Major Feature Release: Hitchcock’s The Lodger with new score by Joe Williams

We dream of a world where music is here for everyone, connecting us, inspiring us, and bringing joy and meaning wherever it goes. We are having our Dream Big spring fund drive here at ACG and it’s because of our community and supporters that we are able to share stories like this. Click here to learn more about supporting ACG.


We are ecstatic to announce the streaming release, in partnership with Alamo Drafthouse and Criterion, of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 silent thriller The Lodger with a lush and evocative ACG-commissioned musical score by our Artistic Director Joe Williams.


Watch The Lodger now, through Alamo On-Demand


A gripping tale of a mysterious lodger, a series of murders, and a beautiful show girl. The Lodger is Alfred Hitchcock’s third film. This 1927 silent classic is the first to introduce his distinct artistic vision exploring themes of voyeurism, ambiguity, violence, and sexuality with Hitchcock’s brilliant cinematography and storytelling. The Lodger also includes Hitchcock’s very first trademark cameo.  In this release, you’ll experience The Lodger in a whole new way with Joe Williams’ brilliant 2015 musical score for four guitars and cello, commissioned by Austin Classical Guitar in 2017. Superstar cellist Bion Tsang performs with the international award-winning members of Texas Guitar Quartet in this incredibly special new release. Williams’ new score was recorded by Eric Pearson and Todd Waldron, and mastered by Brad Sayles.


Dive deep into The Lodger with Artistic Director and Composer Joe Williams, ACG’s Executive Director Matt Hinsley, and Founder of the Alamo Drafthouse Tim League, in this featurette!

Dream Big: Springfest at Bedichek Middle with Phil Swasey

We dream of a world where music is here for everyone, connecting us, inspiring us, and bringing joy and meaning wherever it goes. We are having our Dream Big spring fund drive here at ACG and it’s because of our community and supporters that we are able to share stories like this. Click here to learn more about supporting ACG.

Below is a letter from Bedichek Middle School’s Director of Guitar and Mariachi, Phil Swasey, on their most recent performance at their Springfest!

Teaching during a pandemic has challenged many educators to navigate novel and complex issues, ones that still arrive daily in the form of mental health obstacles (teachers and students alike), inequitable outcomes, COVID protocols, when to return to normal program activities, and how to address the impact of separation on our communities. 

With the help of some amazing colleagues, Bedichek Middle planned and hosted a community celebration called “Bedichek Springfest”, with the purpose of reconnecting members of our community (families, teachers, PTA, and local businesses). It’s these connections that are vital to a school ecosystem, and ones that have been recently strained.

One major goal of the event was to reconnect with Alumni; students that had gone on after middle school to do incredible things, and bring their successes back to campus. It was an effort not only to celebrate them, but also to provide our current students and teachers with a vision into what our young learners become after middle school.

I spent the early part of the Spring semester reaching out to former guitar students from the last 11 years of the program. The responses that I received when proposing an Alumni Guitar Ensemble were enthusiastic and committed.

Two of the first people I reached out to were Angelica Campbell (Communications Director at ACG), and Rey Rodriguez (Teaching Artist at ACG), and once they were on-board the ensemble really started to take shape. We rehearsed twice in preparation for our performance at Springfest, and those moments together were filled with laughs, goofing around, reminiscing, and most importantly, really beautiful music making. The ensemble itself consisted of siblings (3 pairs), partners, current and former students, and spanned a 12 year age range.

During breaks in the rehearsal we would have structured conversations based on prompts. Answering the question, “What would you go back and tell your middle school self?”, a high school student’s response was, “I would tell myself not to compare myself to others.”.

The evening of the performance was beautiful, the group played well, and so many other students that weren’t able to participate in the ensemble showed up to support and watch. I’m so grateful for all of the students, current and former, that participated. 

Below is an excerpt from an 8th graders essay, imagining his first day at college. It’s an amazing testament to the impact that we all have on each other, even when not realizing it.

 “I soon realize that college is overwhelming and I have projects already due. I luckily know some people who can help. I go to talk to my teacher, his name is Rey and he tells me about how rough his first day was also. I start to feel better about everything, realizing that I have people to help me get through this.”

– Phil Swasey

Dream Big: A Beautiful Letter to ACG from Ayame Castel

We dream of a world where music is here for everyone, connecting us, inspiring us, and bringing joy and meaning wherever it goes. We are having our Dream Big spring fund drive here at ACG and it’s because of our community and supporters that we are able to share stories like this. Click here to learn more about supporting ACG.


Below is a beautiful letter from graduating senior and ACG Youth Orchestra member, Ayame Castel.

In addition to being a great young guitarist, Ayame is an extraordinary competitive athlete, and she’ll be attending the highly competitive US Naval Academy this fall. We couldn’t be more excited for her, and thankful for our time together. 


Dear Austin Classical Guitar, 

I can’t believe that it has been five years since I first joined the ACG Youth Orchestra (ACGYO). I’m grateful to look back on the many thrilling experiences over the years that have truly changed me as a musician and as a person. I can’t thank ACG and ACGYO Director, Joe Williams, enough for the many distinct and fulfilling performances in churches, gardens, concert halls, and even movie theaters. 

I think the most incredible experience I’ve had as part of the ACGYO was when we had the privilege to tour San Francisco and play in many different venues with musicians of all ages. Not only did we share our music, we also got to explore the culture and landscape of San Francisco such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Muir Woods! Although the past two years have been a challenge, and that is an understatement for many of us, we were still able to come together and perform virtually until finally in person again. 

I wouldn’t have experienced what it’s like composing for a large guitar orchestra if it weren’t for ACG and Clarice Assad coming together and making it possible for us. I am so grateful that we were able to perform our composition with Clarice, Mosaic Variations, in person and then finish the season with performing Austin Pictures by Joe Williams in person as part of a huge guitar orchestra. 

I would 100% do it all over again for the experiences, the people, and to flex our guitar skills and music to the world. ACGYO has inspired me to take advantage of new opportunities and to connect and make experiences with many people. 


Thank you ACG!

Ayame Castel


We asked ACG Artistic Director, Joe Williams, for his thoughts after reading this wonderful letter form Ayame, and here’s what he had to say.

This letter takes me back to Ayame’s first rehearsal. She was there because her teacher, Stephen Krishnan, encouraged she try out. I am so proud of her and the journey she had with us. Ayame transformed from being unsure about the whole thing to being a rock. She became someone I always knew I could count on to lead or support – whatever the group needed. More than anything, it was fun to see her enjoy making music. 

Ayame is starting a new journey now as a young adult and as a student in the U.S. Naval Academy. I believe the music she has made with the ACGYO will serve her for years to come and I’m so grateful she shared her presence with us. – Joe Williams

Spring 2022 Education Report

Big Picture

At ACG we believe in a 360-degree ecosystem of arts education. 

Our north star is a young person, standing on a stage of any kind, receiving applause, who is proud of a performance they have just given. This could be any student, at any level, on any stage. Over the 20+ years we have been building and supporting guitar education programs in schools, we have taken aim at every conceivable impediment to this shining vision. At the same time, we’ve dedicated ourselves to providing unique creative opportunities for our students that would increase the likelihood of achieving it. 

ACG Education’s services and resources have helped schools address the biggest challenges to successful guitar programs: inadequate curriculum, poor teacher preparation, lack of teacher support, lack of instruments, lack of performance opportunities, financial and cultural barriers. We have enriched our students’ musical experience through guest artist engagements, unique collaborations, opportunities to engage family and community in a meaningful way, student-led creation, and wildly creative, big-vision projects. We believe only with 360-degree support can this ecosystem survive and thrive. 

What does this actually mean on the ground? We hope what you read below in our Spring 2022 Education Report will shed some light on our work and its impact. 

Core Program Support: Central Texas

In March, AISD Director of Fine Arts Alan Lambert informed us that our guitar programs now enroll more students than any other music class in the district besides band. 

Almost all AISD guitar programs have been based on ACG’s comprehensive curriculum since we first published it in 2008. We provide total access at no cost to every guitar teacher in the district. All AISD guitar teachers receive free formal training every summer during our annual Teacher Summits, and ongoing support from our education team throughout the year. In recent years we have extended these core services to new partner programs in Manor, Hays, and Hutto ISDs.

ACG also provides ongoing direct support through team-teaching, teacher consultation, and auxiliary services detailed below. We dedicate strategic support to teachers and programs with the most urgent needs, focusing effort to help teachers who have not taught guitar before, programs experiencing unexpected teacher turnover, or dealing with other sources of instability. 

A typical example of this strategic support is our work with AISD teacher Katie Landolt. She recently told us about the interview that led to her first teaching job in the public school system: 

“I was told that the position was 50% Orchestra and 50% Guitar Ensemble. At the time I didn’t know much about guitar and only knew about playing chords and strumming. I accepted the job and thought I would teach some guitar but really focus on the orchestra program. I quickly realized the guitar program would require a little more work and thankfully I had Travis Marcum and Tony Mariano to help me. I never expected to be teaching guitar, but now I truly love it!” 

Read our full interview with Katie online here

District Support: Central Texas

For the past 10 years, Austin Classical Guitar has organized and hosted adjudicated competitions for scholastic guitar ensembles, including All City, All Region, and Concert & Sight Reading. Events like these have long been an integral part of more traditional music programs like choir, orchestra, and band, helping to promote district-wide standards, provide a focal point for instruction, and build community among students and teachers from different schools. Along with leadership and strategic planning for these events, our team developed a full range of documents and resources to support them, including contest regulations, scoring rubrics, audition materials, scores for sight reading, and more. We hire and pay the expert judges, capture video of every performance, and bring staff members and volunteers on-site to ensure the events run smoothly. 

As our programs have expanded, participation in these events has grown as well. For example, over 40 ensembles participated this spring in the Concert and Sight Reading contest. And among them, for the first time in Texas’ history, were students from our three local juvenile justice programs, who participated through pre-recorded submissions. 

Below is a video of Besa Carney, a Freshman at Bowie High School. This semester during the AISD Concert & Sight Reading competition, Besa’s guitar director had to abruptly leave Bowie, leaving them without guidance for the competition. Besa stepped in and graciously filled this role. Read a story on Besa here.

Performance Engagement & UIL Solo and Ensemble

For more than 20 years, ACG has been bringing guest artists to schools to directly engage with students. This year alone we sponsored over 50 performances by guest artists in AISD schools. 

Eight years ago, ACG Performance Engagement Artist Joseph Palmer began visiting our local school guitar programs to play selections from the UIL’s list of approved pieces for statewide solo guitar competitions. This was part of a special effort we made to increase participation by guitar students from Region 18 (encompassing Austin and 21 surrounding ISDs) in scholastic music competitions. Along with repeat visits to schools, Joseph recorded numerous demonstration videos that we compiled in a playlist to serve as model performances for students to reference. These efforts have paid off: In recent years guitar has become one of the most represented single instruments in Region 18 music contests.

This year, in addition to Joseph’s ongoing work, most of our guest artists engaged with students to some degree. For example, in March, ACG engaged Duo Noire for a three day residency in Austin and Manor ISDs. Artists Thomas Flippin and Chris Mallett visited Northeast High School, Lamar Middle School, Decker Middle School, and Williamson County Juvenile Justice Center where they performed for and composed with students. Photo: Guest artists Thomas Flippin and Christopher Mallet performed for Manor ISD’s Decker Middle School during their visit to Austin.

Juvenile Justice System

ACG and AISD partnered more than ten years ago to begin offering daily guitar classes for incarcerated youth at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center in Austin. AISD agreed to grant fine arts credits to students who participated, which satisfied a key requirement for graduating high school. ACG has provided the instructor and 100% of the funding for these classes every year since 2012. Our work at Gardner Betts was the subject of a national PBS Newshour Story in 2015, and we have since expanded our services to three more sites: Phoenix House in Austin, the Williamson County Juvenile Justice Center in Georgetown, and the Medlock Youth Treatment Center in Dallas County. These programs currently offer the only for-credit performing arts education to incarcerated youth anywhere in Texas, and we have yet to find another example anywhere in the United States. 

Read a May 1 article in the Williamson County Sun about Juvenile Justice System students participating in our Concert & Sight Reading contest. 

This year ACG hired a new Director of Juvenile Justice Services, Hector Aguilar. In a recent interview, Hector said: 

“My childhood experiences, family members, friends, and challenging experiences that I have heard from students are what pushed me in the direction of Juvenile Justice. Most of my family members have been in Juvenile Justice or incarcerated in prison and have not had the support that is needed to break the cycle…I have seen firsthand how music can have a positive impact on a person, and I completely embody that common saying, music saved my life. 

Read the full interview online here.


Braille Lifelong Learning

ACG partnered with Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) in 2010 to develop a new guitar course for TSBVI students. In 2012, ACG curriculum materials were converted to braille to support a braille-based literacy component to the instruction.  

As our students at TSBVI graduated and moved on, they told us about their frustration finding dedicated resources for them to continue their studies in guitar. So in 2016, we set to work developing a first-of-its kind online learning resource that would offer blind and visually impaired students a pathway to lifelong learning in classical guitar. The following year we published the full set of resources, including downloadable braille scores and audio guides to support a complete sequenced course of study in solo guitar, at

LetsPlay has been accessed by thousands of users in more than 20 countries since its launch. The most significant recent development is the first translation of the site for use in the Balkans, Svirajmo Gitaru. We’re thrilled to report that, in spring 2022, this resource was officially adopted by the Montenegrin Ministry of Education. 

National & International Program Development

ACG’s curriculum for classroom-based guitar is used by hundreds of teachers across the world. Over the years we have had the pleasure of working with many of them at our annual Teacher Summits, which we host every summer in Austin and other cities around the United States.. This year’s summits will take place in St. Louis on July 12-14 and in Austin on July 21-23.  

ACG has also developed lasting strategic partnerships with our sister organizations in St. Louis, Cleveland, and New York that have resulted in substantial organization and service growth in those communities. For example, our St. Louis partner organization recently brought on a new Executive Director, Brian Vaccaro, who spent several days with our team in Austin and had this to say:

 “At the beginning of 2022, I took on the role of Executive Director at St. Louis Classical Guitar.  It quickly became apparent to me the level of respect that Austin Classical Guitar has engendered with our organization and others like it. I felt it necessary to pay a visit to Austin in April of 2022 to see if I could learn about any of their approaches to education and programming. I came away with much more than I anticipated including many ideas of how I could expand and galvanize guitar education in the St. Louis area. I am also looking forward to Austin Classical Guitar’s education team coming to St. Louis in July, 2022 to host their Teacher Summit. Not only does this provide much needed direction for St. Louis area guitar teachers, but it will greatly assist me in my future endeavors with the guitar teaching community in St. Louis.”

We believe the expansion of our national strategic partnerships to be one of the best opportunities before us for maximally amplifying the impact of ACG Education. Below, is a performance of “Open” by Travis Marcum, from last year’s summit. 

Individual Student Support

ACG has provided free individual lessons for students in our Title 1 school programs since 2001. This spring our teaching artists are working with over 32 students in 10 schools on a weekly basis. 

We feature student performers at the opening of almost every major concert we present. Here is a video playlist of outstanding young artist performances from some recent events. And here is a lovely article about Juan Itzep from McCallum High School, one of two talented students selected for our Javier Niño Scholarship this year.

ACG also provides hundreds of guitars to programs and students. In 20-21 alone, ACG bought and shipped more than 200 instruments to students in need during the pandemic. Thanks to the generosity of some local collectors who support our work, we have been able to give professional-level, handcrafted guitars worth thousands of dollars to several high-achieving students in our free-lessons programs, in time for them to use at their college auditions. 

Individual Success Stories

It is incredibly gratifying that many former students of ours have gone on to pursue careers in music and education. Several graduates are now guitar teachers themselves in AISD. Here at ACG, three members of our own staff are former students (Tribeza Feature Article), as are several of our contracted teaching artists. Here are some recent alumni profiles: Francisco de la Rosa, Susana Diaz Lopez, Rey Rodriguez

Feature Story 1: AISD Young Artists Quartet

This is one of our favorite stories from this year. It started when four gifted young guitarists from different high schools in AISD met at the November All Region Ensemble event. They recognized each other’s talent and love for the guitar, and decided to form a group together. They are awesome! We supported them with rehearsal space and coaching, and they’ve performed at multiple events for ACG, including two South by Southwest sessions. The students are Besa Carney (Bowie High School), Michael Diaz (Crockett High School), Edan Tapia-Lugo (Akins High School), and Juan Itzep (McCallum High School). Here they are opening a major event at ACG’s new home, The Rosette: 

Feature Story 2: Clarice Assad Residency

We had the tremendous fortune this season of having triple Grammy-nominee Clarice Assad as our Artist in Residence. Unlike typical artist residencies, we asked Clarice to split her time between art-making for our general audience and working with young people from our education programs. She inspired students across the district, and did a deep-dive project with 55 students to co-create and perform a stunning new work called Mosaic Variations. Watch the first part of what will be a three-part mini-documentary below. It’s worth noting that most of our visiting artists in 21-22, including Duo Noire, Isaac Bustos, Ana Vidovic, and An Tran, also visited our local school programs to engage with students.

Feature Story 3: Justice Phillips and Lively Middle School

Last spring, ACG’s very own Director of Customer Experience and Composer Justice Phillips wrote a new piece for Lively Middle School that was performed by their Guitar, Orchestra, and Dance ensembles. Justice is himself an alum of Lively (along with McCallum High School and UT’s Butler School of Music), which made this experience extra special. Watch Justice talk about the piece followed by the students’ performance in the AISD PAC in this playlist.

Feature Story 4: The Rosette As a Hub for Students

In February of 2022 we opened The Rosette, a state-of-the-art concert and production venue located inside of ACG’s new home at the Baker Center in central Austin. As we dream about what this space makes possible, it is clear that being able to provide a top-notch performance and recording venue to our students and teachers will lead to many moments of inspiration and celebration.

Here is a video of our inaugural Student Spotlight, in which over 20 students from six different AISD campuses came together to perform for a packed house. 

Thank You

ACG Education services are only possible because of the generosity of our many donors – people who share our belief in the power of music to positively transform lives. We would like to extend an extra special thanks to the following institutions and individuals for their major financial support over the past year:

National Endowment for the Arts, City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Augustine Foundation, Still Water Foundation, Webber Family Foundation, The Ben & Nancy Sander Family, Tim & Karrie League, Kaman Foundation, Cain Foundation, Rea Charitable Trust, Long Foundation, H-E-B, The Raley Family, The La Pietra Family, Burdine Johnson Foundation, Applied Materials Foundation, Debra Lewis, Bill & Lynne Cariker, Greg Wooldridge & Lynn Dobson, Shield-Ayres Foundation, Ernest & Sarah Butler, Wright Family Foundation, 3M Foundation, Texas Commission on the Arts, MFS Fund of the North Georgia Community Foundation, Patricia Ann Morrison, Mike Chesser, Whole Foods Market Community Giving Program, Gives, Mercedes-Benz of Austin, Sue Nguyen Management Trust, Rich & Karen Puccio, Karen & Ted Piper, Catherine & David Wildermuth, John Henry McDonald & Louise Epstein, D’Addario Foundation.

Dream Big: Celebrating Music Educators, Susan Ronzac

We dream of a world where music is here for everyone, connecting us, inspiring us, and bringing joy and meaning wherever it goes. We are having our Dream Big spring fund drive here at ACG and it’s because of our community and supporters that we are able to share stories like this. Click here to learn more about supporting ACG.


This week we’d love to shine a spotlight on music educator Susan Rozanc! 

Susan began teaching in 1994 in Naples, Florida. She taught choir, orchestra, musical theater, music appreciation, music theory, middle school band, and guitar! Truly a jack of all trades.

Susan first picked up the guitar in an undergrad folk guitar class and then didn’t touch it again for 20 years. She picked it back up and began teaching herself and elementary age children when she moved to Texas. When she began teaching at Travis High School shortly after in 2010, she offered a beginning guitar course thinking only a handful of students would sign up but 60 students signed up that first year! That’s when she was directed to ACG and by Fine Arts Coordinator, Greg Goodman. Susan has been at Travis now for 12 years! 

“I was relieved by the community and awesome support they offered.” -Susan

Susan shared a little bit about why she chose to become a music educator,

“As a kid, I never felt like I fit in anywhere. Music gave me a positive peer group, and a sort of ’family’ of other weirdos that liked and appreciated me. It gave me a way to express myself and gave me ways to feel good about myself and my accomplishment.  I went into music because I am passionate about it and I wanted to give others some of the things music gave to me.”

We asked Susan what inspires her to continue as an educator, 

“The kids. (even the obnoxious ones).  I work with low income students.  Poverty can do bad things to people, especially kids.  For some, I get to be a positive voice in their life, I get to show kids that they are smart, talented, special, hard working, cool, nice, etc… My goal in becoming a music educator was to offer  that feeling of acceptance to young people.  After more than 27 years in the music classroom, I can say that I have provided that, and a wide range of other benefits and positive experiences. The music classroom is a place of refuge to many. It is where they come to when they are happy, sad, or struggling.  They are safe in my classroom, no matter what. Now more than ever, when kids are facing trauma at every turn, it is vital for kids to have some place where they feel safe. The pandemic has ripped the bandages off and left gaping wounds in our world.  Music helps my students soothe some of those wounds.”

Music’s ability to heal and bring people together will always leave us in awe. We are so grateful to be able to experience this and share it with the people we care about. Susan shared more about her favorite parts of the job, 

“I love my job!  I have been fortunate to do what I do AND get paid for it!  I could write about the many different musical subjects I have taught, how successful my programs have been, or how I built programs from nothing, but my legacy as a music educator lies within the students I have taught and built relationships with. I have used music education to reach students and open doors to students that they may never have known existed before stepping foot in my classroom.  In my classroom, music has done more than enrich lives, it has saved them. I have an undying commitment to help my students realize, and reach, their full potential; musical or otherwise. My entire career and most of my adult life has been devoted to this mission. I have had students become music educators, performers, and professional musicians.  Most importantly, my students have gone on to understand and value the effect music has on the world and its people.”

We’re so excited to hear more stories from music educators we have the pleasure of working with! 

Read another story about teaching artist, Evan Taucher, here.

Dream Big: Celebrating Music Educators, Evan Taucher

We dream of a world where music is here for everyone, connecting us, inspiring us, and bringing joy and meaning wherever it goes. We are having our Dream Big spring fund drive here at ACG and it’s because of our community and supporters that we are able to share stories like this. Click here to learn more about supporting ACG.


We recently had the pleasure of speaking with private instructor and guitar super star, Evan Taucher. Evan has been musically inclined his whole life. He began playing piano at the age of six, started playing the saxophone in middle school and picked up the electric guitar in his freshman year of high school.

“I would play all day, and all night if I could (and I did, much to my school grades' demise).” -Evan Taucher

Evan discovered the classical guitar at age 19 at Florida State University and decided to completely dedicate himself and his life to the instrument. This led to Evan growing a large internet following in the guitar community! Evan shared, 

“In 2011 at FSU after playing the guitar only a few months, I felt an affinity to document and share what I was learning, and this took the form of YouTube videos. I was so certain this is what I would be doing the rest of my life, that I thought it would make for an interesting thing to reflect on, and maybe inspire others.”

After studying with Bruce Holzman at FSU for five years, Evan began studying with the cuban virtuoso Rene Izquierdo, where he began having success in competitions and built his online presence. Evan continued at the University of Texas at Austin to study with Adam Holzman, during which he had the opportunity to study in Alicante, Spain for six months as part of the Master Guitar Alicante program. 

Evan has now entered the professional stage of his career as a performer and has built a studio of passionate guitarists! Evan shared,

“Almost my entire studio is private students, and the majority of them are online and tuning in from around the world. I'm lucky to teach one very special student through ACG, who is the recipient of their Javier Niño Memorial Scholarship, which provides an exceptional student with private lessons, a worthy instrument, and tons of performance and educational opportunities. I feel fortunate to teach a studio of hard working students that also are interesting and intelligent people. I learn just as much from them! What is better than playing something that sounds cool and showing your friends (and others) how to do it? Witnessing others experiencing the same joy and gratitude you feel towards music is the highest possible sensation for me.”

Evan became connected with ACG in 2020 when the non-profit, Ex-Aequo, that Evan co-founded, reached out to us to collaborate with their Changing the Canon project where they commissioned and recorded 9 new pieces by Black composers for the classical guitar. Evan shared, 

“We mostly worked with Travis Marcum during this project, and it's safe to say that we really 'clicked'. His passion and dedication to education really shines, and it's very obvious that this is a vein that runs through everyone at ACG, which is what makes it so special!”

Evan has helped the classical guitar community grow and connect with each other in numerous ways. He shared a little more about how he uses social media as a tool in this regard, 

“Social media is just an extension of the stage in terms of being audience-minded. It's a way to have a broader reach with our music, and also a place to share behind the scenes thoughts, ideas, and works in progress. This is something I've always believed in. As a performer, it's helped me see what people find to be interesting, both about the music and about the life of a musician. This helps not just with repertoire selection, but also with how you speak to the audience and the stories you tell as a performer. As a teacher it's helped immensely. Creating online mini-lessons (as well as full-fledged courses for companies like PickupMusic, JamPlay, and Truefire, and Cordoba Guitars) has helped me learn where the common points of confusion are in guitar technique. For example, when you share something and you get upwards of 100 messages asking to clarify a certain aspect of it, you quickly realize the holes in your thought process that a single student or two may not have pointed out. It's been an invaluable experience.”

We asked Evan what his favorite part of being a music educator is and he shared, 

“My students! Many of them are incredible human beings who have had successful careers in unique fields. I'm also particularly inspired by students who improve quickly. How they achieve this is never a surprise, but it's always amazing. I've witnessed students who started in their mid 50's go from playing a few easy pieces very sloppily, to playing some of the famous pieces in the guitar repertoire beautifully in less than a year. Simply because they put in honest, focused work every single day. I've seen teenage/young adult students crippled by technical problems surrender their ego, work at it and become much better players. These exceptional students inspire me and remind me to do the same!”

Evan is also planning some cool things for his students in the near future:

“Something I'm happy to be planning for my students are monthly Zoom performance classes. Since many of my students tune in from around the world, virtual is the only way to go about it. Believe it or not, this actually comes with a lot of benefits. For one, it's easier for everyone to make time and show up. Most importantly, they gain performance experience and get to know some other passionate guitarists around the world. Contrary to a traditional "guitar studio" there is less competitiveness and more support overall. The end goal is to create a community similar to what I had during my degrees in guitar studios, minus the bureaucracy and student loans. Fortunately technology is progressing to a point where we can make it just as engaging and educational. We're also planning some exciting opportunities for students around the world at my non-profit Ex-Aequo that will be announced soon!”

We’re so excited to hear more stories from music educators we have the pleasure of working with! 

Read another story about student leader, Besa Carney, here.

Dream Big: A Conversation with Besa Carney

We dream of a world where music is here for everyone, connecting us, inspiring us, and bringing joy and meaning wherever it goes. We are having our Dream Big spring fund drive here at ACG and it’s because of our community and supporters that we are able to share stories like this. Click here to learn more about supporting ACG.


We are surrounded by greatness at ACG and we couldn’t be more grateful. This week we got to speak with an incredible student, Besa Carney. 

Besa is a Freshman at Bowie High School and is part of their Varsity guitar program. Besa began playing guitar in sixth grade at Gorzycki Middle School and was part of their Varsity ensemble all three years as well. 

This spring, Besa has been soaring here at ACG. She’s involved in our ACG Youth Orchestra, has opened up for An Tran as a soloist and for Duo Noire as part of the Austin Young Artist Quartet, and the quartet also performed for us at SXSW this year! Watch our Live in Austin: Young Artists series here

On top of Besa’s beautiful musicianship, she is a remarkable leader! This semester during the AISD Concert & Sight Reading competition, Besa’s guitar director had to abruptly leave Bowie, leaving them without guidance for the competition. Besa stepped in and graciously filled this role. Besa shared, 

“Two weeks before Concert & Sight Reading, our class found out abruptly that my guitar teacher had to leave Bowie due to medical reasons. Immediately I thought, "if a teacher can conduct, why not I try?" So we asked the class if they still wanted to go to the event and most said yes. We practiced every class period leading up to the contest, and it was such a joy for me to conduct my class. It's like you get a feel of euphoria when the audience starts clapping and you know then, you did a great job.”

Not only did Besa lead the concert portion of the competition she led her class through the sight reading portion. During the sight reading portion, the students are expected to perform a piece of music they have never heard or seen before as accurately as possible, it’s tough stuff! Besa shared,

“When the sight reading portion came around, as a class we had never practiced sight reading, but I very much trusted their judgement and my own as well! Based on my past directors knowledge, I did exactly what they had done before for the first time, and we played through the song perfectly. When I found out we got Sweepstakes (all 1's) I was overjoyed and I was so proud of my fellow classmates. At that moment I knew that there would never be an experience like this one ever again.” 

We asked Besa what moves her passion in music and she said, 

“When I play guitar, I feel sadness and anger leave my body. It is a very good form of therapy. I love when I play because I can forget about everything else that is going on around me. Music has been a part of my life for 11 years, so it is a piece of my heart. Music gives an immense sense of achievement and true satisfaction, especially conducting.” 

We are so proud of Besa and are grateful to be part of her journey. Here’s a video of Besa conducting her Bowie High School guitar class at Concert & Sight Reading. She did an amazing job!

Read another Dream Big story about composer, Justice Phillips, here.

Dream Big: Concert & Sight Reading

We dream of a world where music is accessible to all, connecting us, inspiring us, and bringing joy and meaning wherever it goes. We are having our Dream Big spring fund drive here at ACG and it’s because of our community and supporters that we are able to share stories like this. Click here to learn more about supporting ACG.


Education is at the center of our service here at ACG and we are grateful to continue to grow and share in moments of inspiration with teachers and students in this, our 20th Anniversary of ACG Education.

In 2012, ACG in collaboration with Austin ISD, built the first Large Guitar Ensemble Concert and Sight Reading Contest. Just a couple weeks ago, after a two-year pandemic hiatus,  we had the opportunity to host forty one middle and high school guitar ensembles from across Texas at the AISD Performing Arts Center . We are truly amazed by the talented teachers and students that bring such artistry, passion, and dedication to their performances. And we are so thankful to be a part of the evolution and growth of these programs. 

Here are a few select performances from the two-day event.

Ann Richards HS Non-Varisty Guitar

Kealing MS Varsity Guitar

Bedichek MS Varsity Guitar

Read a beautiful story in our Celebrating Music Educators series here. Learn more about ACG Education here.

Dream Big: Justice Phillips on writing a new piece for Jorge Caballero

We dream of a world where music is here for everyone, connecting us, inspiring us, and bringing joy and meaning wherever it goes. We are having our Dream Big spring fund drive here at ACG and it’s because of our community and supporters that we are able to share stories like this. Click here to learn more about supporting ACG.


With our spring season wrapping up we have so many incredible things happening. Jorge Caballero will be with us May 6 and 7 at The Rosette just before our Season Finale on May 8 with Jorge and the Miro Quartet!  

Jorge’s solo shows at The Rosette are sold out, but if you’d like to tune in and watch the live-stream on Saturday, May 7 at 8pm CT, click here. In-person tickets for our Season finale on May 8 at 4:30 with Miro Quartet are still available online here

One of the many reasons Jorge’s visit with us at The Rosette is super special is because our Director of Customer Experience and Composer, Justice Phillips, connected with Jorge to compose a piece for this event! Justice shared, 

“This past winter ACG Artistic Director, Joe Williams, shared with me that he was trying to find an opportunity for me to write a piece for one of our featured artists in the spring. Then, a few weeks later he told me I’d be composing a piece for Jorge, who I secretly wished to write for because of his insane technical abilities as well as deep understanding of music!” 

Justice had full compositional freedom for this project and, in turn, created, Coming Out Party. Justice shared more about what this piece means to him, 

“It’s kind of funny to me actually. I’m a huge fan of football, and one of my favorite young players just recently had his first big game. That inspired the essence of the piece and title. The concept expanded as I moved through the compositional process and tried to capture the feeling a person has when they have their first big accomplishment in their field. I also tried to capture the feeling of a literal party as well, like a group of friends celebrating the accomplishment!”

Justice began working and connecting with Jorge for this piece in late December of 2021. Justice spoke a bit about what this experience did for him, 

“The experience of working with Jorge has helped me grow as a composer and musician! After I sent him the completed score of Coming Out Party, Jorge pointed out how the way I notated some of the rhythms could be confusing for a performer to read. With the piece having heavy emphasis on the rhythm that was extremely important. He taught me a lot about notation, and has helped me recognize that the goal of notation is to portray a composer’s musical ideas as clearly as possible.”

Justice began this composition as an improvisation. He wanted it to be fast, energetic, and rhythmic. He shared, 

“This piece is a good representation of my improvisational style, and I think that’s rad. I made sure to keep the energy high for the entire piece and create interesting and unique harmonic moments. I wouldn’t say I chose to compose it that way, rather that I improvised it that way and enjoyed how it sounded.”

Justice shared that throughout this time his favorite moment with Jorge was in a zoom meeting with him and Joe, 

“I was a bit timid initially but once I relaxed and opened up there was great communication between Jorge and I. The biggest lesson I learned from Jorge in that meeting was how to analyze a composition from the perspective of the performer, especially a new one. I am a performer as well, but with Jorge being one of the greatest guitarists in the world, the information he was sharing opened my mind to many different ways performers think about music, notation, color, dynamics, and everything in between.”


We are so excited to hear the premier of Coming Out Party on May 6 and 7 at 8pm live from The Rosette. In person shows are sold out but the May 7 showing will also be livestreamed. Learn more here.

Our Season Finale with Jorge Caballero and the Miro Quartet is Sunday, May 8 at 4:30 in Bates Recital Hall. This event, and the season it celebrates, is most certainly the stuff of dreams, and we’d love to have you with us!

Our finale includes a fifty-member guitar orchestra, a ten-year reprise of Joe Williams’ magnificent work Austin Pictures, and the world premiere of a new masterpiece by ACG Artist in Residence Clarice Assad.

Our finale celebrates our community, our artistry, our return to in-person concerts, the beauty of humans working together, and a season in which we built our first-ever home at The Rosette. Find tickets here.

Season Finale with Jorge Caballero & Miro Quartet

Join us on May 8th for our Season Finale with Jorge Caballero & the Miro Quartet! This concert has it all – solos, quintets, a giant guitar orchestra, the premiere of a dazzling new work by Clarice Assad, our artist in residence this season, and the 10 year anniversary performance of one of our most ambitious projects, Austin Pictures, by Joe Williams.  Find ticket information here. This event is sponsored by atsec information security.

There is so much to celebrate in our Season Finale and we are so excited to share this special moment with you! Information on this exciting concert is online here.

Here is a sneak peek of Jorge Caballero and the Miro Quartet creating magic together, from a show we produced in the ACL Live Moody Theater in 2011 just after it opened. (Incidentally, in this video, they’re playing a piece ACG commissioned in 2009 for Caballero from Argentinian composer Jorge Morel.)

In our finale on May 8th, the quintet will perform the world premiere of Clarice Assad’s Mosaic Variations, written just for this occasion as the final chapter of Assad’s year-long Artist in Residence position here at ACG. This piece is based on a giant work for guitar orchestra Assad co-created with more than fifty AISD students in the fall and winter. Here is a short video about the composition process.

On top of all this magnificence we will also be able to experience the 10-year anniversary performance of Austin Pictures, a work written for ACG by our very own Artistic Director, Joe Williams in 2011. We’re assembling a huge guitar orchestra, including a bunch of players from the original performance! For an Austin Pictures, deep dive, here is our watch party of Austin Pictures where Joe, Jorge, the Miro Quartet’s Daniel Ching, and Matt Hinsley share memories and insights about that wild project.