2021 Convention

November 11-14 2021
San Diego, California

The 2021 Convention will be held November 11-14 in San Diego, California. Stay tuned for more information.


2021 CMSA Convention

The Classical Mandolin Society of America and your host, the San Diego Mandolin Orchestra, invite you to attend the 35th Annual CMSA Convention, in San Diego, California Wednesday afternoon, November 11, through Sunday noon, November 14, with pre-convention workshops beginning Tuesday evening at the Crowne Plaza San Diego.

Following the option of pre-convention workshops beginning Tuesday evening, the convention kicks off on Wednesday afternoon with a set of workshops and the first En Masse Orchestra rehearsal with returning conductor Dr. Jim Bates, followed by the Welcome Party in the evening. Evening concerts featuring our guest performers and our host orchestra will take place on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. You can also look forward to open mic concerts, daily workshops on classical and non-classical topics, and late night sight reading and other ‘jams’. Friday includes our Gala banquet and raffle. The general CMSA membership meeting is Sunday morning, a last chance to spend time with bleary-eyed sore fingered friends.

Prices are $300 for those playing in the EnMasse Orchestra or $260 for non-playing members. Discounts of $50 are offered prior to the early-bird deadline.


Convention Schedule


Workshop Schedule


Accommodations & Travel


Guest Artists


Pre-Convention Workshops


En Masse Orchestra




Gear & T-Shirts


Convention Video



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 will lead a Pre-Convention Techniques Class for guitar, be the Sectional leader for En Masse, as well as give workshops and a concert. 

Portland artist Tim Connell, already well-known to most of us as a master of multiple genres, but particularly choro, will offer the Pre-Convention Techniques Class for mandolin, as well as some daytime and nighttime workshops. For his evening concert, Tim will form a duo with Cesar Garabini, New York City based choro guitarist extraordinaire.

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 Sectionals, 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—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…

Buzz Gravelle
Guest Performer

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…

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…

Tim Connell
Guest Performer

Tim Connell
Cesar Garabini

Cesar Garabini
Guest Performer

Born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Cesar Garabini is a seven string guitar player. In 2009 at the age of 19, he began putting together Samba, Bossa Nova and Chorinho bands, performing in Florence and other regions of Italy.

In 2011 he moved to New York City to expand his musical knowledge. Since then he has performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jazz Standard, Birdland, Columbia University, the Museum of Modern Art, with a monthly residence at Barbes. He has worked with Anat Cohen, Olli Soikkeli, Leny Andrade and Tim Connell. He has been featured on NPR, NBC and Global.

Discover more about Cesar…

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…

August Watters

Composer in Residence

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Returning as conductor of the EnMasse Orchestra is our own Jim Bates. He 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 on the state board 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 on the National Board of Directors of CMSA and chairs their educational initiatives.

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.

Jim Bates
En Masse Orchestra Conductor

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