CMI’s mission is to cultivate classical music education and performance as a gateway to the arts.

Established as the education program of the Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio, CMI debuted in summer 2016. CMI provides classical music education to Bexar County’s youth during a two-week and year-long outreach program. With the success of our summer education program, the long-term goal is to partner with local school districts to establish a year-round, accredited institute by fall 2020.

CMI is a resident company of the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

Board and Staff

Board Members



Silvia Santinelli, D.M.A.


An ardent, multifaceted artist with an extensive musical trajectory, Silvia Santinelli began her piano studies in her native Mexico. At the age of seven, she was taken under the tutelage of pianist and composer Robert Avalon to study and begin her musical career in the United States. At the age of twelve, she made her debut as a soloist with the San Antonio Symphony playing the Beethoven C Major Piano Concerto. Hailed by the San Antonio Express News as a “musician of great depth”, she continues to dazzle audiences in concert, whether in solo, chamber, or duo performances. She is Co-Founder, Artistic, and Education Advisor of the Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio.

Aside from many appearances in Mexico and the United States, Silvia’s performances have taken her to concert halls worldwide, including the Chopin International Music Festival in Marianske-Lazne, Czech Republic; the International Piano Festivals at both Valle di Blenio, Switzerland, and Óbidos, Portugal; the French International Piano Festival at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris; and the Rachmaninoff World Piano Seminar in Tambov, Russia, where she captivated audiences with her performance of Maurice Ravel’s La Valse.

Highlights of her most recent engagements include performances at the International Piano Festival in Óbidos, Portugal; the 85th season of the Tuesday Musical Club Artist Series in San Antonio, Texas; the Griffin Concert Hall, Colorado State University School of the Arts; the salon concert series for the San Antonio International Piano Competition; and several performances with the Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, where she championed the rarely heard Sinfonia da Camera by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari. She frequently collaborates with COSA concertmaster Francisco Fullana. Dr. Santinelli also specializes in and features the piano repertoire of Spain, in particular the music of Manuel de Falla. She continues to present selections of his music in concert to educate audiences about compositional elements and development as influenced by sociopolitical, cultural, and musical currents of de Falla’s time.

In addition to receiving multiple awards and recognitions throughout her formative years, Silvia has been featured in various television and radio broadcasts, including KWEX (Univision), Televisa, Texas Public Radio, National Public Radio, and KMFA (Classically Austin), which featured her performance of the Ravel Concerto for the Left Hand with the University of Texas Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Kevin Noe.

Silvia is the first prize winner of the Mexican National Piano Competition, the San Antonio Symphony Young Artist Award Competition, the MTNA Solo and Concerto Performance Competitions, the San Antonio Contemporary Piano Solo Competition for six consecutive years; and laureate of the Tuesday Musical Club Competition, the Corpus Christi International Concerto and Piano Solo Competition, and the Kingsville International Young Performers Competition.

Aside from her concert career, Dr. Santinelli dedicates time to music education. She keeps a select private studio in San Antonio, Texas. She has served at the University of Texas in Austin and Clavier-Werke School of Music, and she has imparted master classes at the Universidad Autonoma de Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. Her involvement as Co-Founder of the Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio has allowed her the opportunity to unveil a Steinway D concert piano and thus provide for the underserved community of Edgewood in San Antonio with access to highly artistic performances through CMI, COSA’s Music Institute, another one of her architectures for which she collaborates as pianist.

With the Marjory Powel Zachary Keyboard Endowment from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Silvia earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Master’s Degree in Piano Performance under Busoni winner Valeri Grokhovski, while receiving additional interpretive instruction from the late professor Alexander Alexandrov of the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music in Moscow. She is also the recipient of the FONCA/CONACULTA Grant sponsored by Fulbright in Mexico and a Teaching Assistantship from the University of Texas at Austin where she obtained a Doctorate in Musical Arts with internationally acclaimed pianist Anton Nel.

Robert C. Ehlers


Robert C. Ehlers, Staff Environmental Engineer for Valero Energy Corporation, has for the last seven years managed environmental liability and ambient monitoring projects, consulted for resource recovery initiatives, and advised on federal regulatory affairs. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Stanford University and a Master of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. Upon completion of his degrees, he worked at the nonprofit Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio for ten years. He is a local member of the Air & Waste Management Association and provides financial support to the Sunshine Cottage School for the Deaf.

Though Robert is an engineer by profession, he has always enjoyed literature, the visual and dramatic arts, and music as a balance to his more rational endeavors. In addition to being married to a concert pianist, Silvia Santinelli, he grew up listening to his mother, Elaine George Ehlers, perform organ recitals. This exposure to music, along with his family’s perseverance and patience, helped Robert overcome his severe hearing loss with communication skills that enabled him to attend public school and university despite doctors’ denial of that possibility. Aside from being a high-level tennis player, Robert has played at varying levels of proficiency the clarinet, piano, organ, guitar, and violin.

As an avid listener and collector of classical music, Robert has traveled nationwide in pursuit of quality performances of chamber music, solo pieces, and symphonic works, while enjoying more than sixty opera productions. As a Co-Founder, Board Member, and Artistic Advisor to COSA, and as a native Texan who has lived in San Antonio for most of his life, he hopes to further serve the San Antonio community, including the disabled, with his abiding esteem for the fine arts.

Paul Montalvo


A San Antonio native, Paul Montalvo proudly serves as a firefighter for the City of San Antonio. A career firefighter, with over 19 years at the SAFD, he has also maintained a profound love and true affinity for classical music, to which he credits his parents. Beginning in his childhood, they introduced him to piano lessons and from that gift grew his strong desire to pursue the study of music. At the age of 30, Paul received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music Composition from The University of Texas at San Antonio where he studied composition with Dr. James Balentine and Dr. David Heuser, with an Emphasis in Piano from Dr. Elisenda Fabregas. During and following the completion of his degree Paul studied conducting with Mr. Wayne Wyman and participated in Conducting Workshops in the Czech Republic, Miami, and San Francisco. His instructors included Mr. Larry Rachleff, Mr. Kirk Trevor, Mr. Johannes Schlaefli, and Mr. Tsung Yeh.

Impassioned by music and driven by a collaborative vision to further serve his community, Paul co-founded The Chamber Orchestra of San Antonio (COSA). As Artistic Director, he continues to fervently study classical music and conducting. Sharing classical music with the entire community through education and performances is the mission for COSA, and an ongoing dream for Paul.

Paul continues to work on a diverse array of community projects. He served on the Gemini Ink 2013 Inkstravaganza Committee and as a committee member on the Tobin Center’s Founders Network.  He currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the CTRC Council (formerly the Cancer Center Council), notably honored as the first male to serve on the organization’s board since its founding in 1984.

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Thank You to Our 2021–22 Sponsors