Ofrendas: Nakia Reynoso

Nakia Reynoso is a versatile and beloved Austin musician with a magical voice. He was a Top 8 Semifinalist on CeeLo's team during the first season of 'The Voice' on NBC. Nakia’s ofrenda is packed with intensity and meaning, and we asked him to share some of his thoughts about the piece, the process, and his dad who passed away on this date, October 25th, 2009. Join us live for the finale of our ofrendas project on Thursday, October 29th at 7PM CDT, RSVP Online here. Free, donations accepted.

 

My dad’s parents were indigenous people from Mexico with roots from before there was a Mexico. Dad kept his heritage separate from our lives for his own reasons. So there’s been a real disconnect between me and that heritage and culture. That’s had some pretty negative effects on me long-term. I’ve done a lot of work through therapy and other approaches, but I don’t think it has fully resolved itself. I don’t think it ever will, until I’m able to find some connection on my own.

Exploring these connections has been something I’ve wanted to do. So it was really good timing for me to make this ofrenda. It was an honor for me to be asked, and a real pleasure to take part in the project.

Through the work I’ve done, I became friends with a Lakota Indian. He invited me to do a Vision Quest a few years ago, after several experiences together in a sweat lodge. I had no idea how musical sweat lodge ceremonies are, with all the chanting and drumming. After our first sweat lodge experience he pulled me aside and said “I don’t know you that well, but I want you to know I’ve been doing this for a very long time, and you have some connection to this process that I don’t think even you understand.” So in my ofrenda I knew I wanted to include chanting, and that’s one of the first things you hear, and one of the last things you hear, too.

I have my own altar with pictures of my family, my husband, some friends, Prince, John Aielli, all these people that I look up to and respect. A friend’s mother gave me a prayer cloth, it’s up there too next to some items from my Vision Quest. My dad is there, along with all these elephants because dad was a huge University of Alabama football fan, and their mascot is an elephant.

Originally my ofrenda was going to be mostly chanting and drumming, but once I sat down in this space, I knew I wanted to include an elephant in some way. The first elephant trumpet sound is right after the first drum fill, and it signals my birth. And you’ll see right after that is a picture of me. The last one is shortly before he died. We’re at a restaurant, there’s a picture of him looking away, and then another with him looking right at the camera with his Alabama hat, and you can see on his face he looks a little confused. I wanted the elephant to herald his exit as well.

I started going through photos of dad on my computer. My memories seem to revolve around music, like watching him thumping the steering wheel in time with the radio. He really loved the groove of music. So I wanted to add some groove to it, and that’s where the drums on top of the congas came in.

Dad wasn’t really into synth music, but I added synth anyway. I felt I was not only paying tribute to him, but also to the way that he inspired me. I wanted to put the things I was feeling into the piece. There is this darkness around our relationship. I don’t know that it will ever go away, and I’m okay with that. But that’s the low synth moaning you hear throughout.

The actual melody follows a clear timeline through 2009, of my dad looking really healthy, and then quickly declining, especially after he got his cancer diagnosis in July. Even though the piece is short, I wanted to have his beginning, his middle, and his end. So that’s why the melody switches as soon as you get into the cancer diagnosis, it gets confusing, and kind of scary, and I wanted to throw the listener off balance, because that’s how my life was.

There’s a photo of dad lighting a cigarette right in front of the “no smoking” sign in the cancer ward at the VA. He smoked all the way until the day he died. And it is, of course, the reason for his death.

There were moments in my childhood when dad was not a pleasant person to be around. One of the things I discovered through my work, was distinct memories of wanting to connect with my father, but feeling like he cared more about his cigarettes than he cared about me. I can now recall an intense feeling of jealousy at watching him light a cigarette. They were almost a way of getting out of talking to me. I would be trying to get his attention, and he’d light a cigarette. In his worst moments, those cigarettes turned into weapons.

I’ve come to terms with that. Dad and I had really long talks before he died. The forgiveness part is done. But it was really important to me to let those things live in the music. You hear them in the rumbling, and the pitch-bending. The level of imbalance and confusion of those last few months was so high. That was the only thing I could think to do to represent it.

I truly believe the inspiration that drives us to create, can’t be held. You can’t really touch and hold music, especially live music, and I think that makes it even more sacred. It is spiritual energy from within being amplified and transferred to the audience. That to me is not only fascinating, but it’s also powerful, because everybody receives it in a different way. You know it’s happened when somebody comes up to you after a show, or writes to you, and says you moved them to tears. One of my favorite things that happened when I was on The Voice, was a lot of young gay folks would reach out to me on social media and tell me that seeing my husband and I on television in a completely normalized way helped them to come out to their family. One of the most powerful letters was from a soldier, who was actively deployed in Afghanistan, who came out to the rest of his platoon. These things resulted from seeing our relationship normalized, but also because I was given that platform because of my talent. So I think that as artists we can never discount, nor fully understand, just how powerful an impact we have on people, even people that we’ll never meet.

I think in our nation we’ve let our ego run the show. So many people have fallen under this spell that by taking just the right selfie, or having the perfect life on social media, that’s going to move them forward in life. And while there can be some benefits, what it steals is the real connection. There’s a misconception that all of our power is in the keyboard or in the phone. And none of that is true. My hope is that soon we’ll move away from vanity, and move more toward talking to each other, to being together.

The process of making this ofrenda was very powerful for me. Even talking about it, sharing it with friends, there are many times I find myself crying, and grieving again. And I think as a society, especially in America, we’re taught that grieving happens for a short period of time and then you’re supposed to move on. Other societies don’t do that, especially in Mexican culture, where the tradition is to continually honor and revisit that grief, so that you can change it into forgiveness and celebration and love.

https://youtu.be/wFLDUnhkD6Q


Ofrendas: Page Stephens

In collaboration with Mexic-Arte Museum, ACG has asked our beloved community to join us in a creative celebration of loved ones for Dia de Muertos through our Ofrendas project. Over the course of October we will be sharing the works of our community through this playlist. RSVP for the finale event on October 29th, here

Dia de Muertos celebrates the lives of our loved ones who have passed. Ofrendas are altars containing photos, gifts, food, offerings, and personal items of our loved ones as a way of inviting their spirits to join us in the celebration of their life. 

We have commissioned twenty Austin-based artists and have invited our staff, community members, and students to create ofrendas of their own and share their beautiful, touching, and inspirational work with us.

We had the privilege of speaking with one of our commissioned artists, Page Stephens, in greater depth about her connection to the project and the loved ones she is celebrating. 

“My first submission is a recording of "Here" from Mark Kilstofte's song cycle The White Album with pianist Chuck Dillard. Chuck and I recorded the whole cycle at Furman University, where Kilstofte teaches, about a year ago. Kilstofte wrote the cycle after his father died; every song has to do with some stage of grief. "Here" is set to a poem by Erica Funkhouser and it's about cleaning out a space after a loved one has died and moving to the next stage of life without them. 

The second piece is a recording of "Dormi, o fulmine di guerra," a lullaby aria from Alessandro Scarlatti's oratorio La Giuditta. Rick Rowley (harpsichord) and Ben Powell (violin) were kind enough to mask up and play with me.”

Page shared what this project meant to her and the people her work is celebrating.

“During this pandemic, I have felt so isolated from my friends and family. We couldn't grieve together, or adequately celebrate anyone's life the way they deserved. This project is a tiny opportunity to make up for the distance and honor the folks I lost this year.

‘Dormi’ is an ofrenda to celebrate three family friends and neighbors back home in Charlotte, NC: Doris Castevens, Mark Bloom and Scott Craig. They were part of my village and each one of them had an important hand in raising me. Doris and Mark had battled cancer for years, and Scott had battled addiction for most of his adult life. I chose a lullaby because after so many years of fighting, they deserve a rest. They were all exceptional humans.

"Here" is an offering to the families of these folks: the Castevens, the Blooms, and the Craigs. I want them to know they aren't alone, and that they are loved. Sharing this recording also felt right because Chuck Dillard, who performed the piece with me, lost his husband, Doug, to cancer this summer, and I wanted to honor them, too.”

Sunday, October 11th, Page informed us of the loss of her godfather, Cliff Hammond. Our hearts at ACG go out to Page Stephens and her family. Page shared: 

Cliff was a ray of sunshine in a room. He meant the world to my parents, my sister and I. He was brilliant, caring, goofy as all get out, and loved ardently. I will miss him beyond belief. Since I can't be near my godmother, Mary Anne, and my family to grieve together, I'm grateful that I can honor him with this project.” 

https://youtu.be/AuX8PGgyVTo


ACG Originals: Ofrendas

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPsRl_5Bqz0&list=PL7wuzEY0eIyBuByMq2EjqosfyoOA2hs_Q&index=1

In collaboration with Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin Classical Guitar is celebrating Día de Muertos with Ofrendas, an event centered around the creative spark of our incredible community and the celebration of  loved ones who have passed.

Ofrendas, altars containing photographs, personal objects, and gifts, encourage the spirit of the departed to return and join the celebration. Inspired by this idea, we have invited our community to create ofrendas of their own.

Over the course of October, we’ll be sharing 20 commissioned works from Austin-based Artists along with videos from our staff, community ensembles, and young guitar students in AISD. You can find these on our facebook and instagram pages, on the video playlist, and on this blog. They will be part of Mexic-Arte Museum’s virtual exhibition as well. 

You can visit the ACG altar, featuring personal remembrances from the ACG community, and other beautiful community altars at Mexic-Arte Exhibit.  Soon you’ll be able to find these on the virtual altar created at Mexic-Arte Museum.

Finally on Oct 29, we’ll present our ACG Originals finale event Ofrendas featuring these incredible works. RSVP for the finale event here

For this special project, we are honored and inspired to include ofrendas by:

Brent Baldwin, Mark Cruz, Mela Sarajane Dailey, Thomas Echols, Erica Flores, Matt Gilchrest, Elizabeth Herrera , Javier Jara, Yuliya Lanina with Joe Williams, Carla McElhaney, Alan Retamozo, Graham Reynolds, Nakia Reynoso, Michael Robles, Carrie Rodriguez, Cassie Shankman, Page Stephens, Carl Thiel, Mad Whitaker, Claudia Chappa & Arnold Yzaguirre.

Guitar students from AISD Programs, Participants from Refugee Services of Texas, ACG members Matthew Hinsley, Travis Marcum, Ciyadh Wells, Justice Phillips, Angelica Campbell, Joe Williams, ACG Youth Camerata, Youth Orchestra, Choir and Chamber Ensemble, as well as community members near and far.

If you would like to get involved, learn more here

I/WE 2020

On Thursday, October 15th at 7pm CDT ARCOS and ACG will present I/WE 2020 as part of the ACG Originals Series. RSVP Online Here. I/WE 2020 is a cinematic experience of story, music and dance celebrating how our humanity transcends borders, languages, and boundaries.

Inspired by interviews with Syrian & Iraqi refugees during their first 90 days in Austin, the original i/we was a multimedia concert we made in 2017. We wanted to explore empathy and listening in an age of polarization. The concert had an amazing cast of international musicians and artists, and won Best New Composition at the Austin Critics Table.

For I/WE 2020, ARCOS, with choreographer Erica Gionfriddo, dancers Bonnie Cox, Ginnifer Joe, Kaitlyn Jones & Oddalys Salcido, along with filmmaker Eliot Gray Fisher, recontextualize the original stories and music through movement filmed in natural spaces around the State of Texas. 

“There is a great responsibility in sharing someone else’s story.”

Says ARCOS choreographer Erica Gionfriddo.

“It requires us to listen deeply to the nuance of what we hear while acknowledging the complexity of our own experience. It requires an ability to respond, or as Donna Haraway calls it, a “response-ability.” When Joe Williams approached ARCOS to collaborate on this reimagining of I/We, we shared this value of response-ability which has allowed us to honor, not re-tell, the stories of Mai, Munel, and the Alaama family. As a white-led organization, ARCOS considers our role in this project as similar to how Joe defined his original approach in 2017; “to facilitate space.” This is not what we, as white, educated, employed and documented United States citizens approximate the refugee experience to be, but a container in which those lived experiences can be honored and shared.”

Bonnie Cox, ARCOS Dancer, on location © Paulo Rocha-Tavares LiaisonfortheArts@gmail.com

Dancer Bonnie Cox who is working with a movement called Waiting In No Place.

“The idea of waiting for six years before you’re able to make any sort of move. It’s deep. It’s heavy. The first Spanish word you hear is esperamos. And that means we waited, but it also means we hoped. There’s no distinction between waiting and hoping in Spanish. And so, I’m trying to feel what it might be like to be waiting and hoping for six years in one place, not knowing when a shift is going to occur.”

Gionfriddo has worked with each dancer through a process of improvisations, inviting personal responses to the stories and music.

“These dance artists found their way to the project because of their personal proximity to the experiences of migration, displacement, loss of home or culture, and the erasure of lineage and history. I have asked them to look closely at the obvious and less visible ways they have been shaped by those experiences.This is a method of body-processing; an often pre-verbal, sometimes ancient state of un-knowing or remembering through movement. What comes out of them is what is needed in any given moment, not a predetermined series of steps or even an improvisation as we might understand it in dance or musical terms. For those unfamiliar with dance practices, this is an intentional abandonment of traditional choreographer-dancer or director-performer relations.”

Oddalys Salcido, ARCOS Dancer, on location
© Paulo Rocha-Tavares 
LiaisonfortheArts@gmail.com

Dancer Oddalys Salcido, who is working with the opening movement, gave us insight into body-processing.

“I kept feeling a sensation of heat in the back of my throat. Like when you’re physically trying to hold back tears, and you’re trying to be strong, that’s where I felt the heat. The property of fire looks very similar to a wave, kind of unexpected and at a constant flow. I feel like a lot of communication is done with the body. It is constantly communicating with us. When it’s hungry you can hear vibrations deep inside. I think when there’s something to be said, and me bringing my stories and history and thoughts, and opinions--my truth--it’s going to blend in, come together with what we’re creating, and provide a different perspective, another truth.”

Dancer Ginnifer Joe is working with the final movement, I miss the soil.

“I don’t know the word for angry and sad. It’s so pointed and it’s so direct, and it really does hit you right in the heart, where nostalgia does. You can hear the experience in the tone of Mai’s voice. My first thought was: listen. Just be present and listen. I know that any interpretation will be colored by any person’s own experience. Me, imagining what I think it will look like, watching me go through this: I guess I have a desire, for myself, to see a warrior, someone resilient, with strength, in the midst of so much pain and grief, with the will and drive to continue on.”

Ginnifer Joe, ARCOS Dancer, on location
© Paulo Rocha-Tavares 
LiaisonfortheArts@gmail.com

At its heart, I/WE 2020 is meeting in the middle. Each dancer brings her own life experience to the story and music with which she is paired. ARCOS and choreographer Erica Gionfriddo meet ACG and composer Joseph Williams and interviewer/co-artistic director Travis Marcum in the middle. Dance meets music. Artwork meets audience.

Each individual can experience this work as both a window and a mirror as themes of home, loss of home, cruelty and violence, waiting and uncertainty, and nostalgia are received in story, music, and movement.

Dancer Kaitlyn Jones is working with the second movement, I am not afraid.

“My personal connection with the phrase ‘I am not afraid,’ has a lot to do with the Black American experience. What does it mean to say that you’re not afraid? Right now in another practice that I’m a part of I’m asking myself ‘What happens if, as a Black woman, I don’t have anything to be afraid of? What if there was nothing I had to be afraid of in the world?’ And that’s a hard question. Something that came up in practice with Erica and I was that it’s hard to be unafraid. That is hard work. And when you’re unafraid does that mean that you’ve accepted that the world is full of scary things, and that’s how you move forward? Or is it that the scary things don’t affect you any more? Or are you numb to the fear? What does it mean when your very existence is a threat?”

Kaitlyn Jones, ARCOS Dancer, on location
© Paulo Rocha-Tavares 
LiaisonfortheArts@gmail.com

“I ask a lot of questions and I think that’s my strength. And I ask questions that I don’t necessarily need to have answers to. The question I ask the most is why. Why am I ‘not afraid?’ I bring the ability to investigate questions, knowing that I may not receive answers. And I think that’s where the real work is: in the middle between the question and the answer.”

We asked Joseph Williams, ACG Artistic Director and composer of the music of I/WE, to share why he feels it is important to recreate I/WE now:

“I/WE is a response to “othering.” It’s a response to the dehumanization of vulnerable people, and a call to remember that there is no significant difference between those who are suffering and those who are secure beyond circumstance.

When we made I/WE in 2017, it was in the wake of the refugee crisis and a prevalent surge of division in our country. The space between us seemed to swell and our common ground seemed to shrink. We decided to pour our energy into a project devoted to understanding, to empathy, and to start by listening.

So why I/WE 2020? Because this invitation, this warming of the frozen parts of our compassion, this call to see ourselves in others is a continuous effort. The context is different, but the process is unending.  We never finish this work and, I believe, it is desperately needed now.”

We are profoundly grateful to the amazing musicians who brought to life Joseph Williams’ score in the 2017 debut performance that was recorded live, and is now featured in I/WE 2020: guitarists Alejandro Montiel and Isaac Bustos, violinist Jennifer Choi, cellist Louis-Marie Fardet, and clarinetist Håkan Rosengren. We also wish to thank our audio engineer, Todd Waldron, who captured the live sound, and then edited, mixed, and mastered the audio for this special feature.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAvufX_ZS-0

 

 


Austin Now: The Space In Between

We are thrilled to co-present this extraordinary concert with One World Theatre on Saturday, November 7th at 8pm CST as part of our Austin Now Series. RSVP Online Here

The Space In Between brings together three of our most-beloved partners: Multi-instrumentalist-global-citizen-artist Oliver Rajamani, KUT/KUTX voice of Austin for more than fifty years John Aielli, and Hartt Stearns with the breathtaking One World Theatre.

We asked Oliver his thoughts about performing with John Aielli, and he told us this fun uniquely Austin story:

“Believe it or not, the very first time I played music in public in Austin was on John Aielli’s radio show. It would have been in 1995. I did a show with Arthur Brown [famous English rock-n-roll star]. Austin was a small town, it was around SXSW time, and I randomly ran into famed British rock legend Arthur Brown at Whole Foods. We got talking, and he was really fascinated that I played Indian Tabla. So he invited me to play on this radio show the very next day—we didn’t even practice! I just went with him, and found myself performing in Studio 1A with John Aielli.” 

But the beautiful and deep connections don’t stop there! Hartt Stearns, Executive Director and Co-Founder of One World Theater had this to say about presenting Oliver Rajamani at this time:

“Nada and I met Oliver after we moved to Austin more than 25 years ago.  We played music together, along with nurturing many talented young musicians along the way, and One World has sponsored Oliver for over 20 years. Our collaborations and friendship for so many years has made him feel like family, spiritually and artistically, which should help to make this concert extra special, especially when patrons are thirsty for performances of depth. I don’t know of a better musician in Austin than Oliver that encompasses the concept of One World which from our perspective is so important at this point in time. When you add John Aielli’s participation, who has interviewed so many One World Theatre artists since we opened, all of this feels like a family homecoming for One World.”

Oliver also shared some deep insights about the performance itself, The Space In Between, which will combine John Aielli reading poetry, with Oliver’s music, played live and broadcast from the One World Theatre stage:

“The space in between two musical notes gives way for emotion to be expressed. 

The space in and between words and letters gives life to a poem or a story. 

The space inside a house creates the warmth of a home.

The space in the emptiness of a cooking pot gives food and nourishment.

The hollowness of a guitar offers the opportunity for sound and music."

“Space is crucial in life.  It is the place of pure potential, inspiration and creativity. It is the stage where all the elusive magical drama of life and death takes place. Space holds all things physical and psychological. Without space nothing can manifest, yet space is only the gateway to awareness (for lack of a word). It has no form, description, time, beginning or end. It was never created, and thus will not die."

“During this time of covid, the whole of humanity is living in a state of fear and anxiety, life and death. But all this drama needs a stage on which to take place.  And it takes place in the Space that gave birth to life and death. So during these challenging times in our physical and psychological worlds, the Space is present in between our thoughts, emotions and our physical beings. When we can become more present in that reality of our oneness with it, rather than only seeing the drama of life that makes us go crazy, we are able to approach our fears and anxieties, and the realities of life-responsibility, with awareness. It may be difficult and challenging, but it is not impossible."

“As friends, professionals and human beings—working together with Hartt, John, Matt, Joe and others—to bring this program to the general public, I believe we are all connecting to this Space In Between. We work to bring that realization and experience to others through the medium of art. Art is created and drawn and inspired from that well of The Space In Between and thus serves as the gateway. An elusive hint at what we are truly made of: space and awareness.”

Rounding out this beautiful conversation, Hartt talked about what it means to be making art at One World Theatre now, despite the pandemic:

“The concept of being ‘one’ is what the space of One World Theatre is all about. Music and the arts are among the best mediums for connecting the world, and allowing us to lose ourselves, transcending our daily challenges into a higher place of oneness. The pandemic has definitely created greater challenges for us all to overcome, but evolution is facilitated through difficult times, not necessarily when things go the way we want them to. To me, all of this translates into the importance of having patrons witness a concert like this at One World Theatre.”

For insight into Rajamani’s extraordinary artistry, we invite you to watch the video below.

We at ACG are so excited to experience and share the collaboration of two incredibly talented Austin artists with you in The Space In Between

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz53uLP-AEo

 


Austin Now: Cycles

On Saturday, October 10th, we will experience a unique and captivating collaboration between two artistic mediums, paint and sound. Cycles is the first event in our Austin Now series, and is offered with presenting partner Big Medium. RSVP Online Here.

Two beloved Austin artists, Joseph Palmer (guitar) and Ryan Runcie (art), have teamed up to create a vivid streaming experience like none other. ACG’s Artistic Director, Joe Williams, asked them ‘What is your experience as an Austin artist today?’ and, twelve weeks later, Cycles is their answer: a collaborative artwork expressing their philosophies of nature, life, and their understanding of each other as artists. 

We spoke with these two incredibly talented creatives to better understand their vision: 

This project has been a process of exploration and discovery. We both share a deep fascination with nature and philosophy. These two elements combined with an understanding of each other’s artistic sensibilities guided the direction of the project. The concert doesn't hold any stark answers, more so reminders of the daily cycles of nature that are often overlooked that weave and overlap our daily lives. Focusing on the cycles of nature suppressed by our ‘blinders of humanity.’” -Ryan Runcie

“At a time when there appears to be such division between people, creating art and embracing the beauty of nature is our response. The appreciation for these things is universal. Music, art, and the love and understanding of nature are essential elements of humanity as well as some of the most powerful forces for dissolving boundaries between people. This experience is an invitation for people to calm the mental noise, be present, take a deep breath, feel the life force in and around you, and join us in an exploration of the cycles of nature.” -Joseph Palmer

The performance itself will be a live streaming experience with Ryan creating physical art while Joseph plays carefully selected music. The two have also created videos to be played as part of the evening. Joseph explains:

“People often become caught in a bubble of their self-made ‘reality’ - and though this is a tendency we all share- the personal opinions, things you believe, and things heard in the media can often influence one’s perception of the world so profoundly that many often fail to grasp the incredible beauty of the world we live in."

“Over these last few months, Ryan and I have captured numerous moments in our day-to-day lives through video accompanied by recordings I made on Kalimba, mandolin, bass guitar, guitar, bells, as well as the appearance of various household objects-turned-percussion instruments to pull people into our creative reality. In the live performance I’ll be playing pairs of pieces that don’t necessarily go together - together - in a complementary or contrasting way, which parallels the collaboration of painting and music.” 

Ryan added:

“The idea was based on showing a slow building process. We wanted to start with a more fragmented and sparse musical texture accompanying the videos. From there, we incorporate more instruments to represent the fullness of nature and the essence of growth.”

We at ACG are so excited to share such profound and intimate art with our community. We hope you join us to witness this uniquely Austin collaboration. RSVP Online Here.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYMtDF3UiGA&feature=youtu.be

 


30th Season: Fall Event Guide

On Saturday, September 26th, we had our opening online concert for our 30th season starring the incredible Pepe Romero and we have recieved the most amazing notes from all over the world about the magical event. Pepe asked that we leave it online for a little longer, so you can still see it and share it online here.

We have nine more extraordinary, free, live, online events coming up in the next twelve weeks. Here’s a complete listing!

We hope you can join us in the magic, art, music, and connection that is our 30th season!

 

Austin Classical Guitar: Fall Event Guide

Austin Now: CYCLES with Ryan Runcie (art) & Joseph Palmer (guitar) 

Saturday, October 10 at 8PM CDT

A vivid experience exploring the rhythms of life through paint and sound.

 

ACG Originals: I/WE 2020 presented by ARCOS & Austin Classical Guitar

Thursday, October 15 at 7PM CDT

Bonnie Cox, Ginnifer Joe, Kaitlyn Jones & Oddalys Salcido (dance) Erica Gionfriddo (choreography) Interviews with Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Austin inspired ACG’s award-winning i/we (2017), reimagined in 2020 with breathtaking dance and image. 

 

UpClose Online: JIJI

Saturday, October 24 at 8PM CDT 

Electric. Classical. One of the most innovative players we’ve ever seen. 

 

ACG Originals: OFRENDAS presented in collaboration with Mexic-Arte Museum

Thursday, October 29 at 7PM CDT

Ofrendas will honor those no longer with us through music, art, and story by teachers, students, community members, and professional artists. 

 

Austin Now: THE SPACE IN BETWEEN with Oliver Rajamani (music) & John Aielli (poetry)

Saturday, November 7 at 8PM CST

Presented by One World & Austin Classical Guitar A masterfully woven tapestry of music and poetry in an Austin landmark.

 

UpClose Online: Andrea González Caballero

Saturday, November 14 at 8PM CST

Spectacular facility, beauty, clarity, refinement. 

 

Austin Now: LOOKING UP with Austin Guitar Quartet

Thursday, November 19 7PM CST

Presented in partnership with The Contemporary Austin Be transported to Laguna Gloria, where the sculptures will come to life in music.

 

Austin Now: ECHO with Daniel Fears, Montsho Jarreau Thoth & Claire Puckett

Sunday, December 6 at 5PM CST

Interactive performance of movement and sound asks, “Are we hearing each other, or just echoes?”

 

UpClose Online: Holiday Magic with Matt Hinsley & The ACG Team

Saturday, December 12 at 8PM CST

Gratitude and joy in music and story.

 


30th Season Begins: Pepe Romero

PLEASE NOTE: This concert occurred on September 26th. UpClose Online events are conceived to be unique, one-time, moments of creation and togetherness. Due to an overwhelming international response, however, Mr. Romero and ACG have agreed that this concert will remain online for a limited time. You may watch the concert online here

Ever since his standing-room-only, sold-out, people-in-the-hallways, first performance for ACG on Friday, October 10th, 2003 at the Unitarian Church, guitar legend Pepe Romero has been a huge part of Austin Classical Guitar. He has lifted us over the years with his music, with his stories, with his generosity, and his deep, spiritual presence. Los Romeros’ Father’s Day concert in 2006 marked the beginning of our summer ensemble programming. When we hosted the Guitar Foundation of America and produced sixty five events in six days at the Long Center, the week began with Pepe’s solo recital to a sold-out crowd in Dell Hall, introduced by the UT System Chancellor Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, and live-broadcast by KMFA.

It’s because of this deep connection, that we couldn’t imagine anyone else opening our 30th year. His concert on September 26th at 8pm CT will be free, donations accepted, and beamed from Pepe’s living room into yours. RSVP Here

One of our warmest memories was made on October 13th, 2016, when Pepe graciously agreed to perform and record Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major with over 80 of our high school students from all around Austin. You can watch the magical video below!

We caught up with two people who were there that night, and asked for their recollections. 

Rey Rodriguez, a student who we met in our local school programs Bedichek Middle School under the direction of Phil Swasey, and Crockett High School under the direction of Ron Hare, was part of the performance in 2016. We asked Rey how that performance was for him, he shared:

“It was amazing and I am very grateful to ACG for the experience. It was a great performance and super fun! I was able to sit front row and see Pepe Romero perform with us. It was also very impressive how he was able to lead that many students and keep their interest through many hours of practicing. It was inspiring to say the least.”

 We were lucky enough to be able to have Rey share the impact of this performance on his future as a musician with us: 

“I had seen interviews and multiple performances of Pepe through youtube prior to the performance, but afterwards I was able to truly see who he is as a teacher and musician. He is incredibly knowledgeable about musical phrasing and was able to convey that to a young 16 year old me who was still figuring out how to truly feel music. I am a second year B.A. guitar major at UT Austin and am currently teaching for the UT string project. I am grateful to have that performance to look back on and take notes from for my teaching.”

Rey also shared how the experience influenced him beyond the surface of being a student, and how it influenced him as an expressive musician and artist. 

“From the performance I learned that if you are truly passionate about what you love, there will always be someone there to listen. I'm sure if Pepe Romero was unenthusiastic and impatient with us no one would be inspired from the experience, but that didn't happen. He showed compassion and was very happy to see so many young guitarists in one place. His passion for guitar is inspiring. I hope through my playing and teaching, I can convey that passion to my audience and students like he does.”

We spoke with a parent who attended the rehearsal and the performance as well. Diane Skeel’s son, Andrew Baldauf was in the ensemble. She recalls,

 “The thing that sticks with me is the amazing energy that was in the room. Having that opportunity to play for and with Pepe Romero, it was like meeting an idol. I remember the nervous excitement, and the exhilaration as the music started to come together. It was particularly fun watching the kids as they went up afterwards to meet him and take photographs."

We are so grateful to have had the privilege of Pepe Romero’s musicianship, inspiration, and presence with us and to have the opportunity to share that with our community. We are so excited for his upcoming performance with us on September 26th. We hope that you can join us for the magic and look forward to experiencing more beauty and music together in our 30th season.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CfFxRzCwcA


The Singing Guitar: An Interview with Janet Grohovac

ACG turns 30 this year! In celebration, one of our generous supporters is matching every gift up to $50,000 between now and our opening concert with maestro Pepe Romero on September 26th! Make a gift today.

Five years ago we had the chance to be part of a spectacular event at Bass Concert Hall when Texas Performing Arts commissioned a work from preeminent young composer Nico Muhly for Austin Classical Guitar and Austin’s very own Grammy-winning choir, Conspirare.

It was a night to remember! Complete with a massive thunderstorm right in the middle of the last movement when the kettle drums entered!

Now Conspirare has recorded the work as part of their new album: The Singing Guitar.

The work features Conspirare under the direction of maestro Craig Hella Johnson, with the LA Guitar Quartet, Texas Guitar Quartet, Austin Guitar Quartet and cellist Douglas Harvey. It’s set for release this Friday, September 18th. Plus, there will be a release party this Tuesday, September 15th via Youtube live, and you can join here.

Looking forward to the event, we got the chance to speak with member of the Austin Guitar Quartet, Janet Grohovac, who shared some beautiful insight on the music in the album and her experience in being part of the artistry of this amazing piece of work. 

It is remarkable to experience Muhly’s voice through the unique ensemble of a choir of voices and a choir of twelve guitars. We were curious to know how it felt to be part of the magic. Janet shared:

 “It was incredibly enriching and inspiring to collaborate with a large scale ensemble and such wonderful talent. During our first large ensemble rehearsal, Craig positioned all of us guitarists in a semi-circle on stage and then had the chorus completely surround us. Hearing their heavenly voices and the sheer beauty of sound that enveloped us as we began that rehearsal was an unforgettable moment. We became so excited and enthralled by the beauty of Muhly’s composition.”

Janet continued on to share the experience of being directed by Craig Hella Johnson.

“Craig found a way to bring the best out of you and would often say something like, “It would be a gift if you could....” (playing louder, or softer, or more lyrical, etc). His approach was uniquely uplifting and changed us in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before. By the end of the journey, we knew we had captured something special together.”

Janet also shared with us the details of Nico Muhly’s composition How Little You Are.

“Muhly’s composition is based on the 19th century texts of the everyday life of two pioneer women. He brings to life the descriptions of nature and hardships of prairie life based on letters by Elinore Pruitt Stewart in all of the movements except for one. Part four of the work is based on the text of Mary Alma Blankenship, from which the “How Little You Are” title is derived. Her description ‘But when you get among such grandeur you get to feel how little you are, how foolish is human endeavor, except that which unites us with the almighty force called God’ is the text upon which the work was inspired and features solo soprano.”

As musicians, artists, and human beings we naturally connect ourselves in deep and meaningful ways to the art we observe, experience, and are part of. We had the pleasure of having Janet share her personal connection with Muhly’s composition and the ensemble:

“The fact that each of us individually, particularly as guitarists, were just a little part of the whole, because the texture was so large. Each little microcosm within each group has it’s own function, but it was the three groups coming together with Conspirare that carries their meaning and gives you the full picture, and at the end of it, you truly get the sense of how little you are.”

We are so excited to be able to enjoy and share something this beautiful and unique with our community. We hope that you can join us in listening to samples of this remarkable work, and connect with Craig Hella Johnson, the artists, and fellow listeners this Tuesday at the release party.


ACG Instrument Drive

ACG turns 30 this year! In celebration, one of our generous supporters is matching every gift up to $50,000 between now and our opening concert with maestro Pepe Romero on September 26th! Make a gift today.

We are hosting an instrument drive for guitar donations!

This drive will benefit local school programs that do not have enough instruments to support their guitar classes this year. This is especially important right now, because students are learning from home and do not have access to classroom instruments.

So, if you have any lonely nylon-string guitars collecting dust somewhere round them up and donate them to an aspiring young musician today!

Due to the structure of our classes, we are not able to use steel-string or electric guitars, only nylon string classical guitars will help at this time. If you’re unsure what you have, email us and ask!

You may drop off your donations at our office address any time during business hours.

5900 Balcones Dr. Suite #240 Austin, TX 78731

In the interest of safety, we won’t meet you at the door, but we’ll be checking for donations regularly.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email Ciyadh Wells at ciyadh@austinclassicalguitar.org

Thank you for your help in supporting our local students become successful young musicians and experience the joy of music making!