2021 Convention in the Clouds 2.0

November 12-14, 2021

Join us from wherever you are!

CMSA 2021

Convention in the Cloud(s) 2.0

November 12-14, 2021

The Classical Mandolin Society of America invites you to attend the 35th Annual CMSA Convention in the Cloud(s) Friday, November 12th through Sunday the 14th. Since we are gathering virtually this year, the convention will have many of the usual activities, but modified for an online format. Your days will include a steady stream of activities including workshops and panel discussions with renowned musicians and educators, hangout sessions, honors and awards, and the general meeting. Convention concerts, workshops, and OnDemand media will be available to registrants to watch in your own timeframe through the end of 2021.

All convention content is for use by the participants only. Do not share video links.

Guest Artists

Our headlining guest artists are Philadelphia based Ekaterina Skliar and Alexey Alexandrov, who will perform as the Alexandrov-Skliar Duo, in addition to being our Sectional leaders and offering workshops.

LA based classical guitarist Buzz Gravelle, is a new face at CMSA.  Buzz is the guitar Sectional leader for En Masse and will present both a concert and workshop. 

Portland artist Tim Connell, already well-known to most of us as a master of multiple genres, but particularly choro, will offer a workshop on “Your Pathway to Mandolin Practice Success.”

Sebastiaan de Grebber, along with pianist Philine Coots, will present a special concert.

The legendary Evan J. Marshall, also from Los Angeles, whose name is synonymous with the rebirth of ‘Duo’ style of playing, will give workshops and a concert.

Rounding out the program will be August Watters, a specialist on mandocello, who will lead the mandocello Sectional, give workshops and a concert.

Ekaterina Skliar
Guest Performer

Domrist, Mandolinist, and 2019 Astral National Auditions Winner, Ekaterina Skliar made her debut at age 11 with the Russian Folk Instrument Orchestra of the Buryatia Republic. Since then she has been performing throughout the United States and Russia giving solo recitals and collaborating with various chamber groups and orchestras.

Ekaterina started her music education with Vera Lashkina, Merited Worker of Culture of the Russian Federation and a highly-acclaimed domra teacher, in her home city Abakan, Republic of Khakassia. She studied at the Novosibirsk Specialized Music School (college), which is one of the two most prestigious schools of music for protégés in Russia. She received her Bachelor’s degree with Honors in Music Performance from M. Glinka Novosibirsk State Conservatory playing domra and mandolin.

Ekaterina has concertized throughout the United States and Russia giving solo recitals and performing with symphony and Russian folk instrument orchestras and chamber ensembles. Her large repertoire includes transcriptions of classical music, original works for domra and mandolin, contemporary and folk music. Ekaterina is a prizewinner of national, international, and all-Russian competitions.

Discover more about Ekaterina…

Alexey Alexandrov
Guest Performer

Performer, composer, and Made in NY Jazz Competition Winner, Alexey Alexandrov is a unique artist who plays Domra in both classical and jazz styles. Expanding the boundaries of Domra, Alexey has integrated the sound of this Russian folk string instrument into the jazz stylistic. He currently resides in Philadelphia and performs solo and with various groups throughout the US and Russia.

Alexey has collaborated with musicians all over the world including John Lee, Al Foster, Oliver Lake, Kevin Mahogany, Alain Musichini, Bobby Sanabria, Vadim Repin, Aaron «Professor Louie» Hurwitz, and others. His large repertoire includes transcriptions of classical music, original works for domra, contemporary and jazz music, and his own compositions.

A prizewinner of many international and all-Russian competitions, in 2018 Alexey was awarded the first prize of the prestigious Made in NY Jazz Competition, where he competed with jazz musicians from all over the world. His other accomplishments include I prize at the First and Third International Competitions “Libertango”, I prize at the All-Russian competition “Young talents of Russia”, Golden prize at the International “Gold Iria” Ethno Music Competition.

Alexey is also a founder of ethno-jazz project “Shake”. This project brings together jazz musicians and folk instrument performers and unites the atmosphere of freedom from Russian folk tradition and the spirit of improvisation from American jazz origins. The project became very successful in Russia and won multiple awards. In 2007 «Shake» recorded its first CD album «Jazz in Russian Style». The album was very well received and got many positive reviews. Specifically, for this project, Alexey constructed four-stringed fretless balalaika-contrabass (traditional balalaika-contrabass has three strings and is a fretted instrument).

As a performer and a sound producer, Alexey was invited to be a part of the Russian Center of G.D. Zavolokin “Igray, Garmon!” (“Play, my lovely Accordion”), the project dedicated to Russian folk traditions. Alexey was a part of more than 50 TV series of “Igray, Garmon» show on Channel One on Russian federal television. He is featured at 4 CD albums of Ensemble of G. D. Zavolokin “Chastushka”.

In recognition of his achievements in domra performance, Alexey received numerous scholarships and grants from such prestigious Russian organizations as Ministry of Culture of Russian Federation, Novosibirsk town council, Novosibirsk region administration, and others. Alexey holds his DMA at Russia’s M. Glinka Novosibirsk Conservatory, one of the most prestigious music universities in Russia.

Discover more about Alexey…

The Alexandrov-Skliar Duo

In 2015 Alexey Alexandrov and his wife Ekaterina Skliar,  who is also a professional musician, created an acoustic mandolin-domra duo. Together they have performed concerts in numerous American and Russian cities, where their performances got many positive reviews. The duo has become a nominee for the “MIRA” World Music Award (Russia) and a winner in the category “Best Instrumental Project” of the International Music Festival “Ustuu-Huree” (Russia). Ekaterina and Alexey present a repertoire that spans the globe; from Bach duets to Russian folk songs, and from Alexey’s own compositions to neo folklore and jazz.

Buzz Gravelle
Guest Performer

Buzz Gravelle—classical guitarist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and music professor—has carved out a unique and singular path in his thirty years of making music professionally. 

Buzz is one of world’s leading fretless classical guitarists, and has set about to raise awareness of its possibilities through original compositions, recordings, lecture/demonstrations, and performances. In 2019 he released to popular acclaim “The Realm of Endless Concepts” an album of all original compositions for fretless classical guitar.

Buzz was a founding member and featured composer of the Modern Arts Guitar Quartet, (1991-1995) an ensemble of guitarists/composers that explored the leading edges of new music for guitar—prepared guitar, serialism, minimalism, and aleatoric music. MAGQ performed throughout the Western United States and Europe.

Buzz was a founding member and mandolinist and featured composer of the performance collective ensembleFRET . Their programs featured music for guitar, mandolin, and arpeggione, whether solo, in duos and trios, or in expandable combination with guest vocalists and instrumentalists. Results ranged from intimate art-songs to massed guitars.

Buzz holds a D.M.A. in Music from UCLA. He is on faculty at California Polytechnic University at Pomona, where he teaches music theory and coordinates the guitar studies program. He is also the co-owner of G&G Guitars, exclusive resellers of Altamira fretless guitars. 

Discover more about Buzz…

Evan J Marshall
Guest Performer

Evan J.  Marshall is an internationally renowned mandolin virtuoso, and is widely regarded as the world’s premier solo performer on mandolin in Duo-Style. By himself, he sounds like several of the world’s finest mandolinists performing together. His stylistic signature is Classical, with strong influences from the Italian and American Folk traditions.  Country guitar legend Chet Atkins called Evan “A true virtuoso, one of the few great musicians of our time.”

Inspired by Atkins, and violinist Jascha Heifetz, Evan has created a uniquely recognizable approach to solo mandolin performance that combines bass lines, chords, rhapsodic runs and tremolo melodies.  He started Classical violin studies at age seven, and added the mandolin at age 14.

In addition to solo performances, Evan has been a Featured Guest Artist in Pops concerts with a number of Symphony Orchestras, including Houston, Phoenix, Long Beach, Grand Rapids, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Jacksonville and Pensacola.

Two of his solo mandolin recordings have been released by Rounder Records:

  • Evan Marshall Is the Lone Arranger, which the Washington Post labeled “Truly dazzling,” the Raleigh-Durham Independent called “Superhuman,” and the Fresno Bee called “Mind-boggling”
  • Mandolin Magic, which the St. Paul Pioneer Press applauded for a “Stunning mastery of interpretation.”

Evan also has recorded four solo CDs for his own label, Mandolin Conservatory.

In 1995 Evan made his first appearance on A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. Between 1993 and 2005 Evan was a Featured Soloist at Disneyland, performing his signature William Tell Overture: Finale for about two million visitors to the famous Golden Horseshoe Theater during the course of 10,000 shows. He has performed and taught at numerous regional and international conferences for mandolinists, who hold Evan in particularly high regard; Don Stiernberg has referred to Evan as “The Michael Jordan of the mandolin.”

Discover more about Evan J…

Tim Connell
Guest Performer

Tim Connell

A graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music and a virtuoso mandolinist with over twenty-five years professional performing experience, Tim Connell has created a sophisticated and original global style on the mandolin.  Regarded as one of the top North American interpreters of Brazilian choro on the mandolin, Tim has also developed his own unique voice for the instrument, described in a Mandolin Magazine cover story as “fiery and energetic, soulful and evocative.”

 Tim regularly tours Europe and North America in the international mandolin supergroup The Ger Mandolin Orchestra.  He has been a featured guest artist at national conventions of the Classical Mandolin Society of America; he is regularly on staff at the prestigious Mandolin Symposium and recently landed a cover story feature in Mandolin Magazine.

Tim has performed alongside top Brazilian musicians Dudu Maia, Choro das Tres, Alessandro Penezzi, Eduardo Neves and Almir Cortes.  He collaborates with jazz clarinet superstar Harvey Wainapel and the Berkeley Choro Ensemble and performed in the premeire of Wainapel’s new piece at the Berkeley Festival of Choro in May 2015.  Tim has performed with a roster of the greatest living mandolinists, including David Grisman, Mike Marshall, Avi Avital, Caterina Lichtenberg, Don Stiernberg, Rich Del Grosso, Chris Acquavella, Brian Oberlin and many others.

Tim is a restless and prolific bandleader and arranger, sideman and studio musician, currently touring with his Brazilian choro duo Rio Con Brio, 1930’s-era swing quartet Stumptown Swing, world mandolin duo Mando Planet and with guitar wizard Eric Skye.  In addition, Tim is an integral member of Americana songsters The Old Yellers, currently riding high on their new release “Ten From Town”.  In his solo act, Tim shares his career-long exploration of the world’s many musical styles as realized on the mandolin and voice.

As a veteran teacher and workshop presenter, Tim has taught at the Alaska Folk Arts Camp and the Wintergrass Festival School among many other music camps.  He is currently an an Adjunct Professor of Music at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR.  Additionally, Tim was a contributor to the number-one selling mandolin instructional book, “Mandolin for Dummies”.  He is also in-demand as an ensemble coach for both professional and amateur groups of all styles and instruments, helping bands improve their sound and overall vision and cleaning up arrangements as they head into the recording studio.

Discover more about Tim…

Philine Coops studied with Rudy de Heus and Frank van de Laar at the ArtEZ Conservatory Zwolle. After receiving her Bachelor Degree in 2002, she graduated in 2004 for her Master Degree. As a student, Philine visited the United States to meet music students and attend masterclasses at Montclair State University (NY). Back home in the Netherlands, she attended in masterclasses with Sepp Grotenhuis, Rudolf Jansen, Igor Roma and Kelvin Grout, and was pianist at tango-quintet ‘Piazzwolla’ during her study.

At the present, Philine performs on a regular basis at chambermusic recitals and contributes to the world of contemporary classical music by performing works by Dutch composers such as Simeon ten Holt (Canto Ostinato, Shadow nor Prey), Toon Hagen (Intermezzi, Going On II and III) and Annette Kruisbrink (11 Ostinatonic Studies). In addition, Philine is an experienced accompanist of choirs, soloists and music students. Philine also co-founded ‘Podiumkunst Muz!nder’, a foundation that enables artists to create, develop and perform various concertprograms, always with the aim to combine the old with the new, the known with the unknown and to search for coalitions between the different types of performing arts. Her private teaching practice has an average of 35 piano students who differ in age and level. She is affiliated with the European Piano Teachers Association (EPTA) and the musicteachers collective ‘Dubbelgreep Muziekles’ at Zwolle.

Sebastiaan de Grebber & Philine Coops
Guest Performers

Sebastiaan de Grebber (1980) is a Dutch mandolinist. At the age of eight he started to play the mandolin taking lessons from Alex Timmerman his hometown Zwolle (The Netherlands). In 1996 he attended the Conservatory at the Constantijn Huygens ‘College of the Arts’ to study music education and the mandolin professionally with Alex Timmerman. After graduating in music education in 2001 and receiving his Bachelor Degree for mandolin in 2002 he focused on a future career as a professional mandolinist. Already active in the field, giving concerts in The Netherlands as well as many other European countries, de Grebber was still eager to advance. So in 2003 he started his Master Degree Mandolin. He studied with Alex Timmerman at the Messiaen Academie in Zwolle and with the well-known Italian mandolinist Ugo Orlandi at the Conservatorio ‘C. Pollini’ in Padova, Italy. On 27 May 2005 de Grebber gave his final recital at the Messiaen Academie. The jury board, which also included Maestro Ugo Orlandi, was unanimous and granted him the highest possible predicate: Master of Music with Distinction (cum laude).

Currently, Sebastiaan de Grebber is music education and mandolin teacher at the ArtEZ Conservatory in Zwolle, is the concertmaster of ‘HET Consort’, is the director of the ‘Kamper Mandoline en Gitaar Orkest’, is frequently asked for mandolin-seminars and masterclasses (Trinity-London, Split-Croatia, EGMYO’16, Ottweiler-Germany and San Diego & Bloomington-USA) and gives mandolin solo, duo and quintet recitals and concerts with the new-found mandolin guitar ensemble ‘Chordofonia’ and o.a. with Eva van den Dool (piano).

August Watters

August Watters
Guest Performer

August Watters is a multi-stylistic, improvising mandolinist, composer/arranger, and teacher based in both Boston, USA, and the Pacific Northwest (Oregon). His work as an interpreter, improviser, composer and arranger bridges contemporary classical music, jazz, folk music traditions, and the historical concert mandolin repertoire. He is the founder of the New England Mandolin Ensemble and the Festival of Mandolin Chamber Music.

As an international clinician and soloist, Watters has performed extensively in Europe, Canada, and the United States. He is also an Emmy award-winning arranger, with dozens of studio credits as arranger, orchestrator and conductor for television and film music. Watters holds a Masters of Music Education from Boston University, and a Bachelor’s of Music from Berklee College, majoring in Jazz Composition and Arranging, summa cum laude.

Watters taught at Boston’s Berklee College of Music for 18 years, earning the rank of Professor, Ear Training. He is now a full-time performer, composer, and conductor specializing in music for mandolin and mandolin ensemble.

Discover more about August…

Dr. Jim Bates

Conductor, En Masse Orchestra Experience

Dr. Jim Bates is Director of Orchestral Activities at Otterbein University in Columbus, OH and serves as an assistant conductor for the Westerville Symphony (OH) and Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestras. Conducting duties in the department include leading the string orchestra and directing the early music ensemble. As a conductor and teacher, Dr. Bates is able to draw on considerable experience as an educator, performer and historian. He has served as president of Kentucky ASTA and as string coordinator for the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts. From 2010-2012 Dr. Bates chaired the Coda Bows for America Community Outreach Program for ASTA, and currently serves as president of the Ohio String Teacher’s Association.

In addition to string education he is very involved with the Classical Mandolin Society of America and period instrument performance. He is a member of the national Board of Directors of CMSA. Dr. Bates is music director of The Early Interval, Columbus’ professional early music performance ensemble and serves on the board of directors for Early Music Columbus. He has degrees from the University of Louisville (B.M.E.), a Masters in double bass performance from Indiana University, where he studied bass with Lawrence Hurst and baroque performance with Stanley Ritchie, and a Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of Kentucky. He has two sons, Ethan and Gideon.

Workshops and More


This year’s workshops include sessions with live Q&A with renowned musicians and educators.

Ekaterina Skliar: Mandolin Repertoire. This workshop is dedicated to the mandolin repertoire in classical and contemporary music. Expand your musical horizons and knowledge of music written for the mandolin from the Baroque era to present day and learn about available resources for finding sheet music.

Tim Connell: Your Pathway to Mandolin Practice Success. Tim Connell invites all CMSA mandolinists to join him for a long-term mandolin technique strategy session. You will leave the session armed with a clear pathway to success, offering you the confidence to invigorate your mandolin practice.

Alexey Alexandrov: Improvisation. This workshop is dedicated to the basics of improvisation on the mandolin and other plucked instruments. Learn the exercises and useful tips for productive practice that help to develop the flexibility of playing in different tunes.

Evan J. Marshall: Solo Mandolin: Not Necessarily Duo-Style. An introduction and more to solo performance techniques. This workshop will look at using “open” and “closed” chord forms to play Chord plus Melody and Carter Scratch. We also will look at the basics of Batterie and Duo-Style, with some tips for DIY skill development.

Buzz GravelleThe Fretless Guitar. This workshop is a lecture/demonstration of the fretless classical guitar. Buzz Gravelle, a leading fretless guitarist, will introduce and de-mystify this unique variant of the classical guitar, discussing its history and exploring its unique musical voice.

Florian Klaus Rumpf: Kleine Sonatine Nr. 2. This workshop will focus on aspects of mandola technique, as applied to his new composition, “Kleine Sonatine Nr. 2”.

August Watters: Mandocello: Here, There, and Everywhere! The workshop will begin with the basics of mandocello playing, highlighting present and future possibilities for the mandocello and its use in the classical mandolin ensemble.

Jim Bates: Creating great mandolin orchestra performances…reflections from the last 30 years. This workshop will provide some insight into the various components that work together symbiotically to create compelling and memorable orchestra performances. Topics discussed will include repertoire, rehearsal strategies, growing your ensemble’s skills, architecture of a well-run rehearsal, sculpting a musical performance and empowering your players.  

Handouts for workshops will be posted in advance of the convention. Workshop participants will have opportunities to ask questions of presenters, either during or after the workshop.

Pop-Up Concerts

New this year are Pop-Up Concerts.

Duo Clarima is Salima Ben Guigui on mandolin and Clara Dicke on harp. Salima and Clara met in 2011 as university students and decided to experiment with the sound of a mandolin and a harp together. The sound was so convincing that they immediately established their duo project. Duo Clarima’s PopUp Concert will feature music by Masataka Hori and other works from their repertoire.

Duo Recuerda is Jeannette Mozos del Campo on mandolin, and Vicente Mozos del Campo on classical guitar. Widely considered to be among the best mandolin-guitar duos in the world, Jeannette and Vincente are in heavy demand as instructors, and regularly teach at specialist courses and festivals. Duo Recuerda’s PopUp Concert will feature works by Raffaele Calace, George Gershwin, Astor Piazzolla, and Domenico Scarlatti.

Charlotte Kaiser is one of Europe’s “rising stars” on classical mandolin. She is a multiple first prize winner in Germany’s “Jugend muiziert” competition, and has twice performed as concertmaster with the European Guitar and Mandolin Youth Orchestra. Charlotte’s PopUp Concert will feature solo mandolin works by Antonio Riggieri, Heinrich Konietzny, and Yasuo Kuwahara.

Each of the concert videos will be showcased as suggested viewing during specific time slots and will be available for you to watch OnDemand.  Viewers wil have opportunities for viewers to ask questions about the videos during live hangout sessions.

Just a reminder: Workshop recordings and OnDemand videos can be watched at any time (and repeatedly) during the convention and at least through year-end.

Commissioned Videos

CMSA has commissioned two special videos this year.

Jeff Brumley in his commissioned video, “Arranging for Your Local Orchestra,” will review lessons he learned arranging music for the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra and tips and tricks for getting you started for arranging for your local orchestra.

The great German mandolin builder Alfred Woll will be interviewed by Robert Margo about his new book “The Art of Mandolin Making: Historical Development and Construction of the Mandolin”.

Bonus Workshop

Dr. Jim Imhoff. Mandocellos in the 21st Century. New compositions, new ideas, new materials including a fresh approach to arpeggio work from August Watters. We will also discuss concerns specific to the larger member of the mandolin family, whether as an ensemble member or solo instrument. Bring your Mandocello; we will play!


Open Mic

Although our convention is very different this year, we want to capture the energy and enthusiasm that characterize this popular event. There will be two types of open mic events this year: The Saturday Night Open Mic Concert, and the OnDemand Performances. Both events will consist of pre-recorded performance videos submitted by our members. All submitted videos will appear in the OnDemand media, which members who register for the convention may view at their leisure. A selection of submitted videos will appear in the Saturday Open Mic Concert, selected based on adequate sound and lighting quality, variety of performances, and time limitations for the concert.

Submission Deadlines

  • Final videos must be submitted no later than Saturday, October 30. Videos submitted by noon on Saturday, November 6 will be included in OnDemand media.
  • Please do not wait until the last minute to submit your video! 
  • Let us know if you would like to submit a video but need a bit more time.

Specifications for Videos

  • Videos for individuals/duets must not exceed 5 minutes; group videos must not exceed 10 minutes.
  • Video submissions don’t have to be new, and group or individual videos are welcome.
  • You may submit more than one video.
  • Submitted videos must be in final form, not requiring editing or enhancement.
  • View Tools for Recording a Successful Open Mic Performance.
2015 Convention


Help us support our programs and scholarships.

Your dollars will allow us to support the creation of new music for mandolin family instruments and orchestras, build an online library of historic and new mandolin music, support luthiers, and continue our educational goals to provide stimulating and innovative workshops, and support artists from around the world. Your generosity also supports our scholarship and Mando-for-Kids programs, supporting mandolin students.


We invite you to help sponsor our annual convention and to reach out to our members.  Benefits such as ads in the Mandolin Journal and vendor tables allow you to connect with members. Learn more about bronze, silver, and gold levels of sponsorship below.


Every year CMSA awards a variety of scholarships to mandolinists looking for extra assistance to come to the annual convention. We currently have scholarships for students, and one specifically for second mandolinists. Learn more and apply below.

Virtual En Masse Experience

Virtual En Masse Orchestra

The Virtual En Masse Orchestra will perform Connected by Andre Herteux and Huapango Criolla (movement #3 of the Suite Mexicana) by Eduardo Angulo. For the En Masse performance, we will play along from home with section leaders under the baton of conductor Dr. Jim Bates. En Masse players will rehearse at home using video recordings by the section leaders. There will be a sectional during the convention. For the En Masse performance, we will play along from home with section leaders under the baton of conductor Dr. Jim Bates.

A composite En Masse performance video will be created by year-end with audio/video submitted by En Masse participants. Watch the “Filming YOUR Part for EnMasse” video and submit your recording by December 6, 2020.

Convention Registrants: Login to view audio and video rehearsal and play-along tracks.

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