November 14, 2019

CIM Selected to Host Major Guitar and Snare Drum Competitions

Jason Vieaux
Jason Vieaux, judge for the 2020 James Stroud Classical Guitar Competition

Celebrated as a beacon of elite musicianship, creativity and training, the Cleveland Institute of Music has a well-deserved reputation for attracting outstanding young classical musicians to Cleveland to participate in competitions, academies and festivals. Distinguished by that expertise, beginning in 2020 two major competitions will make CIM their permanent home – the James Stroud Classical Guitar and the Modern Snare Drum competitions – world-class events that showcase the talents of performers and will draw competitors from an international stage.

In its inaugural year in 2020, the James Stroud Competition – in partnership with Armin Kelly and the Cleveland International Classical Guitar Festival now entering its 20th year held at CIM – will feature top judges coming from as far away as Italy, England and Uruguay and offer the most generous prizes in the classical guitar world. Since its inception in 2008, the Modern Snare Drum Competition has done more to introduce new snare drum repertoire to percussionists than any other contest.

Internationally recognized as a conservatory whose graduates command the most celebrated and revered stages in the world – winning numerous competitions and performance positions as soloists, chamber musicians and ensemble members – CIM is at the heart of the classical music universe when it comes to hosting major international events and competitions, says Paul W. Hogle, CIM’s president and CEO.

“Cleveland has been a classical music mecca for more than 100 years,” Hogle said. “It makes sense for these two competitions to make their permanent home in what is recognized around the world as a hub of cultural creativity and accomplishment. Student artists from across the US and around the world will travel here to compete in CIM’s revered Mixon Hall, testing their skills and musicality against their peers, striving for greater musical heights and celebrating personal artistic accomplishments. Our conservatory students demonstrate this commitment, competitive nature and community spirit – qualities that will inspire and propel these young artists forward. We are proud to support and encourage them in achieving their dreams and potential.”

The James Stroud Classical Guitar Competition

The James Stroud Classical Guitar Competition was created to generate meaningful opportunities for gifted classical guitarists ages 14-18, aiding in their pursuit of advanced artistic studies and professional music careers.

Founded, nurtured and underwritten by influential Ohio-based classical guitarist James Stroud, the competition will feature a festival atmosphere to promote and celebrate the classical guitar. For Stroud himself, being able to offer this event to aspiring classical guitarists gives him a sense of pride and enjoyment.

With a top cash prize of $10,000 and total prize money of up to $24,000 the competition will make defining differences in the lives of young guitarists.

“When I was a university student practicing for many hours each day and dreaming of a career as a professional classical guitarist, I often wished I owned a nicer guitar or could attend summer music festivals and master classes,” Stroud said. “I knew how important these opportunities were to my professional development, but these essentials were always beyond my financial reach. Through this competition I hope to assist today’s young, hard-working and well-deserving guitar students reach their goals and recognize their maximum potential.”

Through exposure to influential judges within the world of classical guitar and considerable cash prizes, participation in the competition offers young artists access to CIM’s considerable resources and a valuable investment early in their careers, Hogle says.  

“It is high praise coming from Jim Stroud to choose CIM as his namesake competition’s home base. Jim is an accomplished classical guitar enthusiast who has devoted much of his time and energy to teach and inspire talented young artists to love classical guitar as much as he does,” Hogle said. “With such faculty luminaries as Grammy Award winner Jason Vieaux and Colin Davin, CIM is the best possible venue for this prestigious competition.” 

Stroud has been an active supporter of music through his numerous grants and scholarships for both guitar performance and composition. He is the largest benefactor of the Donald Bohlen music composition scholarship at his alma mater, the State University of New York at Fredonia. The James Stroud Guitar Competition awards the largest annual prize money devoted specifically to high school students in the world.

The Modern Snare Drum Competition (MSDC)

Marc Damoulakis, co-head of CIM’s percussion department and principal percussionist of The Cleveland Orchestra, serves as director of the competition, an annual event which promotes and advances the art of snare drumming and is the only competition that focuses exclusively on the instrument. MSDC founder and former director Thomas Sherwood passed the reins to Damoulakis as new competition director following the 12th year of the competition in 2019; Sherwood will continue to be closely involved going forward, including serving as a judge for the 2020 event. Sherwood is a member of The Cleveland Orchestra.

Damoulakis hailed Sherwood’s leadership of MSDC, which began in 2008 in Atlanta when Sherwood was principal percussionist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The competition was based in Atlanta for its first eight years before coming to Cleveland in 2016.

“Tom deserves all the credit for making the Modern Snare Drum Competition the premier percussion event it is today,” said Damoulakis, who has served as a judge for the competition 11 of the last 12 years. “He conceived the idea and made it happen on his own. It was a grassroots effort. Tom had support in Atlanta at the beginning, but it really was more of a labor of love for him. His whole family helped make it happen. But the competition never would have come about or lasted this long if not for Tom’s commitment and dedication. I plan to carry on Tom’s legacy by making this the best competition for snare drumming just as it was conceived to be.”

Jeremy Sreejayan, CIM student and last year's Division I Modern Snare Drum Competition winner

The competition expands the existing snare drum repertoire through commissioning new works, as well as bringing to the percussion community newer, original works for snare drum that are not as well known. Damoulakis emphasizes that the competition has done more for snare drum repertoire “than anything else I know of” and has seen students play pieces now that three years ago were considered difficult “with ease and panache.”

Hogle also praised Sherwood’s devotion to the competition and new director Damoulakis’ choice to make CIM its permanent home.

“The Modern Snare Drum Competition has thrived under Tom’s strong leadership,” Hogle said. “He and Marc each have an incredible eye for recognizing and developing talent. Now that it will be hosted permanently at CIM under Marc’s direction, we will be able to build on Tom’s vision and his commitment to artistry at the highest level. I’m pleased that CIM will host this premier event, continuing our tradition of networking with world-renowned artists who are dedicated to educating the world’s most talented classical musicians.”

With its prime location in Cleveland’s University Circle and a distinguished percussion jury – which will include both Damoulakis and Sherwood – the competition now has the full resources of CIM behind it.

Registration for both competitions begins in January

The Modern Snare Drum Competition, sponsored by Pearl, will be held May 29-30, 2020 while the James Stroud Classical Guitar Competition takes place June 4-7, 2020. The guitar competition will begin accepting applications and audition videos starting in January while the Modern Snare Drum Competition will begin accepting applications February 15.

Details about competition age qualifications, rules, prize money and more may be found by visiting their websites, and