Masterclass Al-Andalus

David Russell, Director

Masterclass Al-Andalus


David Russell, Violin and Director

Violinist David Russell is one of the most celebrated violin pedagogues of his generation.  Mr. Russell served on the Violin Faculty at The Cleveland Institute of Music for 24 years, and was also Visiting Violin Faculty at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. He has been on the faculty of some of the world's most prestigious violin schools, including Ivan Galamian's Meadowmount School of Music, the ENCORE School for Strings, Keshet Eilon International Violin Mastercourse (Israel), ARIA International Summer Music Academy, Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, and Language and Music for Life courses in Llandovery, Wales, Bristol, England, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and Valbonne, Cote d'Azure, France. He also directs the annual Mountaintop Mastercourse for Violin in Keene, NY, a program that attracts students from around the globe. 

He has been a Distinguished Member of the Jury at international competitions such as the Sion-Valais International Violin Competition (Switzerland), and the International Violin Competition of Buenos Aires (Argentina), as well as at several important U.S. national competitions.

Mr. Russell's former students include IMG Artist Chad Hoopes, members of orchestras such as The Cleveland Orchestra, the Boston Symphony,  Minnesota Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra, and others. Several are members of noted string quartets and still others are noted University and Conservatory teachers.

He has presented recitals and masterclasses across North and South America, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, and was the featured guest artist in the "World String Masters" performance and masterclass series in Lisbon, Portugal, as well as the featured teacher for the Guest Masterclass series at the Conservatorio Superior di Musica of Córdoba, Spain and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in China. 

Mr. Russell served as Artistic Director for the North American Premier of "Violins of Hope", a two-week series of concerts, lectures, films and museum exhibitions featuring 18 violins restored from the Jewish Holocaust by Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein.

Currently, Mr. Russell is the Anne R. Belk Distinguished Professor of Violin at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 

Andrés Cárdenes, Violin

Recognized worldwide as a musical phenomenon, Grammy-nominated Andrés Cárdenes parlays his myriad talents into one of classical music's most versatile careers. An intensely passionate and personally charismatic artist, Cuban-born Cárdenes has garnered international acclaim from critics and audiences alike for his compelling performances as a violinist, conductor, violist, chamber musician, concertmaster, and recording artist.

Since capturing Second Prize in the 1982 Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition in Moscow, Mr. Cárdenes has appeared as a soloist on four continents with over 100 orchestras including The Philadelphia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, Moscow Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony, Helsinki Philharmonic, Shanghai Symphony, Sinfonica Nacional de Caracas, Sinfonica de Barcelona, and the Bavarian Radio Orchestra. He has collaborated with many of the world's greatest conductors, including Lorin Maazel, Rafael Frubeck de Burgos, Mariss Jansons, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Sir Andre Previn, Leonard Slatkin, Jaap van Zweden, David Zinman and Manfred Honeck.

As an ambassador for music of our time, Mr. Cárdenes has commissioned and premiered over 70 works by American, Turkish and Latin American composers such as David Stock, Mike Garson, Erberk Eriylmaz, Leonardo Balada, Ricardo Lorenz, Eduardo Alonso-Crespo, Roberto Sierra, and Marilyn Taft Thomas.His concerto repertoire includes over 100 works, ranging from the Baroque era to the present.

Mr. Cárdenes has thrice served as President of the Jury of the Stradivarius International Violin Competition and in 2011 joined the jury of the Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition in St. Petersburg, Russia.

A Cultural Ambassador for UNICEF from 1980-1991 and an indefatigable spokesperson for the arts, Mr. Cárdenes has received numerous awards for his teaching, performances, recordings and humanitarian efforts, most notably from the Mexican Red Cross and the cities of Los Angeles and Shanghai.  He was named Pittsburgh Magazine's 1997 Classical Artist of the Year and received the 2001 Shalom Award from Kollells International Jewish Center and the 2013 Chesed-Kindness Award from the Chabad Foundation for promoting world harmony and peace through music.

Mr. Cárdenes was appointed Concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra by Maestro Lorin Maazel in 1989 and departed after the 2010 season to concentrate on his conducting, solo and chamber music careers.


Eric Malson, piano

Eric Malson is an active soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician whose activities have taken him throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. As soloist, he has appeared with the North Carolina Symphony, Columbus (Ohio) Symphony, Manhattan Mozart Orchestra, Orquestra da Fundação Gulbenkian, Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa, Oak Ridge Symphony, and Prince William Symphony orchestras. As a collaborating pianist with the Steans Institute for Young Artists, he has appeared frequently at the Ravinia Festival, as well as the Tanglewood, Norfolk (Conn.), Wexford (Ireland), Caramoor (N.Y.), Scotia (Halifax), Chautauqua, Évora (Portugal), Semana Grande de Santander (Spain), and Verso il Millennio (Riva del Garda, Italy), and Mt. Angel (Oregon) Bach festivals. He has appeared in concert with members of the Hagen, Vogler, Alexander, Lark, Cavani, and Chester quartets, New York Philharmonic tubist Alan Baer, and trombonist Alain Trudel.

Mr. Malson has served on the opera faculties of the Juilliard School of Music and the Mannes College of Music, as well as the accompanying staff of the Curtis Institute of Music, and the accompanying and chamber music faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music. He has served as official accompanist for various competitions, including the Eurovision Young Musicians Competition, Carnegie Hall International American Music Competition, William Primrose International Viola Competition, and the Metropolitan Opera National Council District Auditions.

Mr. Malson resided for several years in Portugal, where he concertized throughout the country, as well as serving on the faculties of the Academia Nacional de Orquestra and the Escola Superior de Musica de Lisboa. He participated in the Portuguese premieres of numerous works, including the Piano Concerto in A-flat Major, Op. 113 of Hummel, Roger Sessions’ First Piano Sonata, Dohnanyi’s Sextet, Op. 37, and Wolfgang Rihm’s La Lugubre Gondola/Das Eismeer (Musik in memoriam Luigi Nono, for double orchestra and 2 pianos). He holds degrees from Indiana University and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where his teachers included Menahem Pressler, Gilbert Kalish, and John Wustman.

Maria del Carmen Garcia




Director of Cultural Education

Maria del Carmen Garcia Montañés, born in Alcalá la Real, (Jaén), Spain, graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Music Victoria Eugenia of Granada with a degree in Piano. She also studied piano in Switzerland at the Hochschüle für Musik, Basel.  She currently teaches phonetics and translation into several languages for singers at the Conservatorio Superior de Musica "Rafael Orozco" in Córdoba, Spain. Her interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm in understanding different cultures led her to combine her musical activities with the field of International Relations.

In 2015, she began a professional collaboration with American violinist and pedagogue David Russell.  Together they have developed the educational components of Masterclass al-Andalus, and have presented them in lectures in the United States (Duke University, Georgia State University, and Davidson College), and have now collaborated in the creation of the Inaugural Masterclass al-Andalus in Spain.

Mercedes Garcia Montañés, 

Administrative Artistic

Assistant, Lecturer

Mercedes Garcia Montañés  serves as an Administrative Artistic Assistant to the Director of Masterclass Al-Andalus, as well as a lecturer.

Since 2015, Mercedes and her sister Maria del Carmen Garcia Montañés have assisted in the development of an educational curriculum for Masterclass Al-Andalus. With violinist David Russell, she toured a series of Masterclass Al-Andalus violin lecture/masterclasses in Valbonne, France, and at Duke University, Shenandoah University, and Wildacres Conference Center of the Blumenthal Foundation in the United States.

During Masterclass Al-Andalus 2019, Mercedes will collaborate with Anthropologist/Arabic Dancer Aida de la Fuente in a presentation called "Echoes of Al-Andalus". It will focus on the use of music and medicinal herbs in Arabic medicine in the time of Al-Andalus, and the evolution of these practices in modern times.

A native of Alcalá la Real, Mercedes is a powerful modern-day example of the traditional values of learning seen during the time of Al-Andalus. Just as many of those who once contributed to the society of Al-Andalus were simultaneously scientists, artists, musicians, and philosophers, Mercedes today combines professional activity as a pharmacist and herbal medicine practitioner, is former Director of the flamenco school Flamencordoba, and currently maintains interests in Universal Shamanism, dance, photography, and film making, having worked in both film making and photography in the U.K. and Nairobi, Kenya.