Amplify Austin: Justice Phillips

It’s Amplify Austin week. Our Amplify campaign is supporting pandemic innovations in ACG Education, and three very special projects designed to engage young people during this challenging time. In honor of ACG Education, we’re sharing a few personal insights this week. We hope you enjoy them! You can support our Amplify Austin campaign online here

ACG Education has brought us beautiful connections, friendships, experiences, and life lessons that we are so grateful to continuously grow into. 

One of these life-long friendships and beautiful connections we’ve had is with our Director of Customer Experience and Composer, Justice Phillips.

We met Justice when he was attending school at Lively Middle School (formerly Fulmore). 

Justice shared,

I started playing guitar in 6th grade at Fulmore through an after school guitar program that was happening there. It wasn't classical guitar, we just learned guitar basics like chords. I picked it up well though, and started venturing out from what the teacher was teaching. The program occurred in the orchestra room where I got to know Ms. McAlmon. She told me that there was going to be a guitar class the next year, where I met Jeremy Osborne and the story set off there.”

Jeremy Osborne has been ACG’s Assistant Director of Education since 2008. We are so amazed by the magic created between student and teacher and how that influences young people in their life journey. Justice shared his thoughts and experience,

“Guitar was something that I spent a lot of time doing and worked hard to get good at, so being known as the "really good" guitar player in Middle and High School did a lot for my overall confidence. Of course, playing music has always brought me joy, excitement, and sometimes frustration but at the end of it all it's given me something tangible to be proud of myself for.”

Justice attended UT Austin as a composition major, and joined the ACG Team as Director of Customer Experience upon graduation. This spring he’s made a full circle, getting back in touch with the orchestra director at Lively Middle School, Ms. McAlmon, for one of several special projects ACG is engaged with this spring.

“Ms. McAlmon approached me and asked if I would be interested in writing a piece for Lively's guitar ensemble and orchestra. What excites me the most about this opportunity, is being able to write a piece for kids who were in the position I was in, at the same school that I went to. Also, the combination of the guitar ensemble and orchestra sounds like it will be really beautiful.”

One of our greatest joys at ACG Education is growing with our students and teachers, as musicians and as human beings. Music will always bring connections, community, friends, and family. 

If you would like to support ACG Education please visit Amplify Austin

The Power of Friendship

In the aftermath of last week’s severe winter storms, we are grateful to our friends at Austin Chamber Music Center, Conspirare, and KMFA for joining with us to present a benefit concert Friday, February 26 at 8pm CT called The Power of Friendship with proceeds going to active relief efforts. 

Register Online Here. Free, Donations support relief efforts. 

Proceeds will be evenly divided between three organizations doing inspiring and needed relief work right now: Black Leaders Collective, Central Texas Food Bank, and Impact Now Dove Springs. 

Black Leaders Collective Founder Terry P. Mitchell told us,

The sun is finally shining, the snow is melted away, but the pain, impact and aftermath of this devastation is still very present. Now more than ever it is clear how important community is in times of disaster here in Travis and Williamson County.”

Derrick Chubbs, president & CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank added,

“Between the normal rates of food insecurity, the pandemic, and the supply chain issues caused by the winter storms, there’s an usually high number of people in need right now.”

And David Horning, Executive Director of Impact Now Dove Springs shared,

The extreme weather caused a lot of closures including our food sources. Two weeks in a row we were unable to pick up food to give to people. We are out of food and could use your donations to replenish. Thank you so much for helping make a difference in the community.”

Friday’s concert will present a live performance by Oliver Rajamani from the Draylen Mason Music Studio, and feature Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare, Michelle Schumann, ACG artists, the Miro Quartet, Thomas Burritt, Devin Gutierrez, and more.

Oliver Rajamani shared these words with us,

"This concert of friendship carries so much truth since the storm brought Texans to help one another. I was able to help friends with shelter, food and water. We live in secluded worlds even more during these stressful times and the storm helped Texans to realize the beauty and power in love, care and friendship.”




If you would like to continue being involved in supporting the community here is a list of some volunteer opportunities we’ve found:

Help Action: Provide contactless service delivery of critical resources. Organizations like local food banks, pantries, and other agencies looking to distribute resources to clients access a pool of available volunteers looking to help their community members.

Austin Mutual Aid:  which has raised more than $800,000 to get people fed and sheltered, is still accepting donations.

Caritas of Austin: has multiple options to volunteer from home to help people experiencing homelessness, including making hygiene and snack kits, masks and frontline service PPE kits.




Introspection by Jennifer Kirby with John Churchill

At ACG we are so grateful to have opportunities to build connections, share love, heal, and inspire friends in our community through music. ACG Music & Healing utilizes a trauma-informed, strength-based approach to facilitate meaningful expression and personal narrative through music making for members of our community facing significant challenges.

Today we’d like to share a story of connection between Jennifer Kirby and John Churchill. 

Composer John Churchill connected with Jennifer in late October of 2020 to create a piece of music as she was approaching her final chemotherapy treatments for cancer. 

This is what John had to share from their experience:

“Working together was exciting from the beginning. Jennifer was very eager to take part in the program as well as open to whatever that might look like. Also, being fellow Mid-Westerners, we had a few things to relate on and reminisce about in regards to that part of the country. 

Though for the first few weeks we weren’t sure what direction we would go creatively speaking, we spent each meeting focusing on her life’s story in the past, present, and future while discussing what musicians and genres she enjoys. It became apparent to her that she wanted to have something describe her life’s stages through instrumental music. We had the idea of taking what we had discussed regarding her past, present and future and write about it in a letter to her young self. This letter would prove to be the inspiration for the composition. She wanted to have the major people in her life to be represented musically. The string sections represent both her parents and her grandparents supporting her at different stages within her life, and the guitar represents her husband, Chad. She would be represented by piano. Her and I are both so proud of how this turned out. 

With Jennifer being in the hospitality industry she has such a drive to help people. Though much of her experience during her treatment put her in a position to rely on others, she is excited at the prospect of this project bringing help, hope and comfort to those that are experiencing something similar to her. 

It was such a pleasure being able to take part in this with her. I feel honored to have heard her story in such detail and be able to have created something wonderful together.”

Learn more about our Music & Healing program here

30th Season: Spring Event Guide

We are thrilled to announce nine new ACG experiences honoring rebirth and hope with artists from around the world and over one hundred friends in our community. All events are online and free, with donations gratefully accepted.

30th Season: Spring Event Guide


For spring 2021, ACG Originals goes deep on our connection and the beauty we can make together; UpClose Online, we travel to Brooklyn, and invite you to join us in the front row to hear the extraordinary artists we’ll meet there; and in Austin Now, outstanding artists from our city collaborate through different mediums to create a statement of our time featuring live and filmed performances.


ACG Originals: HOPE

Saturday, February 6, 2021 at 8PM CST

Friends from all across the world have shared music and messages of hope for this heartfelt ACG Original.


UpClose Online: GRISHA

Presented in partnership with Internal Creations

Saturday, March 13, 2021 at 8PM CST

One of our all-time favorite musical geniuses returns to inspire us in ways we can only imagine.


ACG Originals: PLAY: A Celebration of ACG Education

Saturday, March 27, 2021 at 8PM CDT

ACG Education turns 20 this year. What started in one school in Austin, Texas, grew into a movement impacting tens of thousands across the nation and beyond.



Presented in partnership with Internal Creations

Saturday, April 10, 2021 at 8PM CDT

Magnificent virtuoso Gohar Vardanyan began playing guitar at the age of five in Armenia, and has since traveled the world dazzling audiences in some of the most storied venues.



with Thomas Echols & Invoke

Presented in partnership with KMFA Classical 89.5

Sunday, April 18, 2021 at 5PM CDT

CALL AND RESPONSE is an exploration into memory, meaning, and the not-so-obvious threads that connect us all over Austin.


ACG Originals: GIVE

Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 7PM CDT

Guided by the belief that music can be a powerful catalyst for acceptance, hope, and joy, GIVE is a community concert featuring commissions from local artists, creative projects from students and community members as well as powerful songs from ACG’s Music & Healing program.


UpClose Online: RUPERT & LAURA

Presented in partnership with Internal Creations

Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 7PM CDT

We start things off with husband and wife duo Rupert Boyd and Laura Metcalf sharing the divine sounds of cello and guitar.



with Gabriel Santiago & Andrea DeLong-Amaya

Presented in partnership with Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Thursday, May 13, 2021 at 7PM CDT

Inspired by the transformation of winter to spring at the Wildflower Center, composer and performer Gabriel Santiago collaborates with master horticulturalist Andrea DeLong-Amaya to celebrate the intersections of nature and music.


UpClose Online: 30th SEASON FINALE

with Texas Guitar Quartet, Virtual Guitar Orchestra, Ex-Aequo, & Young Guitarists from across Texas

created in collaboration with The Augustine Foundation.

Saturday, May 22, 2021 at 8PM CDT

Our 30th season finale is an energetic celebration of Spring. An orchestra of young guitarists from all over Texas will premiere new arrangements by living Black American composers, and the Texas Guitar Quartet, long-time collaborators on some of ACG’s most ambitious projects (Alfred Hitchcock’sThe LodgerPersona, i/we, dream and together), will be dazzling us live from the AISD Performing Arts Center.


We look forward to celebrating a new spring together with you!

ACG 2020 Holiday Special

We are so pleased to share magic with you this holiday season. We wish you an incredible holiday and a happy New Year. If you would like to support our artists and services here at ACG, click here

Celebrate the holidays with this 30-minute ACG special featuring special guests Claudia Chapa, Arnold Yzaguirre, Grisha, Pepe Romero, and young artists and dancers from all around Austin. 

We also invite you to dive into our ACG Top Ten of 2020 list featuring some of our favorite happenings during this wild year, as well as our 2020 Education Report featuring some of the magic happening in our school systems. 

Thank you for standing with us this year, and for your belief in the power of music to do good in the world.



ACG Top Ten of 2020

We are so pleased to share our ACG Top Ten of 2020. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed making it. You may also like to check out our 2020 ACG Education Report. If you would like to support our artists and services here at ACG, click here

We started out unsure if we’d even make a Top Ten list this year. We’ve always approached this annual retrospective in a spirit of celebration, fun, and even silliness, so at the end of a year filled with so many difficult challenges, we wondered if we ought to skip it this time. But once we got to reminiscing about some of the amazing and beautiful moments that happened over the past 12 months, we decided that maybe a little celebration, fun, and silliness could be just what we need right now. 

Of course, even in a more typical year, our process of deciding the Top Ten list is filled with haggling and negotiation. And we have no doubt you’ll have differing ideas than ours. We’d love to hear them! Was there something of significance at ACG we’ve forgotten to mention? Email us your thoughts.

So with those disclaimers, we are excited to present, in a modified chronological order, the ACG Top Ten of 2020:

#10 together

Whoa, this seems like a lifetime ago. But what a memory! together was our entire theme of 2019-2020. Read all about it here. We organized our concerts and services around the idea of togetherness. How especially ironic, then, that the season would bring with it the greatest existential threat to physical togetherness in our lifetimes? together the concert experience occurred in January. It was a deep work about isolation and connection, Joe WIlliams and Travis Marcum led this, the third installment of three community-based arts works that began with i/we (2017), progressed to dream (2018), and ended with together

#9 dream The Movie

Also in January we premiered our first ever feature film. Holy cow! Director Alonso Lujan took the audio (mastered by Todd Waldron) from our 2019 community project dream and made cinematic magic. The film brings visual life to the hopes, dreams, and fears of Austin youth and the beautiful compositions and arrangements performed by world class artists. Make some popcorn, grab your favorite beverage, turn up the volume, and get lost in this one!

#8 Lively Middle School Dance & Guitar

Perhaps our favorite thing about music is that it goes all over the place. It goes with words and with images. You can do it by yourself or you can do it with others. You can listen to it and talk about it. David Russell played our last live event before the pandemic on March 7th. He and Maria came to Austin early and met with students, taught, and talked about their philanthropic work. He played with kids for a video we’ll be sharing in the new year! And right before his concert, Meredith McAlmon’s guitar students and Claire Barclay’s dance students from Lively Middle School presented a simply astonishing collaboration.

#7 Svirajmo Gitaru! (Let’s Play!)

Our braille lifelong learning system launched in November in its first full translation for use throughout the Balkan Peninsula! You can check it out online here

We are super grateful to our whole team and to our partner in Montenegro, Rados Malidzan, for raising the funds and striking the alliances throughout the Balkans not only to make the extensive audio and text translations, but also arrange for free braille printing and distribution in multiple countries to maximize the resource’s utility.

#6 Eric Pearson, Virtual Concert Wizard

That’s right, Eric gets a whole slot all to himself! ACG’s Director of Curriculum by day,  when the pandemic hit in March he basically figured out how to make high-level concerts happen in real time using remote technology. Like, he literally hand-assembled tech rigs to be mailed across the country, set up, and then piloted by our team in Austin so we could hear, for example, Pepe Romero playing live from his living room in California. Wanna learn more? Read all about Eric and this system online here. Or just watch this Pepe Romero video and be amazed!

#5 i/we 2020

The original i/we changed us forever. Over the years there have been a few tectonic shifts at ACG, and this was one of them. It was January 2017, our nation had endured a tough political season with friends and families divided, and we were asking ourselves what might an arts organization do to offer help and healing? ACG’s Artistic Director Joe Williams and Education Director Travis Marcum joined spirits to envision a community-centered artwork, and the result was i/we, a multi-media chamber work built around Travis’ interviews with refugees newly settling in Austin. Fast-forward to pandemic life 2020, another contentious election cycle, and a world awakening to the realities of racial inequity and injustice. Once again, i/we emerged as particularly resonant and relevant to the time we were in.   

For our re-imagining of i/we 2020 in October we enlisted the partnership of ARCOS dance company. Director/choreographer Erica Gionfriddo paired 4 magnificent dancers, Bonnie Cox, Ginnifer Joe, Kaitlyn Jones, & Oddalys Salcido, with each of the four movements to be explored and reexamined  through the lens of each artist. Then ARCOS filmmaker Eliot Gray Fisher created cinematic magic in - and above - locations around Texas. 

Learn about our collaborators ARCOS dance and the creators online here. Enjoy this excerpt from the production.

#4 Ofrendas

We lost a lot in 2020. We said goodbye to our way of life in a lot of ways, and being together in a meaningful way became very challenging. There is a tradition in Mexico and Latin America where loved ones who have passed away are honored by placing their favorite foods, drink, or other significant objects on altars. These objects, called “ofrendas” or “offerings”, are believed to help guide and welcome the spirits of our departed loved ones back home to celebrate Día de Muertos. In collaboration with Mexic-Arte Museum, and led by our Director of Operations Salvador Garcia, who joined Joe Williams as the co-Artistic Director of this project, we commissioned 20 short music-video ofrendas from local artists, and received many dozens more from community members. We invite you to experience some of these captivating tributes in the playlist below, or read a story from one of our individual contributors online here.

#3 Music & Healing

At the very heart of ACG’s Music & Healing services is deep listening and caring through time spent, one on one, together. So when the pandemic made social distancing the new normal, we were relieved to discover that not only could our Music & Healing work continue by video conference, but in some ways it even added accessibility for our participants by taking away drive time and the challenges of coordinating on-location appointments in the hospitals, shelters, and clinics we partner with to offer our services. So, against all odds, ACG Music & Healing actually expanded its capacity this year, with an amazing roster of artist-clinicians, including Claudia Chapa, Arnold Yzaguirre, Daniel Fears, Claire Puckett, John Churchill, and Director Travis Marcum, serving more people than ever. 

In honor of Veterans Day we shared two special songs created with two veterans in partnership with The Georgetown Arts and Culture Program, Resilient Me Military Expressive Arts Programs, and country music artist Wynn Williams.

This video has two excerpts from the last zoom songwriting sessions with Wynn and Travis where John and Bobby heard their complete songs for the very first time. The first song is called A Prayer for the Living, and was written by John Hill with Travis Marcum and Wynn Williams. John was an Army medic in Afghanistan, and wanted to write a song for fellow service members struggling with the pain they hold onto after the experience of war. The second song is called When Blue Stars Turn Gold, written by Bobby Withrow with Wynn Williams and Travis Marcum. Bobby served in the Navy and now runs the Texas Fallen Project where he supports families all over the state who have lost loved ones in battle. A Gold Star Family is one that has lost a member in service. Bobby wanted to write a song that helps people understand the need to honor our fallen soldiers and to support their loved ones who are fighting their own battle every day.

#2 ACG Education: Everything Changes at Once

ACG’s education programs in schools are designed for classroom settings, with students learning and playing guitar together,  so you can imagine how urgent the need was to adapt and innovate this spring when schools closed their doors. The ACG Education team - Travis Marcum, Jeremy Osborne, Eric Pearson, Jess Griggs, Phil Swasey, and intern Cindy De Blas Castillo - sprang into action. We hosted weekly online discussions with partner teachers near and far, heard their struggles and needs, and worked to offer solutions as fast as possible. 

We purchased over 200 guitars for students who didn’t have instruments at home, pivoted to remote instruction for our programs in the juvenile justice system, and we hired additional teaching artists to expand our Free Lessons Initiative.

When summer hit, we shifted our annual Teacher Summits online - a monumental task! - and developed new approaches for Virtual Classrooms that teachers could learn from and deploy in the fall. 

The biggest challenge was to maintain a sense of connection through artistry of personal significance. Perhaps our proudest achievement from the spring was Everything Changes at Once, a collaborative performance piece created by Travis Marcum to engage guitar students at all levels, and encourage personal expression by incorporating their video, photo, and spoken word contributions. 

We’re incredibly grateful to the amazing teachers who hung in there, grew, learned, adapted, persevered, and all those amazing students who did the same. The beautiful results we’ve seen are a testament to courage and resilience, and to the power of music to bring us together even against the odds.

For a deep dive into our education work, we invite you to review our 2020 Education Report.

#1 Our Community!

We are overwhelmed with gratitude and amazed by everyone who made the choice to believe in beauty and togetherness with us this past year, and for all of ACG’s 30 years. For the last nine months we presented all of our concerts for free, and so many of you chose to donate. We moved our youth and community ensembles online, and so many of you took the leap with us. We embraced new approaches to making and sharing art, and so many incredibly talented artists innovated and collaborated with us. We needed partners and spaces to produce events, and friends from Big Medium, ARCOS, Mexic-Arte, One World Theatre, Austin ISD, and The Contemporary Austin answered the call. We needed support to buy guitars for kids who didn’t have them, to acquire the technology and personnel for high-quality streaming concerts, to sustain our vital programs, and our community stepped forward in a way we’ll never forget. Thank you.


2020 ACG Education Report

Dear Friends,

2020 has been a year like none other. It has challenged us, and demanded we grow and adapt in ways we could not have imagined. But above all else, the events of the past year have helped us to focus our intention, more than ever before, on the importance of inspiration and service. 

Through it all, music has shined as one of humanity’s greatest treasures. In its gentle and powerful way music has offered new roads to connect when so many have been closed. We’ve seen Italians serenading one another from their balconies in the height of the pandemic, Yo Yo Ma create #songsofcomfort, and the cast of Hamilton inspire millions through live-streamed appearances. Closer to home we’ve seen students and teachers make never-before-imagined collaborative artworks. Our youth and adult community ensembles have courageously sailed into unknown waters, and our concerts have reached audiences across the globe for the first time.

It is a solemn time, and a tragic time for many. In addition to the effects of pandemic life, our nation and our world has awoken to a new awareness of racism and inequity in our communities and within ourselves. Racism and inequity are not new, tragedy is not new, but the voices of change and leadership have thankfully found a larger platform in our public discourse.

I am deeply grateful for our team at ACG. And that includes you! We have worked hard to grow and adapt, pivot quickly where possible, and set in motion processes that will create the kind of mindful change that can only happen over a long period of time. 

On behalf of all of us on the ACG team, thank you for your belief in us, and for your belief in the power of music to do good in the world. 

Matt Hinsley, Executive Director


1) ACG Organizational Ecosystem

This is a report about ACG Education. For nearly twenty years, education has been the single largest division of ACG. At the same time we’d like to point out that, with growth and experience, we have come to see less and less actual division between the different streams of our work. We have come to realize that, like music, inspiration flows freely between all of our services if we can be open to the possibilities. For that reason, we’ll say just a few words about ACG overall. 

As an example of this intersection, every major ACG concert event begins with student performers. All students (in typical times) can attend ACG concerts for free, and in that way, our concerts enable large-scale performances that allow students to play on the biggest stages with artists and peers. This experience offers countless opportunities for collaboration, inspiration and education for all involved. For an extensive update about how ACG Concerts have adapted during this time, click here

We are frequently centering student and community projects as integral parts of our concert-making, as was the case, for example, with the premiere of Everything Changes at Once (a piece made by students in 29 US cities) in May as part of our 19-20 season finale. This was also the case with the premiere of Forward (created by our four youth and adult community ensembles) as part of our Fall 2020 finale.

Also in this report, we will discuss our strengthened efforts to acknowledge and take action towards racial equity in our services, for example, to diversify representation in our curriculum teaching library, among other things. But these efforts are not limited to ACG Education. They can, and should, be seen throughout our artistic production as well. For dozens of examples of inspiring artmaking, we invite you to look through our YouTube Channel.

ACG has remained strong and productive during the pandemic. Our curriculum and training were in high demand, our Music & Healing services actually expanded because of the move to online interactions, and our artistic pivots to live-stream concerts resulted in many strengthened connections with our supporters, many new friends, and a lot of good will as evidenced by overwhelming feedback and generosity.

2) Central Texas

Our partnership continues to deepen with Austin ISD. In a recent strategic planning meeting with the Fine Arts Director, Alan Lambert, we were very pleased to see Guitar listed as a core subject for every middle and high school in the district. We are happy to report that Manor ISD, expanded their offerings to include guitar at the high school level in fall 2020, complimenting the impressive growth and success of their Decker Middle School program. After school programming at Del Valle High School has stalled due to the pandemic, though we look forward to continuing services as soon as possible. Similarly the projected growth into San Marcos ISD Middle Schools has not taken place, but we are hopeful for the future. He have recently confirmed, however, Hutto ISD as a new Central Texas district partner, and we will begin training elementary and middle school teachers in spring 2021.

During “normal” times, on a spectrum from broad to specific, our services in Central Texas include: District Strategic Support, District and Region Assessment Creation and Execution, All City and All Region Audition and Direction, Curriculum Development and Distribution, Teacher Recruitment, Teacher Training, Individual Program Support or Teacher Consultation, Free Individual Lessons focused in Title 1 Schools, Instrument and other material support, Special Collaborative Events, Student Performance Opportunities, and In-School Guest Artist Performance Engagement.

We are particularly grateful to have added Jess Griggs to our team, in July 2019, as our Director of Music and Community Engagement. Among Jess’ many responsibilities is interfacing with our local districts and many teachers to assess needs, match resources, and accomplish our suite of services. We are also particularly grateful to report that, with the exception of All-City and All-Region ensembles, we have continued to provide all of our services, albeit with modifications. Here are some highlights:

Free Individual Lessons: Individual instruction is actually quite effective by video conference. We have slightly increased our budget for individual instruction to help meet needs during the pandemic and hired three new teaching artists. Our teaching artists are meeting with students via zoom each day from schools across Central Texas. We are particularly proud of our Javier Niño Scholarship Award Winner, Elijah Flores, a senior at Crockett High School who is currently preparing auditions and meeting with university professors.

Guitars: Many students do not own their own instruments, and remote learning as a result of the pandemic placed into relief this particular symptom of economic inequity. Thanks to the generosity of many donors, we have been able to provide nearly 250 guitars (over $35,000 worth) directly to students and programs lacking instruments. Read more on this effort online here

Everything Changes At Once: Normally there is an event called Concert and Sight Reading Contest each April involving ensemble performances for six external judges. This is a helpful focal point for programs, a great opportunity for teachers and students to receive feedback, and a powerful mechanism to maintain and communicate district-wide standards. When this event was cancelled in March 2020, we were tasked with coming up with an alternative. Travis Marcum wrote Everything Changes at Once, a hyper-flexible piece for guitar students at all levels, including options for video, photo, and spoken contributions. The piece was designed to be expressive of each person’s experience, and be approachable not only for all levels of students, but even for students who did not own their own instrument. The piece ended up serving not only AISD, but students in twenty-nine cities across the US.

Guitar + Dance: One of our favorite moments came during the last live performance we presented to the public, on March 7, 2020. The guitar and dance departments at Lively Middle School joined forces to make something beautiful together. In fact, the Lively Middle School guitar instructor, Meredith McAlmon, told us she took specific inspiration for the idea from the ACG overall season theme in 19-20 of “together.” From its inception, then, to the performance on March 7 in front of over one thousand people at our International Concert Series presentation of David Russell this beautiful artwork is a stunning example of the “ecosystem” for contextualized arts learning we mentioned at the start of this report.


3) Juvenile Justice System

At the onset of the pandemic we were particularly concerned about the possibility of continuing instruction in our Juvenile Justice System programs. While these programs were some of the last to authorize and implement remote teaching access for our teachers, we are pleased to report that by May our classes at WilCo (Williamson County Juvenile Services) and Gardner Betts (Travis County) were occurring regularly again. Since that time, classes have maintained consistency and even thrived amidst the challenges of online learning. In June, we actually added a third Central Texas program at Phoenix House, a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. At Phoenix House we provide two sections of daily, for credit guitar classes. This program is directed by Jeremy Osborne, ACG’s Assistant Director of Education, and instruction in Williamson County is provided by Ciyadh Wells, ACG’s Director of Individual Giving. 

The ACG daily, sustained, for-credit performing arts model in the juvenile justice system is extremely rare. We are unaware of another similar program of this scope in the State of Texas. We were asked by the Arts Education Partnership (AEP), a division of the Education Commission of the States working alongside the National Endowment for the Arts, for information on our programming. ACG was then featured in the April 2020 national study: Engaging the Art Across the Juvenile Justice System (p. 5). Subsequently the AEP invited ACG staff to give a best-practices presentation alongside AEP and DreamYard staff at the annual Grantmakers For Education conference on November 30.

The groundbreaking nature of ACG’s work in the Juvenile Justice system has led to increasing talks with facility directors and educators across the state. Specifically we have been asked to replicate our program for Dallas County, and are engaged in long-term talks for a special new education initiative related to young adults.

For more insight into ACG Juvenile Justice System programming, we invite you to watch this 90-minute streaming special produced in April, 2020.


4) Curriculum and Teacher Training

The bulk of our technical and development resources since mid-March have been devoted to pivoting both our curriculum and teacher training to online formats. Even so, the team has published four additions to the curriculum library from Mexico: Sandunga, Son de la Negra, Cielito Lindo, and La Llorona. These additions were researched by ACG Director of Operations Salvador Garcia, arranged by Celil Refik Kaya, and finalized by Chris Lee. We have also added a “Special Projects” Section to the website to capture new-format multi-media collaborations like Travis Marcum’s Everything Changes at Once, Ofrendas and more.

At the on-set of the pandemic we made subscriptions to free for six months, pointed users to our already-free resource, hosted roundtable discussions, aggregated solutions, and then announced and offered our 2020 Teacher Summits online for free.

Teacher Summits

Offering our 2020 Teacher Summits online during this time required two major streams of development in June and July: 1) Content 2) Technology.

Teacher Summit Content focused on two major areas: Racial Equity and Remote Teaching. Our discussions of Racial Equity were led by guest speaker Sam Escalante, Professor of Music Education at UT San Antonio, and ACG Director of Individual Giving, and leading voice on Racial Equity in the classical guitar world, Ciyadh Wells. Over the summer Ciyadh was also asked to speak several times on the subject of Racial Equity for the Guitar Foundation of America and her talk Creating a Diverse and Inclusive Guitar Community can be viewed online here. Our second content area of Remote Teaching was embedded into the entire experience because the Summits were, in fact, remote experiences. We discussed techniques for engaging students in welcoming, encouraging, and respectful ways, and focusing on expressivity even through video conference, all laid over smart technical and musical sequencing.

Technology was led by ACG’s Education Consultant, and Director of Guitar at Bedichek Middle School, Phil Swasey, alongside ACG’s Director of Curriculum Eric Pearson. Phil created online classroom environments using the “Canvas” Learning Management System (LMS) thereby developing not only the course through which our remote trainees would learn, but also the model on which they would develop their own units for the fall classes. 

There is a lot here! You are invited to email us for more information on these content areas, technology, or any other subjects in this report.

5) Let’s Play: Braille Lifelong Learning Resource

We are extremely pleased to report that our braille lifelong learning system launched in November 2020 in its first full translation. This new site, which you can visit online here, has been created for use throughout the Balkan Peninsula. 

We are very grateful to our partner in Montenegro, Rados Malidzan, for raising the funds and striking the alliances throughout the Balkans not only to make the extensive audio and text translations, but also arrange for free braille printing and distribution in multiple countries to maximize the resource’s utility. We are also very grateful to members of our team: Jess Griggs, Eric Pearson, Jordan Walsh, and Tyson Breaux who worked for months to implement this system.

ACG Performance Engagement Artist Joseph Palmer and Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Music Instructor Jeremy Coleman created the original sequencing and materials for Let’s Play. Rados had this to say when the newly translated site launched: “I am immensely thankful to Jeremy and Joseph for all their beautiful work they put in these so carefully and beautifully created lessons – everything is there – gradualness, attention to every detail both in music and didactic, dynamics, musicality, and the music, which is beautiful in every single piece! I had many of these pieces singing in my head for days after recordings. I am happy that I have managed to secure the cooperation regarding free printing of braille scores with societies of blind and visually impaired of Montenegro, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Srpska. In my opinion this will help to overcome this significant obstacle to the users, which is present at the moment in all these countries.”

Let’s Play was also an unexpectedly helpful system for many of our school-based teaching partners at the onset of the pandemic with the shift to remote learning. The system is built around a carefully sequenced solo learning track, paired with detailed audio guides, downloadable music scores, and no cost or barrier to access. These unique features made it particularly valuable for teachers with students learning at home.

6) Music & Healing 

ACG Music and Healing is a multifaceted program that serves Central Texans experiencing significant challenge or trauma in collaboration with over a dozen local hospitals, shelters and social service organizations. We began 2020 by hiring and training a group of five Music and Healing Artists, including 3 new musicians to share in creating music that helps our community members tell their story in song. Soon after, at the onset of the pandemic, we found that there was even more need for this type of service and remote interactions actually increased participants’ accessibility to the various projects. So we deepened our relationships with individuals at Dell Children’s Hospital, with new mothers at Any Baby Can through Lullaby Project. We created new songwriting courses and artist partnerships for women at Red Oak Hope serving victims of human trafficking. We deepened our friendships with the medical community, expanding our services to patients throughout Austin as well as working directly with the wonderful med students at The University of Texas at Austin Dell Med School. We added new partnerships with providers at St. David’s Hospital. We also began a veterans songwriting program in partnership with the veterans creative expression organization Resilient-Me. 

Another beautiful example of the crossover between ACG programs throughout the organization was Together, the large community-based production in January. Two participants from our Music and Healing programs at Dell Children’s Hospital and the Livestrong Cancer Institutes were featured in this show. Their voices echoed throughout, intertwined between original works of music composed around their story.


7) Music & Community

As we said at the beginning of this report, the boundaries between ACG Education, Concerts and Services is increasingly and intentionally blurry. As much as we wanted to inspire with meaningful art, and support school-based education, we also wanted to ensure that opportunities for connection for our youth and adult guitar ensembles would continue through the pandemic. We’ll highlight three such projects, in chronological order: Solace, Ofrendas, and Forward.

Each spring for fifteen years ACG has awarded a prize for a new guitar ensemble composition and then premiered the winning work with a large gathering of a multi-state, all-ages, all-levels ensemble at an event called ACGfest. This year’s winning composition was called Solace written by Brandon Carcamo. ACGfest would have occurred in April, and had to be cancelled. But, led by ACG Artistic Director Joe Williams, the project was able to continue as an online collaboration with the dozens of participants who would have been present live.

There is a tradition in Mexico and Latin America called Ofrendas where loved ones who have passed away are honored by placing their favorite foods, drink, or other significant objects on altars. These objects, called “ofrendas” or “offerings”, are believed to help guide and welcome the spirits of our departed loved ones back home to celebrate Día de Muertos. In collaboration with Mexic-Arte Museum, and led by our Director of Operations Salvador Garcia, who joined Joe Williams as the co-Artistic Director of this project, we commissioned 20 short music-video ofrendas from local artists, and received many dozens more from community members. We invite you to experience some of these captivating tributes in the playlist below, or read a story from one of our individual contributors online here.

Over the summer there were questions as to whether or not we’d be able to have our two adult and two youth community ensembles continue in the fall. We asked our members if they would be interested in trying to do something innovative together, and the answer was a resounding “yes!” What emerged, then, was an ACG commission from composer Michael Keplinger to write a forward-looking piece in four movements, each to be created as a multi-media work by our four community-based groups. The beautiful project, called Forward, led by ACG Community Ensembles Director Tony Mariano, Youth Camerata Director Stephen Krishnan, and Youth Orchestra Director Joe Williams, was premiered during our fall finale on December 12.


8) Future

Some exciting upcoming projects for us include the creation of an ACG Education Composer Residency. We will offer a year-long paid fellowship to composers of color specifically to write music for our students in Austin and those using worldwide. We plan to expand our teaching artist staff to serve even more young musicians through our free private lessons program while deepening the experience through mentorship and college preparation services. In Spring, ACG will be making concerted efforts to build artist partnerships with individual schools in Austin, Manor, San Marcos and beyond to help brainstorm, develop, and execute long-term projects (like Everything Changes at Once) tailored to the individual wants and needs of the particular school community. We will be exploring exciting new partnerships with ISDs and juvenile justice centers across Texas to help build inspiring, lasting music programs there. ACG Music and Healing is anticipating doubling services throughout the Austin area in 2021 and we plan on creating a handbook, training manual, and digital archive of all past projects in the coming year. 

In March of this year, the world changed for everyone. But for many of the people involved with ACG Education and Music and Healing, this change has been especially distressing. Students and teachers in our Title I. school programs, patients undergoing chemotherapy, families of color who are experiencing disproportionate loss of life and income. Our first priority is to be with our core Austin community, to listen, and to continue to create opportunities of respite and inspiration for all of us. In 2021 and onward, we will take with us the lessons we have learned, and those we continue to learn in an effort to better teach, create, play, laugh, cry, dream, together. 

I’m hopeful that when we do return to our normal life, we will appreciate each other more, have a stronger sense of community and a deeper, meaningful understanding of life… and how to live that life”

Statement from Albuquerque New Mexico High School Student

ACG’s education programs and social services are made possible through the generous support of many individual and institutional donors, including:

Augustine Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Kaman Foundation, Bill Wood Foundation, Cain Foundation, Webber Family Foundation, Still Water Foundation, Lucy & Bill Farland, Rea Charitable Trust, Texas Commission on the Arts, H-E-B Tournament of Champions Charitable Trust, Kodosky Foundation, Long Foundation, Shield-Ayres Foundation, the Skeel/Baldauf Family, Louise Epstein & John Henry McDonald, Bill Metz, MFS Foundation, University Area Rotary Club, Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, Applied Materials Foundation, Seawell Elam Foundation, Sue L. Nguyen Management Trust, Dr. Michael Froehls, Sarah & Ernest Butler, Mercedes-Benz of Austin, Austin Community Foundation, United Way for Greater Austin, Carl Caricari & Margaret Murray Miller, Burdine Johnson Foundation, Wright Family Foundation, 3M Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Texas Bar Foundation, D’Addario Foundation, Strait Music Company, Urban Betty, Inc, PwC, Tesoros Trading Company, Calido Guitars, and many, many others.

Austin Now: The Space In Between

This concert occurred on November 7th. Austin Now events are conceived to be unique, moments of creation and togetherness. 

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.

Read this interview with Oliver Rajamani and learn more about his connection to this event here.

UpClose Online: Pepe Romero

UpClose Online events are conceived to be unique, one-time, moments of creation and togetherness.

This concert occurred on September 26th.  Due to an overwhelming international response, however, Mr. Romero and ACG have agreed that this concert will remain online for a limited time. 

Read up on Pepe's connection with ACG here.


Eric Pearson: Virtual Concert Wizard

“OK, we’re live in 5, 4, 3, _ , _ , _ .” 

Eric Pearson doesn’t say “2, 1, 0,” in order to avoid the possibility of broadcasting his voice right at the beginning of the live show. But everyone involved, from the emcee across town to the live performer across the country, have been trained and rehearsed in a minimum of four hours of tech rehearsals to know when to begin, to know which remote-controlled camera to look at, to understand when still slides and video assets will be played so they can take a break, tune, or blow dry their wet canvas so they can apply another layer of paint in the upcoming live segment.

The whole issue of audio bleed is a real one, because in spite of the amount of technology involved in these shows, it doesn’t always feel like an exact science. Eric has built high-powered custom computers that talk to a high-powered shippable on-site computer called a TriCaster, through which interfaces an array of cameras, microphones, audio gear, effects, and OBS software. That allows audio and video to be captured and mixed, more or less locally, piloted from another state, but also preserves the ability to “switch scenes” to Zoom where the emcee and other hosts appear, or to what is typically over a dozen premade videos, all before pushing the single stream out to YouTube where, nine to twenty-five seconds later, the audience sees and hears the result.

With so many systems talking to one another through the internet, which is variable in speed and stability, it’s best not to say “2, 1, 0,” at the end of your count down.

“Eric continually astounds me by what he brings to the table for each ACG production.”

Jess Griggs, ACG’s Director of Music and Community Engagement who has been on the production team for every show, commented.

“The quality of every performance is always better than the previous concert. I've worked in live sound, radio, television and in recording studios, and I can say with certainty Eric Pearson is the most hard-working and innovative person I've ever worked with for concert production. Without Eric our streams would not be possible.”

We wanted to dive deep. We wanted to learn a bit more about the technology and innovation that has made possible what will be, on December 12th, thirty live-stream experiences since the pandemic began. We also wanted to learn more about Eric Pearson, his story, and what led to the unique combination of skills, drive and resilience necessary to innovate and lead in a time of crisis.

The Technology

A great place to start is to watch Eric’s recent interview on GFAtv. He starts talking 35 minutes and 40 seconds in! In the video Eric sits at his “Command Center,” and discusses audio, video, lighting, and a range of other considerations in some pretty spectacular detail. He even controls the lighting temperature of the room from his cell phone. Pretty awesome. If you are considering creating your own live-stream concert events, this is the video for you!

ACG Streaming Concert Technology

We asked Eric to share a bit about this whole experience, and the technology itself:

“The quarantine times surrounding this pandemic have required tremendous flexibility, we’ve had to pivot quickly. I recently asked Vern Graner, our Concert Technical Assistant, ‘Can you imagine another concert presenter being on the phone with an artist and their internet service provider at nine o’clock at night, guiding them through upgrading their service, because the show is teetering on the edge of not happening?’ There’s a lot of going beyond what most might consider reasonable expectations, but that’s the hallmark of creative innovation, especially now. It’s worth it to put in the extra effort to make our experiences magical.

“I wasn’t an expert in video or streaming production before February of this year. But I saw it was something I could do, because of my computer and recording background. When we needed to pivot to online productions I spent hours every week – and I still do – watching videos, tutorials, and reading e-books on everything from Open Broadcasting Software to changing aperture and iso settings on cameras. At the start of this interview I was switching over to the new computer I just built to better handle the streaming requirements for our shows. We’re doing things that no one else is doing. We’re pulling off shows—essentially with me and one other person in our homes—similar to much larger entities with production crews and trucks. People are trying to figure this out all over the country right now, and they’re really taking notice. I get emails at least twice a day asking for help.

“We have built two large flight cases. One is the Audio Network Box, and the other is the Video Box. The first box includes an MR-18 remote audio interface, Neumann KM-184 microphones, network gear, a Dell Optiplex micro-computer that runs the networking software, and has a virtual Windows Operating System so we can get in and deal with some of the networking and the audio patching. The second box has a NewTek video rig including a Pan-Tilt-Zoom Camera that’s totally remote-controlled, and a streaming box called a Tri-Caster. The Tri-Caster is industry-standard—ESPN, CNN, they all use Tri-Caster equipment—it allows us to control the cameras without being present. 

“The software is complicated, so I won’t get into all that detail, but Vern and I both have something called TailScale which is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that basically creates a tunnel between us and the remote location and all our gear. For each show I also spin up a Custom Amazon Server (AWS) that acts as the mid-point for the stream. I pick up the “RTMP” stream at home using Open Broadcast Software (OBS) where I can add the other components like video and Zoom interviews. I’ve got a piece of hardware called a Stream Deck with 32 buttons, each of which takes me to a different pre-determined asset or video stream. So that allows for rapid switching between content. Finally, I stream the end-product out to YouTube for our audience to enjoy!

“What’s truly unique is that we have these mailable drop-boxes. Through a lengthy tech call with a local assistant, we can guide the set up. This solution has opened up new options in terms of what artists we can consider. We’re still limited to US locations, and people with high-quality and stable internet, but having this hardware means that we can work with anyone inside those parameters. And because we can control everything remotely, we don’t need to have a technical expert on hand – just someone who can plug some things in. We’ve been trying to make it as plug-n-play as possible, but if you look at the layout of cables in the Jiji picture, you can see it’s not quite as user-friendly as we’d like yet!

“I really don’t like things not working because we didn’t plan ahead. So we’ve got a second internet service, and we’ve got a person in another location who can pick up the stream in a couple of seconds and take over the show. He’s got the assets and the scenes, so we can finish a concert even if my power or internet goes down. I believe that if there’s something you can do, spend a little money, or prepare a little bit to prevent a foreseeable problem from happening, you should do it. In our case, it means we can preserve a beautiful experience for hundreds if not thousands of people."


Eric Pearson: The Early Years

At ACG Eric’s official title is Director of Curriculum. He’s a classical guitarist with a music education degree. A ten-year veteran of ACG Music Education, he has now stepped into this new role as our Virtual Concert Wizard. We wanted to learn more about Eric, and how he came to have such a unique ability to focus on minute detail while nurturing such a wide array of interests and abilities at exactly the same time. Here’s what we learned about his early years. 

“Both my parents were musical. My mother was an accomplished pianist, my father was really into the Beatles. He knew all the Beatles music, every Christmas was Beatles books or CDs or the next tell-all book by their limo driver! So I was aware of rock music, certainly the Beatles, and also Chopin’s piano music. A couple times my parents tried to get me to start guitar or piano, but I wasn’t interested until sometime in middle school. We had guitar in Ms. Curtain’s music class. Middle school is when you form your opinions on musical style, and everyone’s social clique starts to be defined by the music you listen to. I got really into the grunge and rock, so I started playing electric guitar. Sadly, Eddie Van Halen just passed away. I actually owned a guitar tab book for several Van Halen albums, before I even owned a guitar. So I was learning how to take that system of notation apart before I even had an instrument in my hands. When I got my first guitar at fourteen I learned Eruption right off the bat. 

“I added jazz guitar because I got interested in harmony and intricacy. Classical guitar actually came through Eddie Van Halen as well, because Spanish Fly and Cathedral feature nylon string guitar. So I was taking lessons with three teachers at the same time for a while. Then I figured that to continue studying music you probably had to do classical guitar, so I focused more on that. I was in a small town and it was hard to get people together for rehearsals, so classical guitar as a solo instrument was easier to practice anyway."

Eric Pearson: College

As we get into Eric’s college years it’s worth highlighting two aspects of the early story that seem to be predictive of the future. One is the mention of “taking apart” the system of tablature notation before owning a guitar, the other is the part about three lessons with three different teachers. Already, a voracious appetite for learning and the wherewithal to pursue it, were evident.

“I had been doing a lot of science, computer science, and engineering, and all the math available in high school, simultaneously. I remember when I went to community college program fair they had a folder for the Engineering Program and a folder for the Music Program. I picked up both. So I was in the physics laboratory at 6:30am everyday, doing my lab work – I made a special arrangement with the professor – because I couldn’t get there in the evenings when we had musical and band rehearsals. I was in six or more ensembles at that point. Because I was also the department assistant, I had keys to the facility. I was often there all night doing stuff in the recording studio. I was definitely into technology by then. I continued with physics, math, and sciences, and I was considering sound recording as a career pathway. But I was also interested in music education. I was really inspired by some of the teachers and mentors in my life, and I wanted to continue teaching.

“So it was all really up to scheduling! There was no way to do the recording major, and still make 8am music education classes. So I focused on education, and just spent a lot of time in the studios. I enjoyed helping out friends with their recordings, and we would check out the new gear at night in halls when no one else was around. 

“During all this I was also working for an organization called the Infinity Performing Arts program. I had been a student there in high school, and during community college and college, I taught 10-15 students and coached ensembles. My knowledge of Infinity spanned being a student, a private lesson teacher, an ensemble director, and eventually the Education Program Director. In 2008 our founder retired and I stepped in as interim Executive Director. It was wild for a year, learning how grants and budgeting and reporting works, but I knew every aspect of the program by then, so I was a logical person to step in.”

A Guitarist in a Non-Guitarist’s World

The intensity continued for Eric through graduate school. But a new important theme also emerges here, and that’s the relative lack of higher education pathways for guitar, especially with regard to music education. At the same time Eric was wrestling with this as a college student and prospective employee, ACG was publishing its classroom guitar curriculum online,, and expanding the reach of its school programs. So the seeds were being planted for our pathways to converge.

“As a guitarist you’re not always a perfect fit in most music programs. They never knew what to do with me. Several weeks into my undergraduate degree they asked me what my primary instrument was. I told them “guitar,” and they replied, “Yes, but you need to have a teaching instrument, or direct choir.” I didn’t really have a band or orchestra background, but I had done a little bit of percussion, so I started taking lessons immediately to try and catch up on the years of experience that everyone else had. I don’t know how many classes and lessons I was taking at one time, but I think I had the most overloaded schedule at my undergrad, because I had to do like six percussion ensembles plus guitar, plus jazz, choir, and more. I was probably in twelve groups, with three to four hours of rehearsal a day. It was a lot, but it was a great experience. My point is that guitar is always the afterthought. So that makes it tough if you’re a guitarist, especially trying to do a music education degree. 

“There were no jobs in 2008 for a non-standard music school graduate in Western New York. There was no guitar in the state beyond a few individual programs. I’d see over a hundred applicants for a single teaching job. I had friends applying who were competing in the same pool with their own former music teachers.  It was obvious there wasn’t going to be a slot for me. 

“So I went to Ithaca College for graduate school. I had an intense graduate assistantship with a twelve-hour teaching course load. At the same time I was adjunct teaching at Cayuga Community College twice a week, and I was added to the roster to teach privately at Cornell.”

The Road to Austin

“In the summer of 2010, I had the good fortunate of going to Italy to study with Matteo Mela and Lorenzo Micheli in their summer festival. That was the same summer ACG hosted the Guitar Foundation of America in Austin. If I hadn’t gone to Italy, I probably would have been in Austin for GFA, since I had begun volunteering for GFA in 2009 for their Ithaca convention. Plus I wanted to visit Austin because people had told me by then that Austin had guitar teachers in public schools. That was a real eye-opening possibility for someone from the Northeast, because those programs with full-time guitar teachers just didn’t exist there. 

“A year later the GFA was in Columbus, Georgia. I was there helping out with stage direction, and I met Matt Hinsley. He was standing in line, waiting to register. I walked up and introduced myself. We had a conversation about guitar teaching and guitar in Texas, and he invited me to contact him if I wanted to learn more. So later that summer I reached out by email to see if there were any public school teaching positions in Texas, and his response was, ‘No, nothing we know of, but… we are looking for a part-time ensemble conductor for our adult groups. Would you be interested?’

“At the time, I was trying to put together several part-time jobs that would allow me to stay in Ithaca, so Matt’s offer got me thinking. I remember he asked, ‘How mobile are you? How quick could you get down to Texas?’ I told him I thought I could be on the road in three days. A friend helped me mount a hitch on my van, I loaded everything I needed, and started driving on August 10th, 2011.  

“I was in Oklahoma City getting gas when Matt called me and said, “Hey Eric, where are you?” And I told him. Then he asked, ‘How soon can you be in Austin?’ At that point we had not set a specific date. ‘Can you be here tomorrow morning?’ 

“I cut short the visit I’d planned with a friend in Dallas, left early the next morning for Austin, and drove straight to the ACG office where I met April Long, who was the Operations Director at the time. Everyone else, including Matt, was out of town, and a need had come up they hadn’t anticipated. So I just parked my van and trailer across several spots in the office parking lot, April drove me straight to my first teaching gig at St. Gabriel’s school, and I went to work!"

Austin Classical Guitar and Flexibility

Things happen fast at ACG, sometimes too fast! The organization has grown every year for twenty years. Creativity can be messy, showbiz is unpredictable, guitar education in public schools has been a bit like the wild west, and ACG has been on the frontier. So far in this story we’ve learned that Eric gets interested in things. When he gets fascinated by stuff he dives deep. He’s also no stranger to extremes and intensity. The messiness of ACG has provided endless opportunities for learning, innovation, and sometimes-wild extremes.

“Situations forcing flexibility, is definitely a theme in my life. I don’t know any other way to be. Because I’ve always been in situations where I’ve looked around, seen that something needed to be done, and noticed that no one else was jumping on it. I can think of many cases in school and in previous jobs where I’ve realized that—while I may not be the perfect person for a particular challenge—if I geared up and trained for it, then I could meet the need, be it grant writing, managing twenty-five teachers, or learning percussion. 

“You have a choice when you meet challenges. You can give up and do something else, or you can figure out what sort of training and self-learning you need in order to accomplish the thing. If I have any sort of pathology, it’s that I really don’t like giving up and failing. So if I have some resource to exchange for not failing, be it my sleep schedule, or time, or having to do ten different projects, or learn a new skill set, I tend to choose that exchange. Not since I worked in a restaurant in my teens, have I had a job where you just punch in, have people tell you what to do, and everything’s clear. It’s always been messy. I assume that’s often the case in the arts, and in education. The circles we’re in, and the career path we’re on, demands flexibility.”

Thank You Eric!

Thank you Eric! Austin Classical Guitar is a better organization for your knowledge, your flexibility, your innovation, your drive not to fail, and your insistence to deliver magical results. It’s safe to say we wouldn’t be the organization we are today without you.

And while this interview came about because of Eric’s heroic and singular work to develop our online streaming concert capabilities during this pandemic, we want to be sure and mention that—in addition to being a tremendous music educator—Eric is our Director of Curriculum and is primarily responsible for our two key online curriculum resources: and our Braille lifelong learning resource

We would like to take this opportunity also to say a special thanks to the Still Water Foundation, who gave an unexpected gift over the summer specifically to assist with our pivots to online concert presentation. Purchasing the gear Eric mentioned in this interview, along with hiring our support personnel, was made possible by that gift. 

Finally, we’d like to share our opening concert, from September, 26th, with maestro Pepe Romero. If you did not get to see the concert, or even if you did, we know you’ll love this magnificent experience, and be able to appreciate it even more, now that you know a bit about how it happened!