2021 ASEF Virtual Gala

The 2021 ASEF Gala took place on Saturday, April 17, 2021, online. The Gala featured a fabulous art performance by a Slovenian artist and entertainment from rising music artists studying at USC Thornton School of Music.

We celebrated the ASEF Lifetime Achievement Award Winner and presented ASEF programs and build bridges between Slovenian students, educators and researchers around the world.


We still greatly appreciate your donation, which will help us continue supporting talented young minds.
ASEF Gala Raffle was a part of the Fundraiser. With every $20 donation you participated in the ASEF Gala Raffle.


Saturday, April 17, 2021

8:00 PM (CET) / 14:00 PM (EST) / 11:00 AM (PST) Music Performance
  • Doris Ćosić, Slovenian Guitarist: West Sad Story (Composer: Nejc Kuhar)

8:05 PM (CET) / 14:05 PM (EST) / 11:05 AM (PST) Welcome Speech

8:25 PM (CET) / 14:25 PM (EST) / 11:25 AM (PST) Music Performance
  • Iris Bečaj, Soprano: El Vito (Composer: Fernando Obradors)

8:30 PM (CET) / 14:30 PM (EST) / 11:30 AM (PST)ASEF Achievements in 2020
8:35 PM (CET) / 14:35 PM (EST) / 11:35 AM (PST) ASEF Junior Fellows
  • 2020 ASEF Junior Fellows Video: Premiere
  • Meet 2021 ASEF Junior Fellows

8:45 PM (CET) / 14:45 PM (EST) / 11:45 AM (PST) ASEF Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
9:10 PM (CET) / 15:10 PM (EST) / 15:10 AM (PST) Music Performance
  • Irena Preda, Soprano, and Armin Ćoralić, Pianist: Le Soir (Composer: Charles Gounod)

9:15 PM (CET) / 15:15 PM (EST) / 15:15 AM (PST) Art Performance
9:35 PM (CET) / 15:35 PM (EST) / 15:35 AM (PST) Music performance
  • Klara Krklec, Cellist: Princess Leia's Theme (Star Wars)

9:40 PM (CET) / 15:40 PM (EST) / 15:40 AM (PST) Raffle Prize Winners

9:45 PM (CET) / 15:45 PM (EST) / 15:45 AM (PST) Closing Remarks

The event was moderated by ASEF Junior Fellows Sara Ermenc and Uroš Prešern.

ASEF Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Sunita Williams

NASA Astronaut of Slovenian Descent

Sunita L. Williams (Suni) was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1998 and is a veteran of two space missions Expeditions 14/15 and 32/33. Born September 19, 1965 in Euclid, Ohio to Dr. Deepak and Bonnie Pandya. Considers Needham, Massachusetts to be her hometown. Suni and her husband Michael enjoy hanging out with their dogs, working out, working on houses, working on cars, working on airplanes, hiking and camping.

Williams received her commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy from the United States Naval Academy in May 1987. After a six-month temporary assignment at the Naval Coastal System Command, she received her designation as a Basic Diving Officer and then reported to Naval Aviation Training Command. She was designated a Naval Aviator in July 1989. She then reported to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 3 for initial H46, Seaknight, training. Upon completion of this training, she was assigned to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 8 in Norfolk, Virginia, and made overseas deployments to the Mediterranean, Red Sea and the Persian Gulf in support of Desert Shield and Operation Provide Comfort. In September 1992, she was the Officer-in-Charge of an H-46 detachment sent to Miami, Florida for Hurricane Andrew Relief Operations onboard USS Sylvania. Williams was selected for United States Naval Test Pilot School and began the course in January 1993. After graduation in December 1993, she was assigned to the Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Directorate as an H-46 Project Officer, and V-22 Chase Pilot in the T-2. While there, she was also assigned as the squadron Safety Officer and flew test flights in the SH-60B/F, UH-1, AH-1W, SH-2, VH-3, H-46, CH-53 and the H-57. In December 1995, she went back to the Naval Test Pilot School as an Instructor in the Rotary Wing Department and the school’s Safety Officer where she flew the UH-60, OH-6 and the OH-58. From there, she was assigned to the USS Saipan (LHA-2), Norfolk, Virginia, as the Aircraft Handler and the Assistant Air Boss. Williams was deployed onboard USS Saipan when she was selected for the astronaut program. She has logged more than 3000 flight hours in over 30 different aircraft.

Selected as an astronaut by NASA in June 1998, she reported for training in August 1998. Astronaut Candidate Training included orientation briefings and tours, numerous scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in shuttle and International Space Station systems, hysiological training and ground school to prepare for T-38 flight training, as well as learning water and wilderness survival techniques. Following a p riod of training and evaluation, Williams worked in Moscow with the Russian Space Agency on the Russian contribution to the space station and ith the first Expedition Crew. Following the return of Expedition 1, Williams worked within the Robotics branch on the station’s Robotic Arm and the follow-on Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator. As a NEEMO2 crew member, she lived underwater in the Aquarius habitat for 9 days. After her first flight, she served as Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office. She then supported a long-duration mission as Flight Engineer for Expedition 32 and International Space Station Commander for Expedition 33. Williams has spent a total of 322 days in space on two missions; she ranks second on the all-time U.S. endurance list for females. With 50 hours and 40 minutes, she is second on the list of total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut.

She is currently training for the first post-certification mission of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft – the second crewed flight for that vehicle – and her third long duration mission aboard the International Space Station

Art Performance

2021 ASEF Virtual Gala

Eva Petrič

Slovenian Artist

Eva Petrič, born in Slovenia, lives and works in between New York City, Vienna, and Ljubljana. She is a trans medial artist, known for her creative use of photography, interweaving with other media, exploring with it the language of shadows, decoding our existence also on ephemeral levels. Her motivation to expose the multidimensional architecture of space, defined by atmosphere, lead her to apply a trans medial approach in her art. This resulted in over 30 large scale site-specific found lace recycled assemblages exhibited at various, mostly public spaces around the world, interweaving video, sound, performance, and movement. Her trans medial project Eden, Transplanted, received Best Art Performance Award at the United Solo Festival in New York City in 2017 and was awarded in 2019 at the tenth anniversary of this festival, with the Best of Ten Years recognition. Her current projects EVAcuate@EVOLUTION – Siren Odyssey (to be premiered at Kino Siska Center for Urban Culture in Ljubljana, Slovenia), and RE@EVOLUTION are the continuation of Eden, Transplanted.


Irena Preda

Irena Preda graduated with Distinction at Trinity College of Music in London and got her Master of Music Degree and Graduate Certificate at USC Thornton School of Music as an Outstanding Graduate and a Fellow of the Frank Kerze and Florence Kerze–Dunphy Scholarship, upon which she was inducted into the Pi Kappa Lambda society celebrating artists of the highest level of musical achievement and academic scholarship. The recipient of scholarships by The City of Ljubljana, Rotary Club Ljubljana and the Gallus Foundation, she made her operatic debut in the lead role of George Bizet’s Carmen at Greenwich Theatre, London and went on to portray Nina in the world premiere of the opera Love Capital at the Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet Ljubljana.

Ms. Preda has performed before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was invited by Montserrat Caballé to perform in her concert celebrating Puccini and gave a recital at The Kennedy Center as part of her first USA and Canada tour. She has also performed at the Houses of Parliament and the Westminster Cathedral in London and most recently at the United Nations.

Iris Bečaj

Iris Bečaj is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Arts at the USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles where she regularly ranks on the Dean's list. She is upgrading her singing knowledge in the studio of prof. Thomas Michael Allen. Before she came in LA she graduated from Conservatory of Music and Ballet Ljubljana and got her first Bachelor's Degree in International Relations from Faculty of Social Science.

In the past she participated in several opera performances as a soloist, where she appeared as Susana from La Verbena de la Paloma, Mabel from The Pirates of Penzance, Bridesmaid from Trial by Jury, and as part of a choir in the opera Alcina(USC) and Otello(Slovenian National Theatre of Ljubljana). Besides recent performances in USC she has given several concerts in Slovenia where she also performed in Slovenian Philharmonic Hall, Slovenian National Theatre of Maribor, National Assembly and in the Presidential Palace. Over the summer Iris has been fulfilling her singing knowledge with the following professors: Edita Garčević Koželj, Vlatka Oršanić, Thomas Heyer and Snežana Nena Brzaković.

Doris Ćosić

Doris Ćosić (1999) started her music path at the age of six in Velenje, Slovenia. She started learning guitar under Professor Kruno Zlatar, and continued her music education under the teachings of Professor Monika Krajnc Štih.She’s been competing on a national and international level since 2009; her latest achievement is winning 1stprize at Zagreb Guitar Festival in 2017.

She is currently a freshman at USC Thornton School of Music, where she’s studying guitar in the studio of Professor Brian Head, and she’s weekly working with Professor William Kanengiser as well. She has played at a lot of masterclasses throughout the years and learnt from the very best, such as Pepe Romero, Paolo Pegoraro, Mak Grgić, Gabriel Bianco, Margarita Escarpa, Paul O’Dette and many others.

She is actively participating in USC’s guitar orchestra and USC’s a capella group Sirens. This semester she also started learning jazz guitar under the teachings of Professor Steve Trovato, because she wishes to experience other genres of music besides classical. Doris is also interested in composition and has begun scoring short films for USC School of Cinematic Arts’ students.

Klara Krklec

Klara Krklec graduated from Academy of Music in Ljubljana under the tutelage of Miloš Mlejnik. She is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Cello Performance at the University of Southern California in the studio class of Andrew Shulman, with whom she has previously gained her Graduate Certificate. While pursuing her Master's Degree in Cello Performance she was offered to take conducting lessons with Larry Livingston, which she describes as a new passion of hers. Klara has shared stage with well known musicians, such as Miloš Mlejnik, Martin Chalifour, Lorenzo Cossi, Orfeo Mandozzi and many more.

She was invited to perform on a European tour at the age of 14, where she played in famous halls, including Theater La Fenice in Venice and Mozarteum in Salzburg.

Klara has received first prizes in national and international competitions (Antonio Salieri, Temsig, Alfredo E Vanda Marcosig,..) and has been expanding her horizons at summer festivals with great mentors and musicians: Ralph Kirshbaum, Leopold Rudolf, Young-Chang Cho, Susanne Basler and others.

Armin Ćolarić

Armin Ćoralić has won over 10 first prizes at many national and international piano competitions. As a student of music school of Idrija (Slo) under a guidance from prof. Helena Plesničar, he won and achieved 1st prize at national competition TEMSIG in 2004 and 2007. In 2007 he continued his studies at SGBŠ in Ljubljana with prof. Sijavuš Gadjiev and won many international prizes under his guidance.

In 2010 he was admitted to the Royal College of Music in London, studying with prof. Andrew Zolinsky. He performed in Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Spain, Great Britain and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He recorded for Radio Koper, RTV Slovenia, ORF and BBC. He won many internal prizes at the Royal College of Music, such as Beethoven prize, H.W. Award and Virtuoso Prize. He expended his artistic and pedagogical knowledge by working with C. Elton, I. Laszko, S. Hough, B. Douglas , J. Lill and attending classes led by A. Schiff, A. Brendel, M. Ucihida, L. Lang and Emaunel Ax. He graduated in 2014.

As a soloist he performed with different orchestras, such as RTV Slovenian Symphony Orchestra under the baton of G. Pehlivanian and M. Rogina. In 2016 he achieved his MMus Master’s degree at the Royal College of Music. Currently he works as piano professor at Slovenian center of music Emil Komel (Gorizia, Italy) and holding a variety of workshops and masterclasses, recently at the Academy of Music in Sarajevo.