Gilbert Reed Ballet Chamber Dancers, Pacific Repertory Opera/Opera SLO, Deyo Dances, SLO Master Chorale and The Gilbert Reed Ballet (GRB, 1993–2003) where she also served as Assistant Director. Noted roles with GRB include the title roles in The Firebird, Carmen, and Camille. She also created the role of Belle in the Gilbert Reed Ballet’s world premiere of Beauty and the Beast and was critically acclaimed for her performances as Young Scrooge’s Betrothed in A Christmas Carol, and the institutionalized woman in Asylum.

In spring of 2006 she founded and is now Artistic Director/Choreographer for Ballet Theatre San Luis Obispo Performing Company. Her original ballets include Winter Concerto, Levez le Rideau, The 12 Days of Christmas, Let Us Pause, Wali Sangara, Damien of Molokai, Robin Hood, The Velveteen Rabbit, Simple Gifts, South American Suite, Undine, Something She Must Do, Les Barricades Mystérieuses, An Unexpected Romance, Degas & Marie, Spring Tide, Gypsy Airs, Youkali, Birth To Earth and The Snow Queen. She has mounted her own versions of Les Patineurs, Coppélia, Rodeo and La Boutique Fantasque. Currently Theresa is Ballet Director at the School of Ballet Theatre San Luis Obispo, teaching Ballet levels 1-4, Pointe levels, and Partnering. Theresa and her husband John live in San Luis Obispo, have five children and eight grandchildren.

Braid