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About Asterisk

Asterisk is the musical project of PJ and Rokaya Cornell. PJ is the founder of the group, and an improvisatory musician whose principal instrument is the piano. Rokaya is a singer specializing in blues techniques. They have a semi-regular podcast where they releases new tracks, and they occasionally perform in public.

Philip John Cornell began to familiarize himself with creating music at the age of 5, wrote his first composition at the age of 7, and began his formal musical education at the age of 11 in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where he studied music theory, ear training, music history, piano, and trumpet. At 12, he became seriously interested in composition, and, at the age of 13, began to study with Vladimir Sapozhnikov; a member of the Saint Petersburg Composers’ Union. He studied with him for three years, achieving an honorable mention at the Saint Petersburg Composers’ Union Young Composers Municipal Competition for a piano piece entitled, The Seventh Seal. While he attended high school in the USA, he continued his studies with Dr. Phillip Schroeder at Sam Houston State University. His work was recognized for an honorable mention by the National Foundation for the Arts Talent Search as a high school senior in 2003.

PJ Cornell was accepted to the Shepherd School of Music in 2003, where he studied under Dr. Arthur Gottschalk. He had several pieces premiered while studying there, including an orchestral piece entitled Arctic Spirit, and a song cycle of three Anna Akhamtova poems, among others. He graduated from Rice University in 2007 with a BMus in Composition, a BA in Slavic Studies and Policy Studies, and a minor in Military Science (from the University of Houston). At that time, he also received a military commission as an Infantry Officer in the Texas Army National Guard.

After he graduated from the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, 1LT Cornell volunteered for two deployments - one to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and one to Camp Shelby, MS, where he served as the Officer in Charge of Demobilization Operations. Between these two deployments, he ran his own business as a piano tutor, contract musician, audio technician, and gunsmith. During this time, he released a guitar and piano track commissioned by the Lamar County Tea Party called Broken Bell, an album called Light in Dark Places (no longer available), and many other commercial and artistic musical products. After his second deployment, he moved to Richardson, TX, where he began graduate studies in Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Dallas, and launched the band, Asterisk, which is his personal, mostly online musical project. In 2017, he moved, and now lives and works as a licensed self employed insurance producer in Durham, NC.

Rokaya grew up in Azemmour, Morocco. She grew up with a strong interest in American culture and music - especially blues and prog-rock. She learned to speak Classical Arabic, French, and then English in addition to her native Moroccan Arabic dialect, and took a strong interest in blues vocals. She began to practice singing her favorite songs, and even wrote a few of her own. She has performed locally on a sporadic basis. She graduated from the University of Chouaib Doukkali with a degree in English Literature and Cultural Studies. She is now pursuing a career in translating and interpreting.

In 2016, PJ met then Rokaya Charif (now Rokaya Charif Cornell), and the two got married the following year. Asterisk is now their joint project.

This website is now the informational and contact hub for all matters relating to the Asterisk project, which, besides being a musical group, is also a general musical production services and commercial music production company, run by PJ and Rokaya. Please direct all performance, services, commercial, and personal inquiries to the “Contact Us” page. We look forward to hearing from you!