SBM Sponsored Artists

Strings By Mail is proud to sponsor a select group of artists. These artists each represent the highest level of artistry in their field, either as established artists or as young emerging talents.

Alex De Grassi     |      Matt Palmer     |      Gohar Vardanyan     |      Livio Gianola     |      Cim Frode     |      Adam del Monte     |      Petar Jankovic Ensemble     |      Irene Gomez     |      Raphaella Smits     |      PD Guitar Duo     |      Stoll Vaughan     |      Hal Grossman

Alex De Grassi

Alex De Grassi

I first heard Alex De Grassi live at Carnegie hall in about 1980, and have been a dedicated fan ever since. He is an artist who has never stopped growing and always created inspired music. His technique is fantastic and his music is ever meaningful. We at Strings By Mail are proud to now have a sponsorship relationship with Alex and have teamed with him to pursue the mutual goal of promoting the pursuit of higher education for acoustic guitarists. We will be announcing new efforts to that end in the coming months.
-John Wunsch, President | Strings By Mail

Alex De Grassi has been a unique voice in the world of acoustic guitar for over 30 years and his innovative approach to composing and arranging for solo steel-string guitar has influenced a generation of players. From his first solo performances in university coffeehouses and as a street musician to his engagements at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and the Montreux Jazz Festival, Alex has followed his own vision and, in the process, helped to lay the foundation for contemporary fingerstyle guitar. Inspired by American and British Isles folk and blues artists in his early teens, his musical pursuits soon expanded to encompass classical, jazz, and world music. He has since become known for his evocative compositions and arrangements, and for his sheer virtuosity. Using a broad palette of techniques and timbre in conjunction with his ability to weave together melody, counter-melody, bass, harmony, and rhythm into a highly orchestrated canvas of sound, Alex’s performances take the listener well beyond the instrument. The Wall Street Journal has called his playing “flawless” and Billboard hails his “intricate finger-picking technique with an uncanny gift for melodic invention.”

Alex’s career has drawn acclaim for numerous recordings as well as for his live performances as a soloist and within ensemble settings. His 1978 recording, Turning: Turning Back (cited by Acoustic Guitar magazine among their top ten essential fingerstyle recordings), the subsequent recordings Slow Circle (1979) and Southern Exposure (1984), and his Grammy® nominated recording The Water Garden (1998) are considered classics of the genre.

He has twice been commissioned by the New York Guitar Festival to compose and perform live scores for the festival's Silent Films/Live Guitars series: in 2010 at Merkin Hall, and in 2006 at Flushing Town Hall. Festival director David Spelman says “Alex de Grassi is a treasure… his technical wizardry as well as his vibrant and poetic music-making make him one of the most distinctive steel-string guitarists performing today.”

Alex’s most recent solo guitar recording, In Concert (Mel Bay Records), was recorded in front of a live Nashville audience and it features compositions and arrangements spanning the length of his career. His latest solo studio recording, Now and Then: Folk Songs for the 21st Century (Tropo Records), features contemporary arrangements of 11 treasured melodies from the American standards repertoire.

Matt Palmer

Matt Palmer

I was introduced to Matt Palmer by my associate and former student Dr. Brad De Roche. One often hears of exciting new artists on the horizon, but I am usually more impressed by their abilities than their meaning. Matt breaks that pattern quite decidedly. The level of expression and meaning in his performances is exceedingly impressive. We at Strings By Mail are very proud to support Matt by our sponsorship and look forward to the fulfillment that others will experience as they discover this fine young artist of the classical guitar.
-John Wunsch, President | Strings By Mail

Matt Palmer has appeared as a soloist throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico, Canada, South America, and the Caribbean. A recent recipient of the "Up and Coming Guitarist of the Year" award by Guitar International Magazine, Matt has been described by critics as "a young artist about to make a real dent in the world of classical guitar" ( Premier Guitar Magazine ), "highly expressive and technically virtuosic" ( Modern Guitars Magazine ), "a truly accomplished and refined musician" ( Cleveland Classical ), and "one of the world’s best guitar players" ( The Royal Gazette ). An active performer, winner of numerous guitar competitions, and author of The Virtuoso Guitarist method, Matt Palmer has gained worldwide recognition as a virtuosic and soulful concert artist.

His numerous CD and DVD recordings have been applauded by Guitar International Magazine as "of the highest quality…with flawless technique, deep levels of personal expression, and an artistic integrity that seems far too rare these days." Classical Voice of North Carolina proclaims Matt’s "positively nuclear" recordings display "stunning precision and unwavering accuracy enclosed in a huge dynamic envelope." In addition, Matt’s pioneering guitar method, The Virtuoso Guitarist , has been recognized as a valuable addition to guitar pedagogy, and "indispensable for any advanced guitarist or teacher to include in their library" (Classical Guitar Review) .

Matt Palmer has collaborated with many important composers to write new music for the guitar, and has premiered and recorded over three hours of new works by Tanya Anisimova, Rafael Scarfullery, Sergei Rudnev, Giuseppe Torrisi, Roger Hudson, Olga Amelkina-Vera, Lane Harder, Konstantin Vassiliev, Itamar Erez, Holly Gwin, and Fedor Kondenko. Matt Palmer holds the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from The University of Arizona, where he studied with Thomas Patterson and Artists-in-Residence David Russell, Sergio Assad, and Odair Assad. In demand as a performer, his recent concert engagements have taken him to venues such as Carnegie Hall, Shakespeare Theatre, Benaroya Hall, The Guitar Foundation of America International Convention, numerous universities, guitar societies, and dozens of international guitar festivals throughout the world. Matt is the Director of Guitar Studies at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, and Coordinator of the Eastern Shore Guitar Festival and Workshop. Matt Palmer is a Strings By Mail sponsored artist and plays D’Addario strings. Matt plays a handmade guitar by luthier Michael Thames.

Gohar Vardanyan

Gohar Vardanyan

I recognized the fine talent of Gohar the first time I heard her and came to know her as a very special musical soul over the 10 years I have known her. In addition to her obvious talent she brings a very special joy to music in performance and in the master classes she teaches. It is indeed an honor to support Gohar's career by our sponsorship.
-John Wunsch, President | Strings By Mail

"Gohar Vardanyan performs with a genuine passion and virtuosity that is engaging and compelling." ~ Sharon Isbin

"With her flawless technique, natural musicality and gorgeous sound Gohar Vardanyan is undoubtly one of the most talented young guitarists I had ever had the pleasure to teach. It is only a matter of time before the entire guitar world will be speaking of her." ~Antigoni Goni

Armenian guitarist Gohar Vardanyan has performed throughout the United States for numerous guitar societies, universities, and arts organizations, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, and the Grand Canyon, Sierra Nevada, and New England Guitar Societies. She has appeared on National Public Radio on the program “From the Top.” Ms. Vardanyan has also performed with the Juilliard Opera Center and as a soloist with the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra. Guitar International Magazine has described her as “the complete package,” “with a musicality and emotional quality . . . that one would expect from someone much older than the young wunderkind. Not only is she able to draw you into her performances with engaging musical interpretations, but she has the technical facility that is required of any concert level guitarist.” Her playing has been described as “passionate,” “evocative,” and “virtuosic.”

Ms. Vardanyan began studying the guitar in her native Armenia at the age of five under the careful guidance of her father, Vardan Vardanyan. At the age of eight, she gave her first public performance and also appeared on Armenian National Television. She was the first prize winner in the Armenian National Music Contest “Amadeus” and was accepted into the prestigious group, “New Names,” for talented young musicians. She performed in numerous concert venues in Armenia, including Komitas Chamber Music Hall and the Small Philharmonic Hall. She went on to study with Antigoni Goni at the Pre-College Division of the Juilliard School. In 2001, Ms. Vardanyan studied with John Wunsch at the Interlochen Arts Academy. She was awarded the Young Artist's Certificate from Interlochen Center for the Arts and the Harold Randolph Prize in performance from the Peabody Conservatory.

Ms. Vardanyan holds a Master of Music Degree from The Juilliard School where she studied with Sharon Isbin, and a Bachelor of Music degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music where she studied with Manuel Barrueco. She is also an alumna of the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Petar Jankovic Ensemble

Petar Jankovic Ensemble

We at Strings By Mail really had no plans for adding any artist to our roster in the near future, and especially no plans or expectations for supporting an ensemble. However, a chance opportunity to hear the “Petar Jankovic Ensemble” inspired me to make this unexpected commitment in support of the group. I know they will have a very significant impact on audiences and in the process expand the boundaries of the classical guitar. This will be important for the repertoire, the artists, and the audiences. We at Strings By Mail are proud to be a part of this new initiative.
-John Wunsch, President | Strings By Mail

"The interplay of the string quartet sounds very impressive..., and is executed flawlessly and artistically by all the members! The Petar Jankovic Ensemble is an exciting new group that has something to offer both fans of classical music as well as fans of guitar music!"
- Brad Conroy, music critic,

Petar Jankovic, international award-winning classical guitarist and faculty member at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, joins forces with a string quartet comprised of brilliant musicians from the prestigious Indiana University.

This collaboration creates a very unique and attractive ensemble. The group currently tours with Spanish and Latin American classical music programs, playing original arrangements by some of the icons of this repertoire: Albeniz's Leyenda (Asturias), De Falla's La Vida Breve, Piazzolla’s tangos, etc... The string quartet and guitar blend infuses new vigor and refreshing outlook in combination with the group’s expressive and enjoyable renditions. Their show is well-received across a wide audience spectrum - from traditional chamber music lovers to guitar enthusiasts.

Jankovic began his performance career in 1985, and has since delighted audiences at concerts and enlightened students in his master classes throughout Europe and the United States. Jankovic’s guitar studies started at age eight in his native Serbia, where he later earned a degree in classical guitar from the Music Academy in Belgrade. At age 16, he delivered his first professional performance. By age 20, the Community College in Belgrade invited the young, talented Jankovic to share his expertise with novice guitar students.

This marked the beginning of a distinguished teaching career that has developed alongside his successful performing career. He went on to earn a Masters Degree and the esteemed Artist Diploma Degree from the renowned Indiana University School of Music where he currently teaches.

On average, Jankovic performs over 30 concerts per season. His expressive interpretations and technical mastery - found only among the world's top musicians – leaves no mystery to the many rave reviews received over the years. With his new Petar Jankovic Ensemble, Jankovic promises to deliver another triumph in his performing career.

Irene Gómez

Irene Gomez

I had been aware of Irene and her artistry for some time, but when I had the opportunity hear her performances of some of the unique South American repertoire she champions, she distinguished herself as a guitarist of importance. Her powerful yet sensitive performance skills provide incisive and moving interpretations and we at Strings By Mail are proud be a part of the contribution she is making to the world of music and culture.
-John Wunsch, President | Strings By Mail

Classical Guitarist Irene Gómez was first guitarist graduated in the National University in her home land Bogota, Colombia. She was awarded the master of music at the Julliard School where she studied under Sharon Isbin. She holds the Gold Medal in Guitar and Chamber music from Claude Debussy Conservatoire in France. Her high interpretative qualities on the guitar have been praised by prestigious magazines like Soundboard and Classical Guitar Magazine. She has released four CDs: Sunset Guitar (2000), En los bosques (2004), Images (2006) Estudios and Fantasias para Guitarra (2010).

Irene currently shares her time between her worldwide concert career, recording, and teaching at the Conservatory of Music at the National University of Colombia. She has toured in Europe and USA where she has performed as a soloist and as chamber musician in cities such as Paris, Metz, Dijon, Bergerac, Basel, Liestal, Brno, Olomouc, New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Erie Pa., Caracas and Bogotá, among others.

Raphaella Smits

Raphaella Smitts

Clearly one of the most important artists of her generation Raphaella Smits quickly became a favorite of mine through her fabulous technique and the unparalleled beauty of the expression delivered in every phrase of her playing. It is with great pride that we welcome Raphaella to our group of sponsored artists.
-John Wunsch, President | Strings By Mail

Raphaella Smits plays worldwide in her unique way on eight-string guitars and historical instruments. Recognized as ‘an uncommonly musical guitarist’ (Tim Page, New York Times), she always commits to the soul of the music. Her solo recitals as well as her performances with the most distinguished colleagues always meet enthusiastic audiences and press.

Besides stage-work Raphaella Smits has made 5 LP's and since 1986 for Accent Records 12 CD's, many of them being listed as indispensable to refined music lovers. Raphaella Smits is internationally praised as an inspiring teacher for both guitar and chamber music. In addition to her chair at the Lemmens Institute in Belgium, she regularly gives master-classes in West and East Europe, in North and South America and in Japan.

Organizers of international music competitions ask Raphaella as a member of the jury because of her ability to listen and to judge so accurately. Here again she shows her talent to combine professional skills with a great sense of empathy. Raphaella studied classical music at the Royal Conservatories of Antwerp and Brussels. She also went to José Tomàs to perfect her playing at the "Catedra Andrès Segovia" in Spain. At that time she was giving her first recitals and became a persuasive advocate of the eight-string guitar. In 1986 Raphaella Smits was the first woman to win the first prize of the "XX Certamen Internacional de Guitarra Francisco Tarrega", the famous international guitar competition in Benicasim, Spain. That victory confirmed the progress of a successful career, which over the previous years had included prizes in the Granada and Palma de Mallorca contests.

Chairmen Andrès Segovia and Narciso Yepes, both expressed their admiration for Raphaella's musicality and put prophetically confidence in her future achievements. Today Raphaella Smits is called quite rightly ‘une Grande Musicienne’ and ‘one of the most delicate and most cultivated performers of our time’. (Jean Bernard, Diapason, FR)

Livio Gianola

Livio Gianola

We are very proud to have Livio as a new member of our artist roster. We were initially extremely impressed by Livio's Flamenco sensibilities and skills and felt he added a new side to our artist roster. But in the process of establishing our relationship we have been thrilled to realize the depth and diversity of his compositional abilities and the excellence of his virtuosic performance skills in a variety of contemporary styles of performance on the classical guitar.

From writing for the prestigious Ballet National de Espana and writing for cinema and theater to performing as a solo artist and with his ensemble in venues such as Foro Popular in Barcelona and the Bienal de Flamenco of Seville, he is a a force for the composition and performance of beautiful music. His works range from settings for solo guitar to settings for guitar orchestras and guitar with orchestra.

Strings By Mail is proud to be a part of helping his music touch more of the world's ears.
-John Wunsch, President | Strings By Mail

Livio plays on RC Strings LG80 8 string guitar strings.

"Livio Gianola puts in the palette the colors of flamenco and Latin America to create a colorful and evocative score."
-Julio Bravo from about "Cupaima"

"A febrile musical performance of high quality and intensity."
- Daily Times, Tokyo

PD Guitar Duo

PD Guitar Duo

Strings By Mail has long appreciated and sponsored the wonderfully unique work of the Petar Jankovic Ensemble, so it was no surprise to us when his collaboration with Daniel Duarte created yet another ensemble that presents the great works of the guitar we are all familiar with in a bright and engaging new light. This combination of 2 internationally award winning guitarists brings virtuosity, energy, and sensitivity to the stage in ample portions.

Creatively adding compositional material and arranging enhancements to great works by composers from Albeniz to Bellinati could be a risky endeavor, but these artists have done great justice in their resetting of some of the greatest master works of the guitar. The team at Strings By Mail is excited to know we are a part of this creative and forceful endeavor.

-John Wunsch, President | Strings By Mail

"Young guitarist and director, Daniel Duarte is obviously a gifted musician and arranger, with a sensitive feel for how to mesh the classical guitar with music not always written for the instrument or in need of special handling."
– Peter Jacobi, Music Critic at Herald Times, Indiana

"Jankovic is one of the finest soloists on the scene today, and he possesses a unique, artistic, and a highly expressive style."
– Brad Conroy, Music Critic at

Cim Frode

Cim Frode Guitar

We learned about Cim through his videos and were taken by his music and by his persona. He is a serious musician with a bright spirit what we are proud to have in our family of artists.

As a young steel string player following in the footsteps of great acoustic artists that have come before him, we know that he will be making an ever evolving contribution for years to come. Cim Frode is a contemporary fingerstyle guitarist from Sweden. He has won several renowned artist grants and tours frequently playing both fingerstyle and classical music.

He started to play classical guitar in his teenage years and studied classical music in College. Later on he discovered fingerstyle guitar and his ability to write tasteful guitar music.

As a composer his songs are fluent and rich in color with various rhythmic patterns. He takes influences from different kinds of musical genres. You can hear inspiration from different kind of folk music throughout the world especially Argentinian and Brazilian music.

As of now he studies towards his masters degree in fingerstyle guitar in Piteå Music University of fine arts in Sweden.

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Stoll Vaughan

Stoll Vaughan Guitar

Stoll caught my eye as a 16 year old singer song writer auditioning for my Interlochen Arts Academy guitar studio in the early 90's and the promise he showed at that time has come to fruition in his many successes as a songwriter.

Hearing his music on the John Mellancamp & John Fogerty “Words and Music” tour and in productions as diverse as True Blood, The Office, and David Lynch's Interview Project has been a rewarding experience.

The truth and emotion he brings to his music are supported by the high production level of his recordings and honesty of his performances. I look forward to sharing his talents and knowledge as a Strings By Mail sponsored artist.

-John Wunsch, President | Strings By Mail

Adam del Monte

Adam Del Monte Guitar

I invited Adam to be a guest artist at my Interlochen Guitar Festival in 2010 because I knew he was one of the few artists who played both the flamenco style and classical style on the highest level. What I had not expected was the amazing creativity he embodied. His work since then bears irrefutable testament to that fact. From flamenco concertos to flamenco operas and LAGQ commissions, he continues to add rich value to the guitar canon, and we are proud to count him as an SBM sponsored artist.

-John Wunsch, President | Strings By Mail

One of the leading flamenco and classical guitarist/composers of his generation, Adam del Monte has made it his life mission to fully express himself in these two genres, transcending labeling and convention. Always having incorporated a wide array of musical styles in his compositions, del Monte and has embarked on a journey creating a unique sound and language of flamenco that is both steeped in tradition and progressive in its openness to musical flavors from around the world.

Del Monte has recorded for Deutsche Gramophone – the featured flamenco guitar part in the double Grammy award winning opera Ainadamar by Osvaldo Golijov (2006), with soprano Dawn Upshaw and the Atlanta Symphony, conducted by Robert Spano. Since then he has toured this opera in, Carnegie Hall, NY, Lincoln Center, NY, Barbican Center, London, Colorado Music Festival, in Boulder, Chicago Symphony and many more.

Del Monte has recently composed a first of its kind Flamenco Opera. Llantos, is an opera that is a full integration of the flamenco and classical/operatic world in all aspects, including orchestral, aesthetic, stylistic and rhythmic. Llantos will be debuted on September 29th and 30th 2018 at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, in Los Angeles.

Del Monte has composed his second flamenco guitar concerto, Paisajes, which was debuted and commissioned by the St. Monica Symphony. He has since performed it with the Moscow State Symphony in Tchaikovsky Hall and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, in Caracas, Venezuela.

He has also recorded Avner’s Theme by film composer John Williams for the sound track CD of the motion picture Munich by Steven Spielberg. Other film credits include featured participations in Films such as Knight and Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz; Mr. and Mrs. Smith with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, music by John Powell and Toy Story 3, music by Randy Newman.

For more information on Adam’s extensive career highlights please visit Adam’s website.

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Hal Grossman

The Grossman Method

I had the pleasure of serving on the Interlochen Arts Academy faculty with Hal and have admired both his performing and teaching over many years. We are proud to support his important work for musicians’ health, through the Grossman Method, as well as his performing career.

-John Wunsch, President | Strings By Mail

Violinist Hal Grossman, founder of the Grossman Method, has been hailed by critics for his "tremendous virtuosic technique" and "outstanding artistic sense". As concerto soloist, he has appeared with American, European and Canadian orchestras and is a Grand Award Winner of the Lima Young Artist Competition and Silver Medalist of the International Stulberg Competition, Mr. Grossman also received First Prize Awards at the prestigious International Cleveland Quartet Competition and the National Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. He has performed for their Royal Highnesses, Prince Charles and Princess Diana and his New York Debut at Carnegie Hall received exceptional reviews from the New York Times.

Mr. Grossman holds music performance degrees from the University of Michigan and the Eastman School of Music and has served as Concertmaster and soloist with orchestra’s in the US and abroad. He is an active chamber musician and has recorded several new works for string quartet. Grossman's students can be found in every major music conservatory in the nation including Curtis, Juilliard, New England, and San Francisco.

For more information, please visit the website of The Grossman Method.