It’s Matt Hinsley’s tenth year as Executive Director of Austin Classical Guitar.  But his relationship with ACG actually began in the fall of 1996, 17 years ago.  We thought we’d kick off this year’s Changing Lives Fall Fund Drive with a few of Matt’s reflections.

Has ACGS or classical guitar changed your life?  Email your story to us today.

You can help!  Donate to our Changing Lives fall fund drive today.

I’m asked a lot about how I came into this job.  When I speak at conferences, arts leaders are often curious to know about my past, patrons like to know if this is my “real job,” if this is what I do “full time,” undergraduate arts students who are staring down the imminent reality of entering the job market, ask if I was trained in management and business and seek advice about how they might pursue a similar path. 

Before Austin

My interest in nonprofit arts organizations began when I was an undergraduate student at Oberlin Conservatory of Music.  Myself, and two others, were the very first guitar students ever at Oberlin.  My teacher, Steve Aron, encouraged me to start a student guitar club because, as a new department, there were very few resources allocated to classical guitar guest artists.  In three years the Oberlin Guitar Club grew from $500, to over $2,000, to over $5,000.  I quickly learned the power of well-organized arts presentation, of good writing, of timely requests for support, and of documentation.  And most importantly I learned the joy and satisfaction of bringing top-quality arts experiences to the community.

Speaking of writing, Steve saw that I could write, and encouraged me to begin writing not only proposals to the Oberlin Student Council, but also magazine articles for GFA Soundboard.  In all, beginning at 17 years old, I’d write seven articles for Soundboard in the next 10 years.  Writing, be it letters, blog posts, articles, newsletters, ad copy, grant proposals, reports, articles or books, is easily one of the most important things I do on a daily basis – and I’m deeply thankful to Steve for encouraging me in that direction early on.

As a senior at Oberlin, I asked if could write an optional undergraduate thesis under the supervision of an economics professor.  The resulting paper, Classical Guitar and the Art Market, begins like this:

“The classical guitar has the ability to appeal to an incredibly broad spectrum of people.  This remarkable quality is the result of many special features which are truly unique to the guitar.  The features range from the very visual nature of the instrument, to the types of sounds it produces, to the important associations it has with other types of music both past and present.  The classical guitarist does not have to compromise artistic quality in order to capitalize on the wealth of musical heritage associated with the guitar.”

That was spring of 1996, I was 20, and I was about four months away from Texas.

(Read part 2 of this series: The First Years)