Thank You from the ACG Team

The Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra(ACGYO) played a beautiful concert this past weekend. Right afterwards, the younger brother of one of the members announced loudly, “That was my kind of show. Cool – and not too long!” Then he added, “Maybe some day I can play with them too.”

“He just loves it,” one mother said about her son’s experience playing in the ensemble. “He gets so much joy out of playing with other kids.”

The ACGYO has performed in the Long Center, The Paramount Theater, the AISD Performing Arts Center, but this concert was in a smaller, more intimate space. Close as we were, we could hear all of the colors and subtleties the ensemble has worked so hard to develop all semester long. The playing was elegant and refined; it was easy to forget the youthfulness of the musicians.

From Ekachai Jearakul’s brilliant performance a week ago last Saturday, to an evocative night of original music and art with our Composer in Residence on Wednesday, to the laughter and tears at Thursday’s tribute to Travis Marcum’s ten years of leadership in education, and culminating with this weekend’s ACGYO performance, it was a full week, rich with moments of authentic beauty at once ephemeral and uniquely powerful.

Moments that left us feeling grateful.

Grateful that we are able to provide free instruments and lessons for kids in need, grateful for the opportunities to develop adaptive curricula so that all students can participate meaningfully in guitar class, grateful to the teachers in our community and around the world who bring such deep dedication to changing lives with music, grateful for our board members, staff and volunteers – and grateful for our many supporters like you, who make everything we do possible.

From all of us at Austin Classical Guitar, we send our warmest wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.


A Letter from Meredith McAlmon

Meredith McAlmon is director of Guitar and Orchestra at Fulmore Middle School, one of a few schools to receive superior ratings in all categories from all judges in the 2015 District Concert and Sight reading Assessment.  She sent this letter on the occasion of our celebration of Travis Marcum’s ten years as Director of Education and Outreach for Austin Classical Guitar.

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Dear Travis –
In case I can’t make it to the Cactus tonight,  (Region Orchestra sectionals) I want to congratulate you on ten years of amazing achievements.  I can’t teach El Chinati without visions of you forging your way through the barren mountains of West Texas, your guitar on your back, opening up new horizons as you bring the magic of making music through the guitar curriculum to the hungry and needy masses.  Your name is very visible in my classes, and my students always want to know who Travis Marcum is.   I just tell them that you’re the Red-Headed Stranger……..(Jeremy has come to be known as “The Dude” – they ask “Is The Dude coming today?”, and Matt is “The Famous Guy”)  So – to The Red-Headed Stranger, The Dude, and The Famous Guy – you are a Mighty Threesome!  Travis – thank you for everything you’ve done for the guitar and music and the art of teaching,  and I wish you a spectacular evening!
your humble and grateful admirer –
Meredith McAlmon


Celebrating 10 Years of Marcum

Last night for our 2nd Annual “Staff Cactus” friends, family, and fans of ACG piled into the Cactus Cafe to celebrate a very special member of our staff. Travis Marcum, our Director of Education, has now been with us for 10 years, so it was only fitting that we dedicate the night to him. As friends and members of our staff took turns taking the stage to each play a piece they had chosen, they all had very kind words & memories to share about their experiences working with Travis and his vision for ACG’s educational program.

Some spoke of their days together as students at UT, others highlighted his dedication to the development of and the reach ACG has been able to have to students across the country as a result. We even received a letter from a long-time ACG volunteer, Judith Agraz, who works for the Texas Eduaction Agency and wanted to give a personal testimony of the impact Travis has had as an educator; she wrote-

Judith Agraz

Long-time ACG Volunteer, Judith Agraz

When I met Travis Marcum about 9 years ago, he was teaching classical guitar at McCallum High School as part of the ACG educational outreach program. At that time, we were trying to create a classical guitar club at this school. He was also giving classical guitar lessons to my son Diego. Travis looked so young and shy. His speech was soft and quiet. Not long after that, in 2007, the McCallum Advanced Classical Guitar Ensemble participated in UT Brownsville National Guitar Ensemble Competition and won the competition that year. After my son graduated from high school, I lost track of Travis. It was at a Guitars Under Stars event that I heard him give a speech about the importance of teaching classical guitar in high schools. I was surprised to hear him speak with such assurance and dedication. As time goes on, every time I hear or see him in an interview, I see how he has grown not just in confidence. His heart has expanded. His service to the students, to the other teachers, and to the community is enormous. I have to congratulate a teacher, a director, and a friend.

With love and admiration,


As the night went on we had our fair share of laughs as guests got to participate in rounds of “Travis Trivia (Travia)” of questions about his favorite food and what character of Dungeons & Dragons he would be, in-between more songs and stories. The positive energy in the room was undeniable and the music spoke for itself, but one thing that was pointed out by our Executive Director, Matt Hinsley, resonated with the room on a higher note. As much as we all love what we do, promoting this instrument, teaching music; the longer all of us at ACG work together, in a strange way, the less it actually seems to be about guitar. It’s all about forming a connection with people, and Travis Marcum has mastered this skill. Wether it be through his ability to create learning environments where students feel comfortable, or his teaching style that motivates them to be their best self, we could all learn a little something from Travis. So congratulations on everything you’ve achieved in the last 10 years, and here’s to 10 more of connecting people through our two favorite things, education and classical guitar.


Travis Marcum, Jeremy Osborne & Toby Rodriguez playing a piece last night that Travis composed for the  ACG Educational Curriculum






Play! Fables & Lies

Prepare to be transported through stories and art: Our Composer in Residence, Joseph Williams II, the creative genius behind last year’s original silent film score for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger, hosts an evening inspired by the other-worldly at The Townsend, Austin’s coolest new bar and listening room.

Williams along with guitarist Joseph Palmer and bassist Ricky Pringle will present his evocative Zia: Myth and Folklore from New Mexico and Homage to Tom Waits. Our featured artist is Austin’s own Yuliya Lanina whose surreal paintings portray the mysterious, the beautiful, and the sensual.  There will be food compliments of Easy Tiger included in the ticket price, and delicious cocktails available from The Townsend’s mixology masters.

The Townsend shot by SJ Reid Photography

The Townsend shot by SJ Reid Photography

We can almost smell the fresh-baked goodness from Easy Tiger

Fresh-Baked Goodness from Easy Tiger








About the Music: Joseph Williams II composed  Zia: Myth and Folklore from New Mexico as a collection of etudes, or short musical compositions, emphasizing  timbre and extended guitar techniques. A “Zia” is a symbol for the sun: a red circle with groups of rays pointing in four directions. The symbol comes from the Zia tribe from New Mexico and was adopted as the state flag in 1925. As a native of New Mexico, Williams  drew inspiration from the Spanish and Native American folklore and mythology integral to the cultural landscape of the state. In writing etudes focusing on extended techniques and timbre, he found a sympathetic relationship between this exotic sound palette and the frequently fantastical elements in New Mexican folklore and myth. In realizing this relationship, he associated each etude with a specific myth or folkloric story. Although the pieces can exist without this association, his hopes are that the programmatic reference will empower a general audience to engage in a contemporary musical language and also to keep these narratives alive in modern consciousness.

Tom Waits (b. 1949) is an American songwriter, composer, actor and performance artist. He is a self-described maker of “adventure songs and Halloween music”  whose lyrics explore a fantastical underworld of seedy, sentimental, grotesque and sometimes maudlin subject matter. Williams’ Homage to Tom Waits (2012) is dedicated to the later period of his music characterized by the use of uncommon instruments and an evolving sound palette that explores forms that are rarely present in popular music (vaudeville, rumba, polka, tango, spoken word).

To read more about Joseph Williams visit his website

"Je Suis Charlie" by Yuliya Lanina About the Art: Yuliya Lanina is a Russian-born American multimedia artist who lives and works in Austin, TX. Employing surreal imagery to simultaneously elicit feelings of uneasiness and empathy, she paints and collages bizarre characters that come to life through mechanization, animation, and music. Lanina draws from many sources to create these characters, though she often taps into Greek mythology with its half-human and half-animal demigods, and also relies on Russian fairy tales, which are filled with fantastic beings deeply rooted in paganism, mysticism, and symbolism. Her creatures and their stories move freely between logical and illogical, realistic and illusory, predictable and surprising, representing life that can only be lived, but never understood. 

To see more of her work visit her website

Play! is about connecting contemporary art and music in captivating downtown Austin spaces.  Each event highlights the work of one visual artist paired with an intimate live concert.  We look for exciting downtown environments, start off with cocktails, delicious bites from Easy Tiger, and let the art and music set the mood.  

This event is sponsored by Laraine & Leon Lasdon.

Tickets can be purchased here.

A Testament of Impact from a Middle School Music Teacher

Dallas Shreve teaches music at Dobie Middle School in Austin.


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“As a first year teacher with a percussion background and only a few years of experience teaching guitar to individuals, I had no idea how to facilitate and manage a room of 25 highly energetic middle schoolers with guitars. Austin Classical Guitar has not only been an amazing resource for behavior management and classroom technique, but I cannot say enough about the curriculum. has methodically laid out procedures, repertoire, and technique for beginners to advanced players so that the teacher just has to facilitate. The flexibility of the curriculum takes the rigidness out of following it verbatim as well.



Jeremy Osborne, ACG Assistant Director of Education in the classroom

Austin Classical guitar has provided me with an amazing mentor as well. Jeremy Osborne has spent countless hours investing into me and my students. Whenever he visits my classroom, I always feel like I’ve gained another level of insight on how to inspire and motivate my students.


My students ask me everyday when they will get to attend another classical guitar concert at the PAC. Most of them are from disadvantaged backgrounds and could not afford to attend world-class performances like these. With the complimentary tickets from ACG, I’m able to introduce my students to a world they otherwise would have never known about. One of my students, feeling under-dressed and a little intimidated at the most recent concert, said to me “Mister, I don’t think we belong here” to which I replied, “This place was built for you! You do belong here! And here is the man that gave you tickets!” We then got to thank Mr. Hinsley personally for the free tickets. I feel so blessed to have gained friendships and relationships with ACG. Thank you Mr. Hinsley and Austin Classical Guitar!”


An Interview with Ekachai


Ekachai Jearakul played in Carnegie Hall on Friday and is on his way to play for us here in Austin on Saturday! In the midst of this international superstar’s globe trotting for his current Guitar Foundation of America tour, we were able to squeeze in some time to ask him a few questions about where he draws inspiration from and his musical career thus far.



What inspired you to begin studying Classical Guitar at such a young age?
I was first inspired by the music of the King of Thailand. I originally started my musical training on the trumpet but I heard a friend play an arrangement of “Hungry Man Blues” on classical guitar, by the King, and I knew I wanted to play guitar.

Which musicians have inspired you the most in your musical career?
John Williams was a true guitar hero of mine and I listened to his albums quite a lot when I first began to study the guitar. I also wanted to mimic his career by playing in the same concert halls he played in.

What is your favorite piece of music to play? Why?
I love to play the music of Agustín Barrios. His compositions are so beautiful and he really understood the instrument like Chopin did on the piano.

Of all the countries you’ve gotten to travel to, where was your favorite place to visit/play? Why?
Madrid, Spain. The architecture is incredible, there’s a real big city bustle, and I was so captivated by the combination of cultures.

12112065_953036928103128_5900439952495041590_n How was your experience playing for the Royal Family of Thailand?
It was a tremendous honor to play in front of the Royal Family; I was not nervous but humbled to have the opportunity. It still is one of my biggest dreams to play in front of the King.

What are your plans after you complete the GFA tour?
More touring! I’m looking to do more orchestra collaborations, finish my Mel Bay publication on the music of the King of Thailand, and record another CD on the GHA label.


If you’d like to know more about Ekachai and his musical background, visit his website!

For more details about his concert on Saturday click here, or call us at (512) 300-2247.

A Statement from Scott Cmiel

Matt & Scott

Scott Cmiel & Matt Hinsley at and ACG national Teacher Training Session

Scott Cmiel is director of the guitar program at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts and a member of the guitar faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he served as chair of the guitar department and chair of the musicianship department for over twenty years.  His students have won awards in many local, regional and national competitions and have been featured on national radio and television including on the NPR program From the Top and the televised GRAMMY Awards.  We were honored to have Mr. Cmiel join us this past summer as a special guest lecturer for our national teacher training event in Austin.

Previous story, From St. Louis.
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The inspirational and fecund Austin Classical Guitar brings the joy of guitar music to people of all ages in myriad ways. They have created an exciting concert series of internationally acclaimed guitarists; established guitar programs in over 50 different elementary, middle and high schools, the Travis County Juvenile Justice System, and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; inspired teachers throughout the country with the innovative training program at, and brought guitarists from throughout the Southwest together in a high quality Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra and wonderful Community Ensembles. Last season ACG brought together the Grammy-winning vocal group Conspirare with the Dublin Guitar Quartet, Texas Guitar Quartet and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet to perform a commissioned piece, based on the letters of pioneer women, portraying the hope, fear, and loneliness that defined the experience of Texas’ original settlers as they pursued the promise of a better life. What will they come up with next? The energy, enthusiasm and idealism of Executive Director Matthew Hinsley, and his team of Travis Marcum, Jeremy Osborne, Eric Pearson, Toby Rodriguez and Joseph V. Williams and are a treasure. Many thanks!

From St. Louis

Jeff SiethJeff Sieth began teaching guitar at Parkland Jr. College in Urbana Illinois and has taught guitar in private and conservatory studios. Currently he serves as Orchestra Manager and Educator for the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society, and is Co-Director of the guitar program at Adams Elementary School in St. Louis.

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Donate to our Changing Lives Fall Fund Drive today.

“Teaching was something I did out of necessity and never really enjoyed before I encountered Austin Classical Guitar.   Now, teaching young children brings me great joy and rewards, a sense of accomplishment, and real purpose in my life.

I feel that we are doing a great service to society by introducing ACG’s program into the public schools in St. Louis.

Many Thanks to ACG’s Matthew Hinsley, SLCGS’s Bill Ash, and everyone at ACG.”


A Few Words from Scott Tennant

Scott TennantOne of the most influential classical guitarists of the modern era, Scott Tennant is a founding member of the LA Guitar Quartet, Associate Professor of Classical Guitar Studies at USC, and author of Pumping Nylon, one of the most widely read classical guitar manuals ever published.

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“ACG is not your typical classical guitar society. Thanks to Matt Hinsley’s vision and tireless efforts, it not only promotes guitar performances, but spreads the joy of music to the community through supporting new compositions and educational opportunities to children, among many other things.

My recent experience with a composition they commissioned by Nico Muhly, “How Little You Are”, was not only a wonderful experience, but one of the most incredible new works I’ve heard in a long time. All of us involved were amazed how it successfully pulled together so many facets of the arts in Austin, and it was truly an honor to be a part of that.

All in all, ACG’s commitment to promoting the arts through our beloved vehicle – the guitar – continues to blow me away, and inspire me.”


Encouraging Creativity through Music & Storytelling

Our very own Audience Engagement Artist in Residence, Joseph Palmer, has been touring the city of Austin visiting Elementary Schools, Middle Schools, and High Schools as well as places like the Thinkery Children’s Museum, the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, and Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center. Joseph has developed a program to engage children and young adults in the arts by integrating music and the story telling process. His emphasis on learning the listening process to influence the emotions, aids students in imagining a story based on the sounds they are hearing.

After explaining how a composer took inspiration from a folk tale and was able to creatively transform it into a piece of music (Pedro y Diablo – Joe Williams), the kids then did this process in reverse; taking three short pieces of music and constructing their own three part story in response to what they heard in the music (Caprice Variations 1, 16, & 35 – Rochberg).

At one of the schools Joseph most recently visited, he describes this transformation process-

Here’s a synopsis of the story created by the students at Perez Elementary in response to the Rochberg-

Caprice No. 1: A man named Pablo is on a quest to look for his lost love but is challenged to a duel by the infamous villain Jacques. Despite his odds, Pablo is able to defeat Jacques.

Caprice No. 16: Pablo continues on his lonely journey through the desert to look for his love but soon catches word that Jacques’ spirit has somehow returned and is chasing off everyone in Pablo’s hometown to seek revenge.

Caprice No. 35: A very intense chase ensues. Pablo finally reunites with his lover and together they try to escape from the wrath of Jacques. At the peak of tension, they find shelter inside a transparent forcefield which prevents the evil spirit from reaching them. The spirit becomes increasingly enraged until suddenly reaching the point of complete self-destruction.

If you’ve heard the 35th Rochberg Caprice, this ending totally makes sense.

This is just one example of a story that a group of children have come up with after listening to these pieces being played for them. Another one of Joseph’s recent visits was to Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center which he described as a more “up-close, interactive performance.”

One moment that particularly stood out to me was when I played a piece without revealing the title, composer, or any background info and simply asked them to “listen closely and imagine what you think the composer is trying to express through this music just from the sounds you hear.” Afterwards, I heard a number of thoughtful comments from them. Though there was one kid who said “It sounds like you’ve lost someone that you love.” I then revealed that the piece was entitled “Farewell” by Sergio Assad and that the composer wrote the piece as a farewell to his wife who he had just lost to terminal illness. We went on to discuss how amazing it is that music can express such emotions so profoundly and with such precision that another human being can truly feel and understand what is being communicated without any words being exchanged or ever having even met the person – just by listening and feeling into sounds they put together.

After the students had listened to Joseph’s performances and built the stories to fit them, they were asked a few questions about how the demonstration affected their overall experiences as listeners and audience members. One student put it simply, “For a while I forgot I was in this place and just imagined a story about a boy walking by himself & realizing the hardships in life.” Comments like these go to show the incredible potential that music has to transport an individual into another reality.

The goal of this program is to give students the opportunity to become more in touch with their creative sides and develop their perceptive listening skills in order to encourage them to use their imagination through a multi-sensory experience. We encourage students to develop their own interpretations and create something new in hopes that they will be inspired to continue to do so.

In the words of Albert Einstein, “Creativity is contagious,” and we are on a mission to spread it.


Joseph at Perez Elementary, playing for a group of children.


Joseph’s visit to the Young Women’s Leadership Academy


Girls in a class at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy eager to add their perspective of a piece Joseph played for them into the story they built to match the music.