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.
Devoted to both high-level classroom instruction and guitar performance, Brian Gaudino has taught guitar at levels from total beginners to undergraduate guitar majors. He joined the CCGS team in Fall 2016, and was named as Director of Education in 2017. In this role, Brian leads CCGS classroom initiatives, trains and supports new teachers, develops new programs and initiatives, and serves as the liaison between CCGS and the site location teachers and administrators. 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 earned first place at the 2009 UL Lafayette Friends of Music Classical Guitar Competition and was the recipient of the Richard Neiheisel Phi Beta Kappa Endowed Graduate Award. 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. In addition to his work with CCGS, Brian teaches privately and performs in a variety of genres.
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 music degrees from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and Indiana University. He worked for nine years as a professor at UNAM and is fluent in three languages. Rodrigo has extensive experience conducting guitar orchestras, and is the director of the guitar ensemble Sicarú, which has won 17 competition prizes in six different countries. He is currently completing his doctoral studies 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. As an arranger, Andy 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.
Jeremy Bass joined CCGS as a contracted teacher in January 2020. He is an avid proponent of new music, and equally enjoys exploring the rich historical literature for 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.
Kevin Covney is a classical guitarist and music educator who joined the CCGS faculty as a Teaching Fellow in January 2019. He received his B.M. in Music Education from Ithaca College, where he studied guitar with Award-winning guitarist Pablo Cohen and Jeremy Harting, and is currently pursuing an M.M. in Guitar Performance with Colin Davin and Grammy Award-winning guitarist, Jason Vieaux. He has collaborated in Upstate New York with groups such as Opera Ithaca, The Ithaca Shakespeare Company, and the Ithaca College Madrigal Singers. As a music educator, Kevin has taught general music, directed choir, and employed music therapy to students Grades Pre-K – 8 with differentiated, culturally conscious instruction at various schools such as Fox Lane Middle School (Bedford, NY) and Immaculate Conception School (Ithaca, NY). In addition to his work in the classroom for CCGS, Kevin is the Director of the Community Guitar Orchestra.
Alejandro Rodriguez started working with CCGS as a Teaching Fellow in 2018. He is currently enrolled in the Professional Studies Diploma program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studies with Jason Vieaux. Alejandro earned a Master of Music degree in Classical Guitar Performance from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, under the instruction of Cuban virtuoso Rene Izquierdo. Alejandro was born in Mexico City and moved to Houston, Texas, in 2006 due to his father’s job. He began learning the guitar in 2006, exploring genres such as rock, blues, and gypsy jazz. He began studying classical guitar in 2014 with Nicaraguan guitarist and pedagogue Dr. Isaac Bustos at Texas A&M University. Alejandro graduated with a B.A. in Music in May 2016, and during his time at A&M competed for the first time in a guitar duo at the Brownsville Guitar Ensemble Competition and won first prize.
Adam Satorius joined CCGS as a contracted 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.
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 the instructor for guitar classes at three site locations in Cleveland. In addition to his work for CCGS, Rob teaches guitar lessons, classes, and camps at Warren Henry Music in Chagrin Falls, and is Music Director at the UMC of Chagrin Falls. As an active composer, he scores for film, brand-based media, and arranges music for vocal and instrumental music such as high school competition show choir and pit ensemble.
Kadirah McJunkins joined the CCGS teaching roster in March 2020 as the organization’s Teaching Assistant. She started learning classical guitar three 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. 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 plans to pursue her visual arts talents at the Cleveland Institute of Art.