The American Mandolin & Guitar Summer School

AMGuSS (The American Mandolin & Guitar Summer School) was founded in 1986 to promote the art of ensemble playing for the guitar and mandolin family instruments. Each session combines classical study with an exploration of folk and world music, in workshops, chamber ensembles and an all-school plucked-string orchestra. From Baroque ornamentation to Brazilian choro, AMGuSS is dedicated to broadening the musical horizons of its students.

One of the first American summer schools for mandolin & guitar, AMGuSS ran annually the last week in June every summer from 1986 until 2009, when it paused for a few years. It came roaring back in 2017, in response to student requests, and that success reestablished its annual status. With small classes, accomplished faculty, and an emphasis on fun, AMGuSS continues on!

You can register for AMGuSS 2018 by clicking the link at the top of the page. Or contact Fran email hidden; JavaScript is required for information on how to register by mail.

AMGuSS dates are June 25-30, 2018

on the waterfront campus of
Roger Williams University,
Bristol, Rhode Island

 The All-School orchestra,
ready for its final concert in 2017.

we create


Why not join us for the 2018 session
where you will…

Play in the American Mandolin & Guitar Orchestra,

to develop your musicianship and interpretation skills through rehearsals, sectionals, and a concert performance. Music for 2018 includes works by J. S. Bach, Benjamin Britten, Peter Maxwell Davies, Ernesto Nazareth– and more!

Learn about decision-making in a small ensemble,

in groups of 4-7 students, created and coached daily by our faculty. Ensemble choices for 2018 include: Classical Mandolin Ensemble, Baroque Beyond Bach, The Rio Roda, and Head Chart Ensemble.
Or you can bring your own ensemble for our coaching.

Broaden your musical horizons and knowledge,

through informative workshops, inspiring concerts, and informal jam sessions.

Tuition for the week is $425.

On-campus room & board options are available.

Single and double dormitory rooms are available in small suites, with two rooms sharing a bathroom and living area. Meals are served cafeteria-style in the nationally recognized campus dining facility, with food options for vegetarian, gluten-free and other diets. Meals run from dinner on the 25th through lunch on the 30th.

Registration is limited to 35 players

on mandolin-family instruments & guitar.

Register online now

Or for more information, and to register by mail,

Email: Fran Rivkin, Registrar, at email hidden; JavaScript is required


Staff for 2018:

Marilynn Mair – mandolin
AMGuSS Director

Marilynn Mair has shown the world what the mandolin can achieve in the hands of a skillful artist. Internationally praised for her concerts and recordings, she has established classical mandolin in chamber music circles worldwide, earning the title, “First Lady of the Mandolin”. Marilynn has performed at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, the White House, and Lincoln Center, and internationally in Europe, Japan, China, and Brazil. She has released two dozen highly acclaimed solo and ensemble CDs, and appeared on numerous compilations. Marilynn published her 224-page method book, The Complete Mandolinist, in 2008, and her bilingual choro method book for bandolim, Brazilian Choro – A Method for Mandolin written with Rio-based bandolimist and professor Paulo Sá, in 2010. Her third book, The 100 – Techniques and Exercises for Mandolinists, published in June 2017, chronicles Marilynn’s journey on mandolin with a series of original exercises and ideas to improve practice technique and performance.

In order to devote more time to performance and composition, Marilynn recently retired as a Professor of Music at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, where she taught courses in music and cultural history specializing in the Americas. She spends time each year in Rio de Janeiro, where she researches and performs Choro music in rodas throughout the city. As well as founding and directing AMGuSS, Marilynn also founded and directs Enigmatica– a plucked-string chamber ensemble now in its 18th year.

Fran Rivkin – mandolin
AMGuSS Registrar

Fran’s head has been in business and her heart has been in music (and sports) for a long time. At 15 years old, she became a life-long mandolin lover taking lessons with Jethro Burns (of Homer & Jethro), where they played tunes and talked about the Cubs. After co-founding and running an Internet company, Domania Inc., she was Associate VP for Road Scholar North America Programs. Recently, she’s run a consulting firm to work with non-profit and small companies, and (most recently) the Boston Red Sox. During this time, she’s also been a continuing education student at the New England Conservatory to learn what it means to be a musician, and sat in on bluegrass jams to figure out how to do it fast! Fran is a founding member of Enigmatica.

Catherine Hawkes – mandola, recorder
AMGuSS orchestra conductor

Catherine is Associate Professor of Music at Roger Williams University, where she established and directs the Instrumental Ensemble. Her interest in Medieval music led her to Indiana University’s Early Music Institute, where she earned a Doctorate in Music, as well as pursuing studio work in fine arts textiles. She was a producer for IU’s Focus record label and wrote several seasons of the Public Radio program Harmonia. Catherine was a founder of the early music quartet Melusine and the Smiling Dog Band and has performed extensively in genres ranging from opera to circus to jam band. She and her compositions have appeared on numerous recordings, most recently, Enigmatica 3. Catherine plays mandola and recorder, and occasionally banjo, with Enigmatica.

Bob Martel – guitar, composition
chamber music coaching

Bob began playing the guitar at the age of seven and turned his attention to the classical guitar some twenty years later. He has performed in concert with mandolin orchestras and chamber ensembles in the U.S., Canada and Europe. His compositions have been recorded and performed in North and South America, Europe and Australia; the most recent additions being performances in Slovenia and Croatia. In June 2017, he retired from a thirty-seven-year career as a public school music teacher. Grateful to have survived relatively intact, he’s now looking forward to daily practice and composition sessions, books, herb gardening, cooking, genealogy, hockey games, meditation, volunteer work, and the occasional martini. Bob is a longtime member of Enigmatica.

Ralph Costanza – mandolin
chamber music coaching

Ralph has been part of the AMGuSS faculty nearly since it began. Originally attending as a student in year 2, his enthusiasm and instructional expertise– honed from years of teaching public-school music– along with his charismatic leadership in after-hour jam sessions quickly earned him a promotion to faculty in charge of beginners. Known for his ability to engage players in developing technique and musicianship skills, whether in the 2nd-mandolin section of the orchestra or in newbie chamber music coaching sessions, Ralph takes beginners under his wing to ensure that they experience AMGuSS to the fullest. And he remains the heart and soul of the AMGuSS informal night-time jam sessions, where his broad musical knowledge has lead to many a memorable experience.

Robert Paul Sullivan – guitar
chamber music coaching

Bob was, for years, the head of the guitar department at the prestigious New England Conservatory in Boston. In that capacity, he was one of Marilynn’s early chamber music coaches. A soloist, as well as the go-to musician in the Boston area for any professional orchestral or opera music involving an instrument from the plucked-string family, Bob is also a master of the vihuela, lute, jazz guitar, banjo and mandolin, and his performance career has included playing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Ballet, New Hampshire and Rhode Island symphonies, and in orchestras accompanying many Broadway productions. His long career has taken him to Russia, Germany and Holland, including an overseas tour with the Klezmer Conservatory Band. Closer to home, he has played in the orchestra pit for Broadway productions of “Chicago,” “Ragtime,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” and “Man of LaMancha.” Bob has been part of the AMGuSS faculty for many years, and although he is now retired from both teaching and performing, we in AMGuSS consider ourselves lucky that we have convinced him to join our faculty again for 2018.


Enigmatica is a New England-based mandolin ensemble directed by Marilynn Mair. Part chamber orchestra and part plucked-string double-quartet, Enigmatica performs a variety of music: Baroque, Brazilian, eclectic contemporary, and Americana music written by group members and friends. The ensemble features instruments of the mandolin family — mandolin, mandola, octave mandola, and mandocello — and 6- and 7-string guitars. Ensemble members come from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Their repertoire includes Baroque music by Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, and Purcell; Brazilian music by Villa-Lobos, Jacob do Bandolim, and Pixinguinha; 20th-century music by Stravinsky and Shostakovich; and recent music of composers Will Ayton, Jim Dalton, and Radim Zenkl. Original compositions for mandolin ensemble are rare, but Enigmatica is proud to play new works written for them by American composers Pam Marshall, John Goodin, Robert N. Martel, Catherine Hawkes, Adam Larrabee and Marilynn Mair.

  • “A brilliant concert from beginning to end…The performance was extraordinary.”
    – La Rioja (Spain)

    “Mair travels by mandolin to Brazil and brilliance… her commitment to the music shines through.”

    – Rick Massimo, The Providence Journal

    Marilynn Mair on mandolin…touches the deepest and most engaging reaches of the ancient and passionate ‘Latin soul’.

    – Carlos Agudelo, Billboard Magazine

    Bring a talented ensemble of gifted musicians together playing some of the great concertos and chamber music pieces of the 1700s, present the extraordinary classical mandolinist Marilynn Mair front and center, and you have a rare combination of the right musicians performing the right music at the right time.

    – David McCarty, Mandolin Magazine (USA)

    “Mair displays an exceptionally gifted approach to this music, using her formidable mandolin technique with grace and sensitivity… It’s the next best thing to a trip to Rio.”

    – David McCarty, Mandolin Magazine (USA)

    “Mair is unstoppable… capable of evoking any landscape, past or present, you’d care to conjure.”

    – Mike Caito, Providence Phoenix (USA)

    “A lovely concert! We estimate your spell-bound and enthusiastic audience at close to 1800 people…”

    – Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors (USA)

    “Marilynn Mair performs Brazilian mandolin music… she plays the mandolin as an instrument for all occasions.”
    – Vaughn Watson, The Providence Journal (USA)

    “Marilynn Mair lives up to her reputation as an excellent mandolinist, with clear tone, a beautiful tremolo, and creative expressiveness.”

    – Zupfmusik Magazin (Germany)

    “Marilynn Mair has always had the keen ability to balance classical mandolin traditions and repertoire, while constantly breaking new musical ground…a superb and versatile mandolinist and composer.”

    – – Butch Baldassari, Mandolin Magazine (USA)

    “She’s a fabulous player with a wonderfully clear and lyrical sound.”

    – The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)

    “Marilynn Mair é uma bandolinista americana de formação erudita”

    — Paulo Eduardo Neves, Agenda do Samba Choro (Brasil)

    “Smudging the lines between folk and classical is an intrepid endeavor… Mair’s a superb mandolin player who has brought the instrument to unexpected places…”

    – Jim Macnie, The Providence Phoenix (USA)

    “Stepping back to the 18th-century masterworks gave her the opportunity to highlight her technique with a fresh light… her playing is thoughtful, vibrant and a delight to listen to.”

    — Terence Pender, Mandolin Quarterly (USA)

    “A sparkling concert… absolutely brilliant!”

    – Guitar Magazine (England)

    “Marilynn Mair acquits herself very well indeed, a most accomplished player, able to deal with the many intricacies the repertoire demands of her.”

    – Chris Kilvington, Classical Guitar (England)

    “The final repeat of the melody transmitted a strong feeling of peace and tenderness that escaped no one in the audience. It is this sensitivity and subtleness that characterized the overall performance.”

    – Brian Hodel, Guitar Review (USA)