Meet the people behind the organization!
CCGS Leadership Team
Erik Mann, Executive Director
Cleveland Classical Guitar Society is headed by Erik Mann, who has led the organization since May 2009, a role which combines his love of classical music and education. Under his leadership CCGS has created the International Series, which now presents the finest classical guitarists in the world, as well as an education program that builds classical guitar programs in partnership with Cleveland schools. Erik has been a faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music since 2004 and previously taught at three other colleges. He served for three years on the committee for review of stringed instrument applications of the Fulbright US student program. Erik’s performances on the classical guitar include The Cleveland Orchestra, Glimmerglass Opera, Erie Philharmonic, and Erie Chamber Orchestra. Erik holds degrees in music performance from Towson University and the Cleveland Institute of Music. In 2015 he was one of 25 arts leaders nationwide chosen for the Community Arts Education Leadership Institute of the National Guild for Community Arts Education.
Jessica Peek Sherwood is a flutist, educator, and nonprofit leader and manager. She joined CCGS as the Director of Operations in July 2019, having previously served on the Board of Directors for one year. Prior to CCGS, Jessica was the instrumental music director and woodwind specialist at Hawken Upper School (Cleveland) and the Paideia School (Atlanta), and maintained a large studio of private students. She was a member of the Woodruff Arts Center’s Arts4Learning collaborative—a cadre of teaching artists trained by the WAC to provide arts education residencies in schools throughout metro Atlanta. She has appeared onstage at Spivey Hall (Georgia) with her solo music technology children’s show, and performed as a Young Audiences of Atlanta artist. Jessica received her Bachelor of Music in Music Education from the University of Michigan and Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University. She is driven by her passion for equal access to high-quality music education, and welcomes the opportunity to help impact the lives of students in Cleveland.
Jewel M. Heath joined the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society in June 2020 as the Director of Development. A native Clevelander, she has always found connections in diverse paths and managed to weave a consistent thread of social justice and public service into all of her endeavors. Growing up in a musically-gifted family, Jewel was surrounded by all genres of music and learned to sing at an early age. Jewel attended Hiram College where she majored in Spanish and Biology, while remaining active in her family’s church as a youth leader, choir member, and playwright. Jewel completed graduate studies at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs and Case Western Reserve University, where she studied Urban Health and Medical Anthropology. Currently, she is a law student at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Jewel has worked as a middle school and high school educator and mentor, as well as an Adult GED Instructor. In this capacity, she staunchly promoted and advocated for STEM/STEAM education for her students, most of whom were students of color from economically-depressed communities.
Brian Gaudino joined the CCGS team in 2016 and was promoted to Director of Education in 2017. In this role, he leads CCGS classroom instruction, trains and supports teachers, develops new programs and initiatives, and serves as the liaison between CCGS and site location teachers and administrators. Under his leadership, CCGS grew the number of students they served from under 100 to nearly 700, and the number of community partners from 3 to 18. In 2020, Brian launched Guitar@Home Academy, which provides free private guitars lessons over video chat to any students that attend a Cleveland school. Before joining CCGS, Brian was a faculty member at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, where he taught classical and jazz guitar. As a performer, Brian was selected as a member of the inaugural United States Guitar Orchestra, which premiered three new compositions at Carnegie Hall and toured France. In addition to classical, Brian performs in a variety of other genres. He placed fifth in the 2020 international Kiesel Guitars Solo Competition. Brian holds a Master’s degree in guitar performance from UL Lafayette and a Bachelor’s degree in music from The College of William and Mary.
Rodrigo Lara Alonso relocated to Cleveland to join the faculty of the CCGS Education Program in Fall 2019. In addition to his work as a full-time guitar instructor in the classroom, Rodrigo serves as the Latinx Community Liaison for CCGS. He holds degrees in music and Latin American Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and postgraduate degrees from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Indiana University (Bloomington). He worked for nine years as a professor at UNAM and is fluent in three languages. Rodrigo has extensive experience conducting guitar orchestras. His recording with the Orquesta de Guitarras Nestor Castañeda, México de mis sueños, is available on the Tempus Clásico label. He is the director and founder of the guitar ensemble Sicarú, which has won 11 first prizes in six different countries. He is currently a PhD candidate in music education at the University of Southern Mississippi. In addition to classroom teaching, Rodrigo is the Director of the Cleveland Youth Guitar Orchestra.
Baltimore native Andy Poxon joined CCGS as the first Teaching Fellow in Fall 2017. Now a lead teacher for the program, he is an accomplished guitarist and arranger across many styles and genres. As a guitarist, Andy has won numerous competitions and awards across the United States, and has played at venues such as the Kennedy Center, the Sacramento Music Festival, and Festival D’été, both as a soloist and with various bands. He has recorded three albums of original music released on Ellersoul Records, which have received extensive airplay on Sirius/XM radio and have been nominated for numerous awards. Andy is an active freelance musician in Cleveland, including several performances as a guest musician with The Cleveland Orchestra. As an arranger, he has been commissioned by Grammy-award winning artists such as Jason Vieaux and Anne Akiko Meyers. Andy holds degrees from Towson University and the Cleveland Institute of Music. In addition to CCGS, Andy is a faculty member of the CIM Preparatory Department.
Adam Satorius, Educator & Community Events
Adam Satorius joined CCGS as a teacher in Fall 2019, serving as the lead instructor at seven site locations around Cleveland. He has been involved with music, both as a performer and teacher, for most of his life. Adam’s musical background includes piano, guitar, cello, bassoon, and percussion. He has performed nationally and internationally in orchestras, marching bands, wind ensembles, choirs, guitar ensembles, chamber ensembles, and as a soloist. Adam received Bachelor’s degrees in Classical Guitar Performance and Music Education from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. As a teacher, he strives to provide his students with the skills, knowledge, and experiences to develop a love of music-making and discover their own unique musical voice. In addition to his work as a teacher, Adam assists with Community Events for CCGS.
Jeremy Bass joined CCGS as a contracted teacher in January 2020. He specializes in contemporary music for classical guitar, and in recent years, has focused on historical plucked strings. Jeremy has performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, and the Lexington Chamber Orchestra. He was a fellow at SoundSCAPE and Nief-Norf, and guest artist with Alia Musica Pittsburgh and the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. His principal teachers were Dieter Hennings, Andrew Zohn, and Rafael Scarfullery. Jeremy holds postgraduate degrees from the University of Kentucky and Columbus State University, and was a 2018-2019 Fulbright Scholar Grantee at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. His solo debut recording, David del Puerto: Guitar Sonatas, Volume I, is available on the Orpheus Classical label. He can also be heard on the Irish-Americana group Wolf and Clover’s self-titled album. A fluent Spanish speaker, Jeremy is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Ecuador 2007-2009), and a graduate of Woodstock School, Mussoorie, India.
Maryam Hajialigol was introduced to CCGS as a Teaching Fellow in 2018. She is an award-winning classical guitarist, using her passion for performance and her experience in education to promote guitar in the world of classical music and beyond. She has given performances at diverse venues such as the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the U.S. Department of Education. Her experience in education and the public sector includes time working for the Cleveland Classical Guitar Society, the Yale University Music in Schools Initiative, and the City of New Haven Department of Arts & Culture. Maryam completed her Bachelor of Music degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Grammy award-winner Jason Vieaux; she is currently pursuing her Master of Music degree with Benjamin Verdery at the Yale School of Music.
Rob Thorndike has been a lead teacher with CCGS since Spring 2018. He has had a diverse career as a musician, actively working as a guitarist, music director, and composer in Cleveland after completing his classical guitar studies with Dr. Françoise Fowler at Youngstown State University, where he earned his degree in guitar performance and music education (2011). Currently, Rob is a guitar class instructor and private lesson teacher at several CCGS partner sites throughout Cleveland. In addition to his work for CCGS, Rob teaches guitar lessons, classes, and camps at Chagrin Valley Music in Chagrin Falls, and is Music Director at the UMC of Chagrin Falls. As an active composer, he scores music for film, brand-based media, and arranges music for high school vocal and instrumental ensembles.
Kadirah McJunkins joined the CCGS teaching roster in March 2020 as the organization’s Teaching Assistant. She started learning classical guitar four years ago through CCGS classes at her school. She is an active student in the CCGS Education Program, performing regularly with the CCGS Advanced Quartet at events around Cleveland (including the MLK Day Celebration at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the CCGS International Series). As a soloist, she has participated in the organization’s open recitals and masterclasses. Kadirah was named the 2020 CCGS Education Program’s Student of the Year, awarded at the annual Showcase Concert. Her duties as the CCGS Teaching Assistant include assisting with classes, working one-on-one with students, and recording videos of student repertoire. A multi-talented artist, Kadirah is pursuing her visual arts talents at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where she is majoring in Animation.