2013-14 Education Progress Report

It has been a watershed year in Austin Classical Guitar Education locally, nationally, and internationally. Many things are happening – some faster than we can keep up with! – but there are several things we now know without a doubt:

1) School-based classical guitar programs are developing faster than ever before.
2) Classical guitar in school has a unique and powerful ability to attract large numbers of new and diverse students to the benefits of fine arts engagement.
3) We at ACG have the ability to effectively build and assess rigorous education programs with high teaching standards and consistent results.

I hope you enjoy this summary report of our past-year activities. We would not be here today without the generous support of our patrons, sponsors, and institutional supporters. I hope what you find in this report will make you proud. On behalf of our education team, our board and staff, our hundreds of teachers and thousands of students, thank you so very much.

2013-14 Education Progress Report

Our key objective areas this past year were to Serve, Support and Develop. We wished to increase and enhance our Service in our local school programs, Support teachers locally and abroad with our online student and teacher resources, and Develop our curriculum including elementary units, Braille adaptation, and teacher training.

Serve: Two years ago we provided service in 30 area schools. Last year (2013-14), our service increased to 42 schools, including 9 elementary programs. This year, we began the school year in late August in 50 schools. To meet the growing demand, we added a part-time elementary expert last year, Toby Rodriguez, who is now on our full-time education staff.

Our primary aim is quality education as measured by student performance outcomes. In addition to more than 140 hours per week of onsite support, expanded and enhanced teacher training, free weekly lessons for new teachers, frequent student performance opportunities, and dozens of guest artist performances in schools, our biggest strides toward addressing this concern were in the area of student-teacher assessment. For the past three years, we have run a mock-UIL (University Interscholastic League) large-ensemble performance and sight-reading assessment event. This is the same kind of event that exists for choir, orchestra, and band, wherein programs perform and sight-read in controlled environments for six external judges and then receive scoring and feedback. We have called it “mock-UIL” because UIL has not created, and did not administer, this assessment. Instead, it was created by our staff and administered in collaboration with Austin Independent School District.

We provide extensive support for teachers in the form of training, consultation and teacher resources, and we felt that clear, official assessment was the most important element we could add to promote quality in education across our rapidly growing program.

Austin Independent School District (AISD) was an enthusiastic partner in this development, and we are thrilled to report that, after three years, our petition for this assessment to become an official UIL pilot has been accepted. This enormous development, unprecedented in the state of Texas, paves the way for increased rigor in classical guitar education in Austin and across the state. As classical guitar programs develop faster and faster across the state, we feel an urgent need to promote such rigor in instruction and performance outcomes. 2015 is also the first year that Texas Education Association (TEA) will include guitar as a Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)-supported course statewide. This adoption was made in part thanks to advocacy from Austin principals, who have seen our program successfully engage thousands of diverse students in the performing arts.

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- Select students from various ACG programs perform under the direction of ACg Assistant Director of Education Jeremy Osborne at the Guitars Under the Stars Gala, February 2014

Current thriving programs include a new program at KIPP Austin (a charter school), the Travis County Juvenile Justice System, the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and our new Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra.

ACGYO Group Pic

- Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra, with directors and parents, following their final spring recital, May 2014.

 

Support: In the past year, our main resource developments have been the addition of an Elementary Curriculum Unit that was successfully used to teach more than 600 Austin 4th and 5th graders in 2013-14, the creation of new and extensive sight-reading materials for our upper curriculum levels, revision of our lower curriculum levels, and addition of over 20 new works and audio recordings to our music library.

We are still in the process of re-launching our GuitarCurriculum.com website on an updated platform which will allow for better administration of the site, contact with users, user feedback and resource contribution, an internal teacher forum, and more.

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- ACG Director of Education, Travis Marcum, working with a trainee in our St. Louis Teacher Training session, July 2014

Following the success of our Austin Teacher Training in August 2013, we decided to carry out similar training sessions in three other cities (St. Louis, Atlanta and Houston) in addition to Austin. The results have been remarkable. Below we are including a selection of comments to give a sense of these trainings’ impact. One particularly interesting development was a request from a 2013 Nicaraguan trainee to use our materials and methods to create a national teacher training, Congreso de Guitarra, in Managua. The July 2014 Congreso involved the translation of our Level 1 training materials into Spanish, and reports from the event have been wonderfully positive.

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- Edward Grigassy conducts student ensemble in the first Congreso de Guitarra in Managua, Nicaragua, July 2014

FretBuzz.org continues to be a unique showcase for young classical guitar players and writers. We hold regular writing and performance contests, highlight contest winners and outstanding programs, and will continue to integrate this outlet into our service as a way to encourage high quality discourse among young students of guitar.

Develop: Our primary new developments were the creation and revision of our Elementary Curriculum Unit, the creation and acceptance (at the district and state level) of the guidelines and practices for our district assessment events, and the development our Phase 2 training to accommodate returning trainees for our summer 2014 teacher training session.

Student conductor 2

- A student conductor teaching other trainees at the Austin Teacher Training 2014

More and more university programs are using our GuitarGurriculum.com resources to teach beginning guitar class and (more importantly) to teach guitar pedagogy courses. An area we still need to adequately address is the creation of recommended syllabi for college-level guitar pedagogy courses.

Our Braille adaptation was put on hold in 2013-14 because our key creative individual, Jeremy Coleman, took a music therapy position and became unavailable to continue work with us at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We continued to support the education program there but were unable to continue the core resource development without him (and we turned our resources toward elementary development instead). We are pleased to report, however, that in August 2014, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired hired Mr. Coleman full time as a music instructor, and we have already begun talks to restart our Braille adaption project.

2013-14 saw our first collaboration with Carnegie Hall Outreach in the form of the Lullaby Project, in partnership locally with Any Baby Can.  Carnegie Hall developed this program two years ago and, after monitoring our work in juvenile justice, asked if we would be one of two organizations in the US to expand the program outside of New York.  In the Lullaby Project, our teaching artists were paired with at-risk mothers (clients of Any Baby Can), and in this collaborative partnership, each mother wrote a lullaby for her baby.  The lullabies were then professionally recorded, and each mother then shared her song with family and friends at a final sharing session.  The effects of this program have been studied extensively by Wolf-Brown and Carnegie Hall, and more can be found on the Carnegie Hall website.  A recording of our first lullabies is available upon request.

Album Cover

Assessment: Our primary goal is to provide quality music instruction as evidenced by consistently high-level student performance outcomes.

Our evaluation focus this year has been to create, in collaboration with AISD, the same evaluation procedures and measures that exist for choir, orchestra, and band. In 2013-14, we generated all process documents for concert and sight-reading assessment events and carried out those events in Austin, with 22 classical guitar programs participating. This evaluation process was then approved by University Interscholastic League (which oversees all Texas interscholastic contest) to be an official UIL pilot event in 2015. Classical guitar concert and sight-reading assessments require six external adjudicators, district-wide participation, video-taped performances, and extensive written and recorded feedback from judges. This information is extremely valuable for program assessment. Judges’ comments from this year’s assessment event are available upon request.

Additional evaluation measures include daily teacher consultations, training participant evaluations, conference participation and scholarly article generation, curriculum subscription trends, student enrollment trends, number of teachers and schools served, and social impact data (letters and testimonials) provided by students.

Conclusion: Our greatest contribution in education is the engagement of thousands of diverse kids, many of whom would not otherwise be involved, in high-quality performing arts study. There is a large and growing body of research, including Austin’s own recent mindPOP study, showing that arts-engaged kids do better scholastically and socially than students not involved in the arts. That we have built a rigorous new for-credit course subject that engages a previously underserved segment of our student population is, we believe, of great significance.

The following November 2013 letter from AISD Fine Arts Director Greg Goodman is a confirmation of the impact and significance of our work in Austin schools:

The number one benefit of the classical guitar education program has been the opportunity to address cultural diversity through a rigorous art form. We have seen increased student, family and community engagement with the particular program. Austin Classical Guitar has done an incredible job of increasing quality and access to a new art form that has allowed a diverse option for our students.

The Austin Classical Guitar program is a strong, innovative, and collaborative partnership between our schools and the staff of Matt Hinsley. We are immensely grateful for the support we have already received in the area of curriculum and teaching strategies. We have seen positive changes in students who have embraced guitar as their means of expression. The partnership has grown dramatically over the past 5 years and has enabled AISD Fine Arts to increase family and community engagement.

Some of the challenges around implementing a classical guitar program have centered on creating a rigorous curriculum and establishing high expectations for teachers and staff. With the assistance of Austin Classical Guitar we have established high expectations for our schools following the framework established by UIL in bands, orchestra, and choir. The staff at Austin Classical guitar has created an incredible curriculum guide and standards for our teachers to follow.

I would encourage fine arts administrators and teachers to embrace this genre and to celebrate this opportunity to meet the needs of students that we typically have overlooked. There is no reason to fear this program but instead an opportunity to help guide and build the expectations of a rich art form that celebrates music in a platform rooted in history.

In addition, the Austin Classical Guitar program supports the two arts-focused initiatives currently happening in AISD: The Kennedy Center Any Given Child partnership and our arts integration Creative Classroom partnership with the MindPOP collaborative. The arts are incredibly important to our district, and we welcome the Austin Classical Guitar program in our schools.

We really believe this program helps to impact student learning in Austin Independent School District by offering opportunities for students of all cultures.

From a programming standpoint we believe our single effort with the greatest impact has been our teacher training sessions, which this year expanded to several cities in the US. Following each training, we asked participants to fill out evaluation forms. One hundred percent of our trainees gave the experience a rating of “excellent”, and here are a few of their comments:

“This seminar has been an absolute revelation for me, and will profoundly change the way I teach, and will be a great benefit for me and my students.”

“Organized, passionate, thoughtful, great communicators. I feel much better about starting my teaching career. This is just what I needed. Loved the emphasis on quality music – great materials, carefully planned, effective curriculum.”

“Every guitar teacher should experience this.”

“One of the best examples of good teaching that I have ever experienced….”

“I have grown so much as a guitarist in the past three days. The patience and expertise of the workshop teachers is so inspiring, and the speakers reaffirm my feeling that I can do this.”

“This is exactly what I needed!”

We are particularly proud this year of our Austin program at Travis High School, under the direction of Susan Rozanc. Travis High is a Title I School, with 87% low-income students and 96% minority enrollment. Travis High was the only school to receive the highest rating possible at our 2013-14 district concert and sight-reading assessment event. Six 2014 graduating seniors earned scholarships to study music in college, and one of these students is the first person in her family to attend college. All six students were received of free individual lessons through Austin Classical Guitar. In a letter we received on November 26th, 2013, Ms. Rozanc wrote:

Austin Classical Guitar and classical guitar education programming has affected me and my students in a profound ways. We have been using GuitarCurriculum.com for just over two years at my school. In that time I have seen this curriculum not only serve as a very solid foundation for musicianship but it had ignited a real love for the instrument and a desire to achieve an extremely high level of musical artistry. I have been a classroom music educator for nineteen years. In that time, I have taught orchestra, choir, band, music theory, and musical theatre. Never in my career have I seen students so on fire for music as I have seen with my students studying classical guitar.

The effect this has had on my students is nothing short of amazing. Students in the program show improved time management skills, increased self-esteem, improved problem solving skills, improved self-discipline, improved classroom discipline, and an overall improvement in all of their academic subjects in order to be eligible to perform with the guitar ensemble. Guitar students tell me that learning classical guitar inspires them to listen to new and different music and it can be a huge help in distracting them from some of the negatives in life. A freshman student, “Josh” has been undergoing chemo-therapy and he states, “Practicing guitar takes my mind off my illness and the discomfort and pain of my chemo.” “Destiny” said, “it actually makes me want to listen and learn in both guitar class and all of my other classes.” Students who would never even considered going to college before are now planning on pursuing a music degree with classical guitar as their primary instrument. During the course of the last two years, I have seen students suffering from depression, bullying, and peer pressure do a 180 degree turn around and become happy, productive students with goals and plans for the future. Students who have difficulty achieving in other subjects often change their whole way of thinking about school while members of the guitar ensemble. It has become ‘cool’ to play classical guitar and I now have a waiting list to enroll in guitar class.

Austin Classical Guitar has been instrumental in assisting me implement the curriculum. I am a wind player by trade, so it has been extremely helpful to have someone who is a guitarist assisting me with learning guitar specific terminology and performances practices. ACG has provided free tickets for my students to attend world-class classical guitar performances and even a few opportunities for students to meet and interview the performers. This in particular has been highly motivating. When students become aware of the sound they are trying to produce it motivates them to practice and to keep that practice consistent. The ACG Youth Orchestra gives my students yet another goal and another way to achieve.

As an educator, I appreciate the feedback I get from ACG instructors. It helps me to be the best educator I can be and to set a positive tone for my classes. This year, for the very first time I can say the I GET to go to work every day. I never HAVE to go to work. Teaching my guitar classes is a privilege and a joy.

Our goals for this coming year include further development of our approach to training (including a path to certification and a teacher trainer program), significant enhancements of GuitarCurriculum.com, and, of course, as much on-the-ground service as we can provide—locally and beyond.

Thank you again for making it all possible. We look forward to sharing our continued progress with our dedicated guitar community.

Flamenco Sephardit

I met Maestro Jeffrey Eckstein last December when he was in Austin conducting Ballet Austin’s Nutcracker performances at the Long Center. Maestro Eckstein instantly impressed me as not only a tremendous musician and conductor, but also a cultural and artistic visionary.

Plus, we discovered we have a common interest: Flamenco!

On Sunday, September 21st at 7PM Maestro Eckstein will present an exciting new show called Flamenco Sephardit at the Paramount Theater. He produced the show once before in Florida, and now brings it to Texas with shows in Austin and San Antonio this month.

Tickets and information are online here.

And here’s a preview of what you can expect to see and hear!

I asked Jeffrey to tell me a little more about this exciting project.

 

Matt Hinsley: You are known in Austin as a conductor primarily, doing big things like The Nutcracker and otherprojects with Austin Symphony and Ballet Austin, what got you into flamenco?

Jeffrey Eckstein: A few years ago, I went to Barcelona for a friends wedding, and they took me to see one of the greatest flamenco guitarists ever, Vicente Amigo, performing at the Palau de la Musica. I was instantly mesmerized by his entire presence and sound. The gut-wrenching passion, coming from the depths of the singers, dancers, and guitarists souls, was just unbelievable. After that, I was hooked.

MH: Tell me about this particular project?

JE: Ever since that time in Barcelona, I knew that somehow I wanted to be a part of this amazing art form. Upon spending much time in Miami last year, I got to know even more about the style, with the myriad of flamenco guitarists, singers, and dancers there. I would visit the Tablaos and other performances almost every weekend. The idea came to me to produce a flamenco show. Not only flamenco though, I wanted to combine it with my Jewish heritage and classical experience, with a message about bringing cultures together through music. I started out with the concept of a classical guitarist and flamenco guitarist playing together, bringing the experience and mastery of their styles into the mix. Then adding vocals, percussion, and dance…with amazing musicians to make this a truly spectacular event, the likes of which had never been seen before.

MH: Tell me about the relationship between Sephardic and Flamenco musical traditions?

JE: From the 8th century to the end of 15th century, there was a Moorish presence in Spain. This presence mixed up with the Jewish and Christian presence, and gave birth to an incredible creativity in the arts, in the architecture, in science, and in music. Both Sephardic and Flamenco music have Moorish roots coming from all those centuries living together. Of course, at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, the Gypsies, Moors and Jews were all forced to leave Spain unless they converted to Catholicism. The Jews took with them that ancient Castillian dialect, and many Sephardic Jews today living in Amsterdam, Turkey among other places, still speak this language referred to as “Ladino”. Songs were written in Ladino, many speaking of the painful departure from Spain, among other subjects. You can hear similarities to the traditional cante flamenco (traditional flamenco song), which is believed to have evolved from the cries and sufferings of a persecuted people.

Both the Serphadic and Flamenco communities began in Spain, and today are spread throughout the world, in large part due to that time period. Many who escaped the Inquisition made it to, among other places, North America…specifically Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. They changed their last names to hide their Jewish heritage. Many “Crypto-Jews” continue to discover today that their Spanish surnames have Jewish roots, and still keep it a secret for fear of persecution.

Flamenco Sephardit is a way to reunite these cultures, and remind everyone that we all come from the same place, and therefore should always live in peace together.

 

 

Thursday & Friday at The Alamo

There’s a moment in this week’s film when Lon Chaney’s character, Alonzo, hears a bit of news he really, really doesn’t want to hear.

What follows is a remarkable uninterrupted close-up as he expresses an unbelievable range of emotion from pretend happiness, to despair, to regret, to rage and scheming. It’s the kind of thing you’ll never see in a modern film, and it’s that ability that earned him the moniker “man of a thousand faces.”

Our artists spent six months writing and rehearsing the music that tracks the action and intensity of The Unknown. Every eyebrow twitch, door slam, and knife-hitting-target is echoed in their remarkable live performance.

The Unknown Poster

The Unknown: Lon Chaney & Joan Crawford (1927)
Thursday & Friday, September 11 & 12, at 7PM
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, $20
Ample, free parking in the new Alamo garage on Treadwell
Tickets and Information

The Experience: This new Alamo has free and convenient parking. You choose your reserved theater seats online when you order. They serve from an extensive kitchen and bar menu during the feature, including a new specialty cocktail designed just for us! Following the shows Brian Satterwhite, host of KMFA’s Film Score Focus, will briefly interview the performers about the movie and their score.

The Film: One of a number of incredible Lon Chaney & Tod Browning collaborations, this film was lost for decades before being rediscovered in an archive. One confusion, the story goes, is that studios used to label discarded films “Unknown.” Since this film title is, in fact, “The Unknown” it was left untouched for many years! The film is full of many twists and turns, its bizarre to be sure. One of the common exclamations we’ve heard is: “I can’t believe this was made in the 20s!” Joan Crawford and Lon Chaney give extraordinary performances, and the incredible range in setting and feeling from circus to hospital, from love to revenge, was the perfect challenge for our musicians to develop a score to support and illustrate its many facets. The film will be projected from original 35mm reels.

The Music and Musicians: Miró Quartet violinist Will Fedkenheuer is not only a member of one of the world’s greatest string quartets, he was also the national fiddle champion of Canada! His versatility and virtuosity make him absolutely perfect for this performance – which tests both! Our composer/guitarists are Randy Avers from Norway and Benoit Albert from France. They spent months studying the film, plotting the action, and developing both new and existing music to mold perfectly to the action on the screen. They fly from Europe to Texas just for these performances.

The Unknown: Top 10

The Unknown Poster

Our season has begun with an amazing Classical Cactus! What a wonderful night it was!

The Unknown is simply one of the most remarkable projects we’ve ever engaged in. We present it again next week and I am so excited! Here’s my top 10 list of reasons not to miss it!

Matt’s Top 10 Reasons to See The Unknown

#10) It’s showing at the brand-new, state-of-the-art, South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse.

#9) This is one of Alamo co-founder Tim League’s favorite films. Tim knows film!

#8) With our next original silent film score – Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger – premiering in January, this is the perfect pre-season appetizer!

#7) Brian Satterwhite, host of KMFA’s Film Score Focus, will do a Q&A with the musicians after each show.

#6) Alamo beverage guru Bill Norris is making special drinks just for this show!

#5) The violinist is the Miro Quartet’s William Fedkenheuer, and he’s awesome!

#4) Randy & Benoit are flying to Austin from Norway and France, respectively, just to play these shows. It’s a huge, original musical work that took them six months to create specifically for us… for Austin. And this is one of the only chances ever to experience it!

#3) A menacing Lon Chaney and a stunning Joan Crawford.

#2) The show is inside this time. Air conditioning… and no bugs!

And…

#1) Both movie and music are riveting and ingenious. Watch this trailer, with cuts from the film and a sample of Randy and Benoit’s music, and you’ll see what I mean!

The Unknown- Alamo Rolling Roadshow

The shows are Thursday and Friday, September 11th and 12th at 7PM at the new Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. If you’ve not been to an Alamo recently, one cool feature is that you can select your theater seats online when you purchase your tickets. So get ‘em soon!

More information on the show and tickets are online here.

Here’s to a new season at Austin Classical Guitar!

The Unknown

One of our coolest projects ever returns for two shows at the brand new Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar on Thursday, September 11th and Friday September 12th at 7PM.

Dark, bizarre and brilliant, Tod Browning’s 1927 silent masterpiece The Unknown stars “the man of a thousand faces” Lon Chaney, Sr. and superstar Joan Crawford. European ultra-creative duo of Randall Avers and Benoit Albert wrote an original film score for us in 2012. The premiere was astonishing.

Now it’s back, and it’s touring Texas.

Watch the movie trailer with their original music.

Tickets are here.

The Movie

The Unknown- Alamo Rolling Roadshow

This movie is so bizarre, so inventive, that to say very much about it would no doubt spoil at least some of its many twists and turns. We will say these: It begins in a circus in Spain. There is love, love lost, deception, confusion, menace, terror, regret, and revenge. All of these things you can see in Lon Chaney’s legendary expressions, and all of these things you can hear in Avers and Albert’s stunning musical setting.

The Music

The Unknown- Alamo Rolling Roadshow

Randall Avers and Benoit Albert, Les Freres Meduses, spent six months writing the score for two guitars and violin. The premiere was held in June 2012 with violin virtuoso William Fedkenheuer (The Miró Quartet) who will join them again for these performances. The challenge of this score was to write music for a movie that ranges across a phenomenal expanse of emotions. They did it.

The Production

The Unknown- Alamo Rolling Roadshow

We’ll be at the new, state of the art, Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. The Alamo will project from original 35mm reels acquired just for this show. Our premiere in June 2012 was outside at Laguna Gloria with the Alamo Rolling Roadshow. It was awesome and it was hot – watch the production wrap video here. While we won’t have live knife throwers this time… it will be nice and cool, with no bugs!

Grgić & Chalifour Program

We are so excited for Saturday’s summer series finale with Mak Grgić and Martin Chalifour.

Martin is a violinist, originally from Canada, who has been the concertmaster of the LA Philharmonic since the mid-90’s! It doesn’t get any bigger than that! Mak is a fabulous young Slovenian talent with extraordinary abilities.

On Saturday’s concert we’ll get to hear them each play solo as well as in duo and the program looks stupendous!

Get tickets and information online here.

 

Mak Grgić & Martin Chalifour

Concert Program

Sonata in G minor for violin and guitar, BWV 1001 by J. S. Bach (arr. Chalifour/ Grgić)

Prelude

Fuga

Siciliano

Presto

 

Somewhere/Tonight by Leonard Bernstein (arr. A. Sedlar Bogoev)

 

Danza Espagnola No. 5 by Enrique Granados (arr. M. Llobet)

(Mak Grgić, Guitar)

 

History of the Tango, for violin and guitar (Part 1) by Astor Piazzolla

Bordel

Café 1930

 

Solo Violin Sonata op. 115 by Sergei Prokofiev

Moderato

Theme and Variations

(Martin Chalifour, Violin)

 

History of the Tango, for violin and guitar (Part 2)  by Astor Piazzolla

Night Club 1960

Concert d’aujourd’hui

 

Selections for Violin and Guitar by Fritz Kreisler (arr. by Grgić)

Liebesleid

Schön Rosmarin

 

Spanish Dance from “La Vida Breve” by De Falla- Kreisler

 

Carl & Margaret

Our summer series closes Saturday with two simply stunning artists, Mak Grgic and Martin Chalifour, performing a recital of amazing music for violin and guitar.

Carl Caricari and Margaret Murray Miller are our sponsors for the evening. Carl has been on our Board of Directors for six years, serving during that time as – among other things – chair of our education committee and chair of our nominating and governance committee. Margaret has been deeply involved in ACG also, most recently as our lead volunteer for the Lullaby Project which we carried out in collaboration with Carnegie Hall this past spring.

Carl & Margaret

So when they offered to sponsor Saturday night’s concert, I wanted to learn and share just a bit more about what has driven their passion for ACG and our mission of community service through music.

Matthew Hinsley: What do you love about live performances with ACG?

Carl Caricari: One of the most enjoyable parts of live performances is the respect the audience has for the artistry of the performer. A classical guitar concert audience is characterized by a lack of noise, coughing, and movement. Another aspect we find enjoyable is the connection the performers make with the audience. They usually give insight about the piece they are about to perform, describing not only what the composer was intending, but how they interpret the work. We always come away from a performance feeling enriched by the experience.

Margaret Murray Miller: Carl and I prefer to sit in the side seats of the concert hall. We always arrive early enough to attend the student portion of the evening. It is such a pleasure to view the concentration and rapture of the audience while we are all enveloped by the artist. When leaving a concert, last year, I overheard a young couple: “Thanks for texting me about this concert, this is the coolest guitar music I’ve ever heard.” And, Carl and I have become “fans” of some of these student artists, attending their recitals when we can.

MH: Carl, you’ve chaired our Education committee, Margaret, you were deeply involved with our Lullaby project. What strikes you about ACG community service?

CC: The extent of the community outreach aspect of ACG sets it apart in my mind from most fine art institutions. The effect of the education program in the Austin schools is a major contributor to the life of the children participating in the program. Ninety-percent of the participants in the school guitar programs would not be in any music program if ACG did not exist. It gives them an appreciation of great music while creating for them a sense of accomplishment. They are playing great music almost immediately with the innovative approach ACG has brought to music teaching.

MMM: I was honored to be involved in the Lullaby Project, initiated by Carnegie Hall, this spring. A small community of divergent people came together and created musical magic in less than a week. Two mothers from Any Baby Can joined local musicians in creating Lullabies for their children, one in English and one in Spanish. In the recording studio one mother told me, “We are all the same here.” She fashioned a phrase, “You are so bright, you are my light” for her children. We at ACG feel this way about all of the students in our education programs!

MH: What do wish everyone knew about ACG?

CC: It is much more that a provider of concert music. ACG is a leader of innovation bringing many different ways to enjoy music with Classical Cactus, the Salon series concerts in private homes, FlamencoAustin, collaborations from the Austin Symphony and Conspirare.

MMM: On our second date, six years ago, Carl asked me to an ACG concert. Well, it was a wonderful evening…the artist and Carl, of course! Ever since then, classical guitar has been part of our daily lives. We have met terrific people that we might not have crossed paths with. Classical guitar bring together an amazing variety of people. Standing in the lobby during intermission is rubbing elbows with a large part of Austin’s far ranging cultural community.

MH: Margaret, you volunteer for Dress For Success, I’d love to hear more about their work – or any other charities you’re passionate about here in Austin.

MMM: Thank you for asking, Matt. Dress For Success Austin is dear to my heart. Six years ago I began volunteering at our affiliate on Tillery Street in East Austin. DFSA is a non-profit and part of the worldwide organization Dress For Success.

Women are sent to us from about eighty agencies in our community. Their challenges include domestic abuse, homelessness, lack of education, mental illness, wounded veterans, blindness, and deafness to select a few. We initially spend time dressing them in a beautiful, professional outfit, including the suit, shoes, handbag, jewelry, and cosmetics.

Often, our clients are touched and somewhat overwhelmed. There can be hugging and tears shared. Special attention is often lacking in their lives. All of our items are donated. We are beholden to the wonderful people who decide to drop by after cleaning out their closets. And, especially to those who have lost a loved one, and manage to think of DFSA.

We also offer career counseling, follow up programs such as financial literacy. We want to remain in these women’s lives, as they help themselves, then each other, and, amazingly when some of them become DFSA volunteers themselves!

Thank You

Working with diverse students in schools all over Austin, we see music changing the lives of young people every day. Seeing young lives change for the better is our greatest reward, and it is so affirming when administrators, teachers, and parents see these transformations too—and tell us about it!

Speaking of which, this week we received the following letter from the Principal of Widén Elementary, one of seven new elementary guitar programs started in fall 2013:

Dear Mr. Hinsley: I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your tremendous gift of time and resources to Widén Elementary School. I know the teaching you presented to my students did not go unappreciated.

My student body has few opportunities to participate in music lessons, which would have them learning how to play an instrument. This is often caused by the lack of discretionary family fund, as we are a Title I campus with a student body of 96% free and reduced lunches. As an educator, I understand the importance music has on academic success. I am always encouraging my staff to seek ways to increase my students’ exposure to music.

Your support of lessons, repairs, resources and securing instruments has been invaluable. As the principal of Carl T. Widén, I wholeheartedly appreciate all your support of Victoria and Widén’s music program.

Thank you,

Kimberly Royal, Principal

It is an honor to work with the students at Widén Elementary, and hearing that our work is an invaluable part of the students’ education there motivates us to continue expanding our program into more schools, to continue providing classical guitar education of the highest quality to more and more students. This wonderful letter has reminded us that our work is a vital part of the educational landscape in Austin.

Thank you so much Widén Elementary for welcoming Austin Classical Guitar Education into your classrooms. Keep on playing!

Cavatina Duo Program

We are thrilled to be presenting Cavatina Duo on July 12th! This event represents ACG’s sixth annual collaborative presentation with Austin Chamber Music Center. Starting at 7:30pm on the 12th, the music of the world’s foremost guitar and flute duo will fill UT’s Bates Recital Hall, and we hope you will join us! Tickets are available at AustinClassicalGuitar.org or 512-300-2247.

We’ve just received the duo’s program (below), which is a marvelous blend of everything from a Bach Sonata to traditional Balkan pieces arranged by Clarice Assad.

The program also features the newest work by our composer in residence, Dr. Joseph V. Williams II. When asked recently about the piece, Williams said, “I was overjoyed to create a piece for the outstanding Cavatina Duo. At their request, I drew inspiration from the Sephardic Jews who lived in Spain up until the 15th Century. This piece, entitled Isabel, pays tribute to the tragic history of Isabel de los Olivos y López and her persecution during the Spanish Inquisition. It draws from the Sephardic folk song Durme, durme mi linda donzella and bears witness to her struggle.”

 

cavatina-duo-logo
Eugenia Moliner, Flute
Denis Azabagic, Guitar
Austin, TX
July 2014

 

Program

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Sonata in E major for flute and continuo (BWV 1035)

Adagio ma non tanto

Allegro

Andante

Allegro

 

Clarice Assad (b. 1977)

Three Balkan pieces

Ratchenitsa (trad. Bulgarian)

Ajde slusaj, slusaj (trad. Macedonian)

Kalajdzijsko Oro (trad. Macedonian)

Commissioned by Cavatina Duo

 

Ástor Piazzolla (1921-1992)

Adiós Nonino

(arr. Ian Murphy)

Fernando Sor (1778-1839)

Variations on “O Cara armonia” from Mozart’s The Magic Flute

(arr. Alan Thomas)

 

Intermission

 

Joe Williams (b. 1979)

Isabel (In Memory of Isabel de los Olivos y Lopez)

Written for Cavatina Duo

Alan Thomas (b. 1968)

Out of Africa (solo guitar)

Call at Sunrise

Morning Dance

Zenith

Evening Dance

Cradle Song

Alan Thomas

Fantasy on themes from La Traviata, after Krakamp, Briccialdi, and Tarrega

Commissioned by Cavatina Duo

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Legacy

Several people have taken me aside in the last year to tell me they have named Austin Classical Guitar in their wills. It is incredibly humbling to think that our friends have the faith in us to make plans for our continued service far into the future.

I’ve wanted to share a few of these stories and when I received a remarkable letter from a student last week who was thanking us for a gift of a guitar, I was particularly motivated to tell this one.

Edward Kimball, a member of our Community Guitarists program, has several beautiful guitars. He recently informed us he will be leaving them to ACG.

But Mr. Kimball also gave us a beautiful guitar now, that he was hoping could be used by a deserving student. We chose a remarkable young graduate from one of our high school programs who has distinguished herself in school, will continue her studies in college, and was a member of Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra.

She’s the one who surprised me with a letter last week, and this is what she wrote:

Dear ACG: Thank you so much for the Hirade guitar, and for all the opportunities you have given me these past three years. I would not have gotten where I am today without your help and support.

Because of ACG and the help of different teachers along the way – Mr. Gratovich, Mr. Pearson, Mr. Ferguson, Dr. Williams – I have learned to truly appreciate not only this wonderful instrument, but also the culture that comes with it. I am so grateful for every concert, interview, and event that I was able to participate in because of you all. And thank you Matthew Hinsley for starting it all.

Because of my teacher, Ms. Rozanc, and everyone at ACG, I want to become a music teacher and give back to my students. I want to teach classical guitar and perhaps even become a professor.

Again, thank you for the guitar, I have loved being able to play it this past semester, and am beyond myself that I can call it my own and continue to play it.

Know that you are inspiring people around the world and accomplishing more than just teaching kids how to play classical guitar.

 

Wow.

We asked Mr. Kimball to tell us why he chose ACG for his bequest. This was his response:

Several events led me to decide to bequeath my guitars to ACG. Y’all know how, as we get up in years, we think of that old cliché: “you can’t take it with you”! And when I learned that my friend Laura Ancira had donated an instrument she had made out of cypress to ACG, that got me to thinking even more.

Those of us who are guitar players at most any level treasure our instruments, because we spend so much time (and frustration) with them. Upon our passing we’d like to know, in advance, that our instruments will be delivered to hands that will treasure and PLAY them — not just try to sell them. So, I decided to formalize my wish with documentation. When I mentioned to my wife my intention to will my guitars to ACG, she said, had I passed away suddenly, that’s what she would have done anyway!

ACG does several wonderful things in our community. The “Changing Lives” programs that help young people who might be classified as “at risk” are, to me, the most commendable. Our instrument, it has been said, is the easiest to play poorly and the most difficult to play well. The focus, concentration and dedication required to learn classical guitar can, and does, rewire the brain in very positive ways. I’m living proof of that!

Thank you Mr. Kimball. It’s clear that you have already helped us change lives in significant ways.

Thank you so deeply for your commitment to helping us serve more kids for years to come.