Lyra’s Virtual Dinner Party!

You’re invited to join us for Lyra’s Virtual Dinner Party 2020 via Zoom!

October 26, 2020 @ 6PM EST

Hosted by WRTI Host and Producer, Debra Lew Harder, we will share recipes, talk about food, music, and wine; and feature a performance by Lyra’s students and staff! You won’t want to miss this special event celebrating our 15th Anniversary and kicking off our Annual Appeal!


Celebrity Panel includes:

Denyce Graves, Mezzo-Soprano

Recognized worldwide as one of today’s most exciting vocal stars, Denyce Graves continues to gather unparalleled popular and critical acclaim in performances on four continents. USA Today identifies her as “an operatic superstar of the 21st century,” and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution exclaims, “If the human voice has the power to move you, you will be touched by Denyce Graves.”

Her career has taken her to the world’s great opera houses and concert halls. The combination of her expressive, rich vocalism, elegant stage presence, and exciting theatrical abilities allows her to pursue a wide breadth of operatic portrayals and to delight audiences in concert and recital appearances. Denyce Graves has become particularly well-known to operatic audiences for her portrayals of the title roles in Carmen and Samson et Dalila. These signature roles have brought Ms. Graves to the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna Staatsoper, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Washington National Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, Arena di Verona, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opernhaus Zürich, Teatro Real in Madrid, Houston Grand Opera, The Dallas Opera, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Los Angeles Opera, and the Festival Maggio Musicale in Florence.

Ms. Graves appears continually on the stages of leading theaters in North America, Europe, and Asia. Highlights have included a Robert Lepage production of The Rake’s Progress at San Francisco Opera, the title role in Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner in the world premiere performances at Michigan Opera Theater with further performances at Cincinnati Opera, Opera Carolina, and Opera Philadelphia, the role of Charlotte in Werther for Michigan Opera Theatre opposite Andrea Bocelli in his first staged operatic performances, and the role of Judith in a William Friedkin production of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle in her return to Los Angeles Opera; she also has sung Judith at the Washington National Opera and for The Dallas Opera. Recent appearances include the world premieres of Doubt at Minnesota Opera and Champion at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, as well as the role debuts of Katisha in The Mikado for Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Herodias in Salome for Palm Beach Opera.

Highlights of the 2018-2019 season include Ms. Graves’ highly anticipated return to the Metropolitan Opera in Nico Muhly’s new opera Marnie, revisiting her signature role of Carmen performing the opera in concert with the Richmond Symphony, and singing a gala recital presented by Annapolis Opera Company in the spring. In the 2017-2018 season, she was seen in recital at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires before going on to perform the role of The Old Lady in Candide at both Washington National Opera and Palm Beach Opera. She appeared at the Gala de Danza in Los Cobos, Mexico. In addition, Ms. Graves sang recitals at Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and the Academy Art Museum (Easton, MD).

Elijah Milligan, Chef

Elijah Miligan grew up in Philadelphia, PA where he discovered his love for cooking at a young age. Though he moved briefly to northern California, running restaurants and further making a name for himself, he has returned to Philadelphia and is making waves within the food industry for his leadership, his devotion to social causes, and his excellent taste.

In 2018 Milligan founded the collaborative dinner series, Cooking for the Culture. Cooking for the Culture celebrates African-American chefs and explores innovative ways to create equal opportunities in the food industry for the future of African-American chefs.

Michael Stern, Conductor

Conductor Michael Stern is Music Director of the Kansas City Symphony and the Founding Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the IRIS Orchestra.

Stern and Kansas City have been hailed for their remarkable artistic ascent, original programming, and the extraordinary growth of its varied audiences. Stern and the orchestra have partnered with Reference Recordings in an ongoing series of well received CDs. Two new releases are a disc of new works by American composer Adam Schoenberg, and Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.”

Stern’s IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tennessee is a leader in innovative programming, with special emphasis on American contemporary music. Under Stern’s direction, IRIS has commissioned and premiered works by William Bolcom, Richard Danielpour, Stephen Hartke, Jonathan Leshnoff, Huang Ruo, and Adam Schoenberg, amongst others.

Michael Stern has conducted the Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, Indianapolis, National, Montreal, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Seattle and Boston symphonies, the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras, as well as the New York Philharmonic. He also has appeared regularly at the Aspen Music Festival and has served on faculty there.

He has conducted in London, Stockholm, Paris, Helsinki, Budapest, Israel, Moscow, Taiwan, and Tokyo, and has held permanent posts with the orchestras in Saarbrücken, the Orchestre National de Lyon, and the Orchestre National de Lille.

Debra Lew Harder, Host

A concert pianist and music educator, Debra fell in love with public radio when she started as a fill-in host at WRTI in 2016. She began producing arts features, interviews for the Philadelphia Orchestra broadcasts, and hosting live broadcasts from the WRTI Performance Studio.

In 2017, Debra created something new for WRTI: Saturday Morning Classical Coffeehouse, a show that combines well-known classical works with a fresh blend of music from different genres and from around the world. It’s become a listener favorite.

“I’ve loved sharing the joy of music since I was a little girl, growing up in Northeastern Ohio,” says Debra. “I can’t wait to spend more time with our WRTI family, bringing happiness into people’s daily lives.”

Debra began playing the piano at five, and studied classical music, but also loved playing pop, jazz, and Broadway tunes. Before the end of high school, she won a scholarship to study at the Peabody Conservatory, but her parents convinced her to pursue a broader education. So she earned a medical degree and became an ER doctor in her twenties.

“I would have found a career in medicine very fulfilling, but the call of music wouldn’t leave me,” says Debra, “so I went on to earn a doctorate in music performance at the Ohio State University with one of the pianists I admired most in the world, Earl Wild. I feel blessed that I’ve been able to continue a life devoted to music ever since.”

In addition to her work at WRTI, Debra performs in the Philadelphia area as a solo and collaborative pianist. In November 2018, she was thrilled to appear with the talented students of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra at Verizon Hall playing Schumann’s Piano Concerto. She also performs frequently with her piano trio, Trio MiReSol.

In Debra’s popular solo “concert and conversation” programs, she performs beautiful solo piano works at the keyboard and talks about how each piece of music fits into the larger human experience from a scientific vantage point.

You can catch her new program, “The Human Need for Melody,” at Haverford College on Sunday, March 31, 2019 and at Music at Bunker Hill on Sunday, April 14, 2019.

A devoted music educator, Debra taught piano and coached chamber music for many years at Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges. She’s currently working with students at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Jefferson University, developing a new “Medicine Plus Music” co-curricular program for them.

In her spare time, Debra enjoys yoga, hip-hop dance, reading, hiking, and cooking for family and friends. She lives in the Philly suburbs with her husband Tom. They have two grown daughters and an incorrigible terrier.

Hear Debra on Tuesdays through Fridays for Classical Weekdays, 10 AM to 2 PM, and on Saturday mornings for Classical Coffeehouse, 6 AM to 12 noon.

Elizabeth Hainen, Harpist

Elizabeth Hainen has earned an international reputation as one of classical music’s great harp ambassadors. Hailed by the Washington Post for her “unusual presence with silky transparency” and by the New York Times for her “earthy solidarity,” Hainen has thrilled audiences throughout the world with programs showcasing the diversity—and virtuosity—of her modern-day instrument. As Solo Harpist with The Philadelphia Orchestra for over 20 years, she has presented numerous featured performances to captivated audiences and has been praised by the Philadelphia Inquirer for “her ability to blend and color the musical line,” and “to find transparency in an almost timeless atmosphere.” In high demand as a guest artist, Hainen has collaborated with such eminent conductors as Charles Dutoit, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Michael Tilson Thomas,Yannick Nézet-Séguinand Wolfgang Sawallisch. In addition to The Philadelphia Orchestra, she has appeared as a featured soloist with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Anchorage Symphony, Bulgaria National Radio Orchestra, Camerata Ducale in Italy, Chicago Civic Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Iris Orchestra, Kennedy Center Orchestra, Mexico State Symphony, Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Columbia,the Vancouver Symphony, and in numerous recitals at Carnegie Hall. “She is a complete harpist who knows and uses her instrument’s strength and brilliance and strikes its fire,” says the Miami Herald’s James Roos. “You miss nothing she wants you to hear.”

A highly sought after harp pedagogue, Hainen serves on the faculties of the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music and Boyer School of Music at Temple University and has been invited to adjudicate major international harp competitions in the U.S., Europe, South America, and Asia. In 2004 she founded the Saratoga Harp Colony, and this legacy continues in Philadelphia as the Harp Colony presented by Curtis’ Summerfest. Through her nonprofit foundation The Lyra Society, Hainen has provided educational outreach to hundreds of school children in urban Philadelphia and the surrounding area.