From Our Artistic Director: Kazuhito Yamashita

From our Artistic Director, Joe Williams:

Kazuhito Yamashita is out of this world, and he’s back in Austin.

Our next International Series Concert brings together Yamashita’s incomparable virtuosity with the masterful etchings of Francisco Goya.

Matt Hinsley and I couldn’t contain our excitement, so we sat down to chat about why this concert is a once in a lifetime experience.

Check out the conversation below.  Find tickets for Nov. 10 & 11 and more info here.

 

 

Full Transcript:

Matt: How can you be ready? It's impossible.

Joe: Right, exactly. Are you ready, Matt?

Matt: I have been so excited about this concert for so long. We have this spectacular talent in Kazuhito Yamashita coming to Austin to do something that only he can do, in only the way that he can do it, and bring to life in a moment this extraordinary interpretation, this extraordinary art. We are gonna experience something totally unique, transcendent, superhuman, it’s gonna be an event in Austin. And in a hall that seats 300 people.

I was first talking to Kazuhito about coming back - this will be his third time coming to Austin and right out of the gate, this was his suggestion: to play the 24 Caprichos de Goya [J: the Tedesco Caprichos de Goya in total, which I think no one does.]

Matt: Tedesco was the teacher of some of the great film composers of our time.

Joe: John Williams, Henry Mancini, basically the people that taught us how to experience digital media through music. Mr. Star Wars himself learned how to do this from Tedesco.

Matt: His language evokes ideas in music, it paints pictures with music, it takes ideas and themes, and in this case images, and brings them to life in music in such a demonstrative and expressive way.

And the subject matter is the 24 etchings of Francisco Goya, and these etchings are so deep, and the deep social commentary that’s timeless...

Joe: So what we get to hear in this concert is Tedesco interpreting Goya’s masterful etchings, with a language that is already part of our vernacular. We have Goya who is making etchings, pointing at the aristocrats, the religious figures, and the public, and showing our foibles, our problems, with this amazing wit. It’s very sharp critique of society. We actually get to hear and experience and see this artwork the way it’s supposed to be. Cause we’re going to look up and see these amazing projections of Goya’s etchings while Yamashita is playing them, and stay in that space of imagining the composer looking at that etching, how we feel about that beautiful piece of art, and then hear this amazing landscape of music.

Matt: And in a way, what Tedesco brings to us in 24 Caprichos de Goya is an elongation of experience in sound of an image which you can see instantaneously. You see the image in a moment, we experience the music over 4 minutes or 7 minutes with all these peaks and valleys in that experience.

You could crawl into this experience from so many angles - from social criticism, from art, art history, from music, music history, just guitar awesomeness. It’s gonna be one of those events you wanna crawl into multiple times, you’re gonna wanna come back, and actually you can! Because it’s gonna be happening twice, once on the 10th, and once on the 11th at the Blanton Museum Auditorium. So this opportunity to experience something this deep, this powerful, I’m looking forward to both times. Can’t wait.

Joe: Can’t wait.


Thoughts from the Border: Eclipsing Violence with Music

For our ACG Fall Fund Drive, we’re sharing stories on our Changing Lives Storyboard of ways music has changed our world, and how our community helped make it happen. Consider supporting ACG today!


“We’re trying to save them with music.”

Last weekend, we opened our International Series 2018-19 Season with celebrated guitarist Ana Vidovic. While audience members enjoyed an art display and refreshments in the lobby, a small group of people gathered in the Black Box Theater. They were students, teachers, and mothers from the city of Reynosa Tamaulipas, Mexico, and they had driven more than five hours from the US-Mexico border to perform for Ana Vidovic.

The students - one only six years old, his legs dangling off the chair as he held a half-size guitar - each played short solos while their mothers watched proudly. Ana listened to each one and gave thoughtful feedback, the students nodding with wide eyes at their teacher’s translation of her words into Spanish. A few years ago, the possibility of such an opportunity for these children would have been unthinkable.

According to their teacher, Mario Quintanilla Saucedo, the city of Reynosa Tamaulipas has become increasingly troubled with violence in recent years, and there's no clear end in sight.

“It’s practically unsafe to go into streets and live a normal life. Children 9 to 14 years old are enlisted in the most dangerous criminal gangs, carrying assault rifles instead of musical instruments,” Mario told us.

Mindful of the deteriorating role of culture in their city, a small group of music-lovers began searching for a guitar teacher for their children. They came upon one in the city of Monterrey Nuevo León, 140 miles from Reynosa. Mario Quintanilla Saucedo has studied with distinguished masters of international stature - including Ana Vidovic - and placed in national guitar competitions across Mexico.

“Our idea was to rescue children by occupying them in the art of classical guitar before they could be victims of organized crime," Mario explained, "the theory being that a child who learns guitar from a young age will never carry a weapon.”

After almost a year of bringing a student to study with Mario in Monterrey once a week, the plan changed: every weekend, Mario would drive the three hours to Reynosa Tamaulipas. Now, he has a whole studio of students between the ages of 4 and 53.

When Mario heard that Ana Vidovic was coming to Austin, he contacted her to ask if his students could play before the concert. He wanted to show them a world of hope, opportunity, and the possibility of life in the arts.

"Keep your strength," she told one of the students after he'd played. "Mantén tu fuerza."

“This trip to Austin showed that we are doing the right thing by helping children grow up in an environment of music instead of one concerned with terror and violence," Mario wrote to us after the concert.

“Our students and their parents were very happy with the reception and attention you gave us, it was much more than we could have imagined. The stage you set up so Ana Vidovic could hear us was spectacular and touching. ACG is a wonderful organization, and your team was very kind.”

His guitar studio would soon like to relocate to a nearby city of McAllen or Mission, Texas, since Reynosa is very dangerous. "We do not want any of our students to be accidentally injured by a stray bullet. Currently, our facilities are in a private house for our students' safety.”

"We see education as a cornerstone for changing the course of our children and our environment.”

They aspire to follow the model of ACG Education.

“Our project is small and has a limited budget, but we believe it will grow. We will hopefully see our progress reflected in disciplined young people with artistic training who someday could be in high spheres of the classical guitar world."


Music for a Little Spirit

For our ACG Fall Fund Drive, we’re sharing stories on our Changing Lives Storyboard of ways music has changed our world, and how our community helped make it happen. Consider supporting ACG today!


Since 2012, our Lullaby Project has paired ACG artist-clinicians with mothers in challenging circumstances. Together, they talk about the mother's hopes, fears, and musical inspirations, then create and record a personal song for her baby. The mother then has a lullaby entirely of her own that she and her child can listen to for years to come. A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the recording session of one mother's lullaby: "Bright Eyes."

Photo by Bastien Jaillot

A woman sits in front of a table scattered with recording equipment, a journal, and a box of tissues. A man offers her headphones, tilts the mic closer to her face, and asks if she’s ready. She inhales deeply, gazes at the phone leaning against her water bottle, and laughs good-naturedly. “As ready as I'll ever be. Let’s do it.”

The woman is Kheira, mother of Jennings Dean. Jennings has spent the first 130 days of his life in the neonatal intensive care Unit of St. David’s Medical Center. He was born several months premature, weighing only one pound at birth.

Kheira’s phone, propped up to be the center of attention while recording, displays a recent photo of Jennings: a healthy, plump tot wearing huge, goofy glasses - it was costume day - and a Yoda onesie that says “Too Cute I Am”. This picture would have been impossible to imagine a few months ago.

Kheira is recording a lullaby she’s written with the calm guidance of Arnold Yzaguirre, one of Austin Classical Guitar's Lullaby Project clinicians. They’ve already met a few times in the past month to talk about the melody, lyrics, and message of her lullaby.

“It was magic,” she said of the process. “It was like the melody was already there, we just plucked it out of the universe.”

Photo by Aditya Romansa

Music has always been present in baby Jennings’ life. Dismayed at having to leave him alone in the NICU every night, Kheira persuaded the nurses to play Pandora in his room.

“It started with just classical, but it’s evolved to whatever we’re listening to. He loves Foster the People. We have Fleetwood Mac Saturdays.”

Some mothers in the Lullaby Project choose to have someone else record their lullaby, but Kheira wanted to sing it herself. Her voice radiates with gentle, soothing strength. She tells Jennings of the uncertainty at the beginning of his life, and the fearless resilience she saw in his bright eyes. Her words reflect his light from within during the dark time, and encourage him to Be kind. Be brave. Be unafraid. Always remember you’re a part of my soul … If you ever forget how much you are loved, just listen to your song.

“Before I started working on the lullaby,” Kheira said, “I hadn’t been thinking about what I wanted to say to him outside the hospital, because I hadn’t even thought about the future.

"I was so busy living in the now, thinking about the medical jargon, the questions of ‘Is he breathing? Is he surviving?’ It was good to take a step back and think about what the future could be, and to think of him as a little person, a little spirit.”

A few weeks later, Arnold brought the final recording of “Bright Eyes” to Kheira. She held her baby, finally home after over 140 days, in her arms while her husband and Jennings listened to the lullaby for the first time. Tears rolled down her face as she said, “It’s perfect.”


Teacher Spotlight Part III: Bringing Folklore to the Guitar

For our ACG Fall Fund Drive, we’re sharing stories on our Changing Lives Storyboard of ways music has changed our world, and how our community helped make it happen. Consider supporting ACG today!


Fourteen years ago, Austin Classical Guitar recognized the need for an improved system of school-based guitar education comparable to established programs in choir, orchestra, and band. Three years later, we launched GuitarCurriculum.com. Now used internationally by hundreds of teachers serving tens of thousands of students, "GC.com" is a comprehensive teacher resource that includes a searchable library of original, pedagogically-sequenced ensemble literature, sight reading, and audio and video tutorials, all espousing a powerful core educational philosophy of “expressive, beautiful music-making from the very first day."

We've been talking to teachers around the country - and the world - about how they use our curriculum, and wanted to share Jane's story with you. The following is the third installment of our three-part series.


Jane's classes incorporate diverse elements of instruction. “We're a Cajun, Creole, and Country music town. We respond to that as guitar teachers.”

She’s written arrangements of many Cajun and Creole tunes, and has a rotating set of projects that emphasize cultural aspects of Louisiana heritage. Through scavenger hunts, biographies, and live performances of instruments and music genres from around the world, Jane integrates her folklore background into the classroom.

A Kora player with Jane's student

“Last year we had a Kora player come play in class, and the students did a little improv of its scale with a drone underneath.”

“This year I have a student who just moved from Haiti, and we’re going to do a Haitian folk song in class. It’ll help him with his transition, and expose classmates to his culture as well.”

She also has a “Family Jam Night” at the end of the year. She asks her students to interview a family member who plays music, and then hosts an inter-generational jam night. She’s encountered grandmas and grandpas who play everything from rock and classical to Cajun accordion.

"When you’re in the trench, you think it’s just class, but then later, you find out it’s not. I’ve had students get full music scholarships to college, students who go into music business, and kids that have CDs out, traveling bands, all kinds of stuff. It’s really cool. We live in a very creative hub here that really encourages that, and I’m glad to be making this particular contribution to the effort."

"When I find out I’ve sparked creativity and direction in some student’s life, wow. That’s just amazing."

"It took a while to come back to me, but now my students are succeeding as young adults in music. I’ve put between 1500-2000 students out into the world. When you do that, you feel like you just launch them out there. But certain students have really taken on the guitar and music as their life."

 


Teacher Spotlight Part II: Growing a Program with GuitarCurriculum.com

For our ACG Fall Fund Drive, we’re sharing stories on our Changing Lives Storyboard of ways music has changed our world, and how our community helped make it happen. Consider supporting ACG today!


Fourteen years ago, Austin Classical Guitar recognized the need for an improved system of school-based guitar education comparable to established programs in choir, orchestra, and band. Three years later, we launched GuitarCurriculum.com. Now used internationally by hundreds of teachers serving tens of thousands of students, "GC.com" is a comprehensive teacher resource that includes a searchable library of original, pedagogically-sequenced ensemble literature, sight reading, and audio and video tutorials, all espousing a powerful core educational philosophy of “expressive, beautiful music-making from the very first day."

We've been talking to teachers around the country - and the world - about how they use our curriculum, and wanted to share Jane's story with you. The following is the second installment of our three-part series.


Over the past twenty years, Jane Vidrine has built a guitar program up from nothing at the LJ Alleman Fine Arts Magnet Academy. She now teaches about a hundred 5th-8th graders in seven classes a day. For years, she was the only classroom guitar teacher in all of Lafayette.

LJ Alleman Fine Arts Magnet Academy Guitar Class

She found GuitarCurriculum.com after searching for ensemble music, and six years ago, she attended Austin Classical Guitar’s first Summer Teacher Training Workshop.

“I was looking for ways to grow the program up into high school and down into elementary school. At that time, there was very little online. If you searched for 'guitar ensemble music,' forget it. It was almost non-existent.”

She uses the Curriculum primarily for the repertoire, finding the division of levels within music to be the most helpful.

“Even in an advanced piece, there will be some part for your student who’s more challenged. I think the thought process behind the pedagogy is just outstanding, it’s so solid."

"GuitarCurriculum.com represents for teachers what we see in front of us everyday: students from all levels, and all kinds of challenges."

She's faced a number of unique challenges in the classroom. Until last year, her school ran the hearing impaired program of her parish, and this year, it's home to students on the autism spectrum. She’s also taught several students with visual impairments.

Courtesy of KADN News

Jane has taken an innovative approach to building her program. To create a pipeline from elementary school music classes into her middle school guitar programs, she developed and wrote a grant for a ukulele program called “The Ukulele Suitcase.” She has about three dozen ukuleles which she loans  to teachers, and offers annual training workshops for elementary music educators. The idea behind starting with ukulele is that tiny fingers can negotiate the smaller instrument more easily, which builds basic skills that are then transferable to guitar.

Although high schools in Lafayette didn't have guitar years ago, so many of her students were entering the high schools that parents demanded they offer guitar classes. The Lafayette Magnet Arts Academy guitar program, a direct stem from her alumni, has enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Jane's middle school.

"It's building by itself, not because of anything I personally have done, but because students coming out of my program ask for the class, and other schools see how successful my program is. It’s more a supply and demand thing."

"Austin’s program is sort of our dream."

To be continued in Part III


Teacher Spotlight Part I: From Folklore to Music Education

For our ACG Fall Fund Drive, we’re sharing stories on our Changing Lives Storyboard of ways music has changed our world, and how our community helped make it happen. Consider supporting ACG today!


Fourteen years ago, Austin Classical Guitar recognized the need for an improved system of school-based guitar education comparable to established programs in choir, orchestra, and band. Three years later, we launched GuitarCurriculum.com. Now used internationally by hundreds of teachers serving tens of thousands of students, "GC.com" is a comprehensive teacher resource that includes a searchable library of original, pedagogically-sequenced ensemble literature, sight reading, and audio and video tutorials, all espousing a powerful core educational philosophy of “expressive, beautiful music-making from the very first day."

We've been talking to teachers around the country - and the world - about how they use our curriculum, and wanted to share Jane's story with you. The following is the first installment of our three-part series.


Originally a museum curator and folklorist in St. Louis, Jane Vidrine is a guitar teacher and musician in Lafayette, Louisiana. A few years ago she was named the Lafayette Education Foundation's "Teacher of the Year," and she's part of a two-time Grammy-nominated, all-female Cajun and Creole band called the Magnolia Sisters.

Jane traveled to Louisiana after her friend, Nick Spitzer of NPR’s “American Routes,” enlisted her help with the Louisiana Folklife Pavilion at the New Orleans 1984 World’s Fair. She’s been in Lafayette - the "Hub City" and the state's center of Creole culture - ever since.

Jane Vidrine, far left

After moving to Louisiana, she continued to do cultural programming and museum curation for a while, but turned her attention toward education when she and her husband had two children.

“It was the beginning of the French immersion program at their school, and here we were in the heart of Cajun and Creole music, and they weren’t teaching music in French,” Jane said.

She wrote some grants to place herself in the classrooms, teaching Cajun and Creole music in French as a field work and archival project. She became “one of those classic itinerant teachers teaching seven different classes in three or four different places every day.”

“I knew the language of folklore and the language of music, but I decided at that point I needed to learn the language of education. So I went back to school and got my Master’s in Education.”

One day about twenty years ago, a girl in her middle school French immersion class said, ‘Miss Vidrine, you’re always teaching us with your guitar. Why don’t you teach us guitar?’

When Jane inquired about a guitar class, her principal said, ‘If you can recruit the students, you can do it.’

Jane only had six students the first year, but her conviction to bring students into the community for exposure to authentic performance settings enabled the word to spread quickly. During a student performance for a principals’ luncheon, one of the principals rushed up to her afterward and said, “I need you at my school.”

To be continued in Part II


Postcard from Brownsville

For our ACG Fall Fund Drive, we're sharing stories on our Changing Lives Storyboard of ways music has changed our world, and how our community helped make it happen. Consider supporting ACG today!


A few weeks ago, we got a message from a student in Brownsville, Texas:

 

We reached out to him to learn more about his passion for guitar, and this is what he told us:

"I started guitar by coincidence sophomore year because my school counselor just put me in guitar class. I knew nothing about it. We started with guitar one: basics of how to sit and how to read music. And now I’m in the guitar 4 class, the varsity, which is a guitar quartet that competes in music contests.

My school's population is 98% Mexican, but the majority speaks English. My guitar teacher knows both English and Spanish, so if students don’t understand something he can say it in Spanish.

My whole family has a history of music: my dad played in a band in the 80's and 90's, my older brother is a high school band director, my middle brother played in band in middle and high school, and my youngest brother was in an Estudiantina, a traditional Cuban guitar  and singing group.

I found out about ACG because my teacher intended for my quartet to go to ACG Fest, but my school didn’t have enough funds. That’s when I started looking at y’alls website, reading about all you do and the concerts y'all host. I love the organization because I feel like not many kids, especially younger kids, realize what classical guitar is. When people say "classical guitar", they probably imagine an electric one.

The fact that you bring classical guitar to young kids is really inspiring.

I love the guitar because it's so versatile. It can be played very forcefully or delicately. You can play ponticello or dolce. And music can be arranged so well for the instrument, ranging from piano pieces to modern pop pieces. The repertoire for guitar is the absolute best!

I definitely plan to pursue a career in guitar performance. I know people say that music degrees and careers are very risky, and even my teachers ask if I have support from my family. But my family all supports me. I’ve applied to the Butler School of Music, University of Texas - Austin, and I plan to apply to two more schools as well."

Matt's story reaffirms our belief that no one should be barred from attending or participating in any ACG event because of the cost. If you'd like to be involved in helping kids like Matt take full advantage of the opportunities we provide, contact us at info@austinclassicalguitar.org


Artist Robin Emmerich: Overcoming Fear

We had so much fun partnering with local visual artists this past season as part of our International Series concerts at the AISD Performing Arts Center, and look forward to showcasing more talented artists in the coming year! For our opening night concert with the fabulous Ana Vidovic on September 22nd, we're thrilled to feature Austin-based artist Robin Emmerich. We recently got the chance to speak with her about how she dove into art after grappling with personal struggles.

What led to your present career?

I was working my way up the corporate ladder, but found myself unfulfilled. I thought, 'Wow, I went to college and everything for this?'

Then the perfect storm happened: a car accident, someone attempting to break into my home, someone attempting to break into my car. These random events led me to deeper work, deeper healing work. I started a personal journey of transformation.

Those events created a lot of fear. I found a doctor who brought me into a deep meditative state to work through those experiences. Through my personal development, I tapped into the creative force, the artist, within me.

How did you begin painting?

One day years ago, I wanted to open my heart more to love, and an artist friend said, “Come paint with me. Just try it.” I turned on music, set my intention like I would in any of my other work, and four hours later had created this amazing, gorgeous painting. I was in awe.

In a sense, I became addicted to that fear of facing a blank canvas, setting my intention, going inward, and painting.

My art comes from intention. I overcome the fear: I set an intention, feel the fear, and do it anyway. It’s like going on stage. Because art comes from such a higher place within us, sometimes it’s not for us to know how it’s going to be created. I set my intention, and trust in it.

What do you hope people get from your artwork?

A lot of people that view my artwork feel peace, hope, positivity. My hope is that no matter what a person has experienced, my art brings to them what their heart most desires.

I’ve already painted one piece while listening to her performance of Asturias by Isaac Albéniz, and I’m working on another.


Our Partners for "dream": CASA of Travis County

We're honored to partner with CASA of Travis County for our upcoming presentation of dream. This isn't our first collaboration - for the past several years, students from our guitar classes at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center have performed at CASA's swearing-in ceremonies for new volunteers. We talked with Callie Langford, their Director of Communications, to learn more about the services CASA provides for children in the welfare system.

I’ve worked with CASA of Travis County for the past ten years. CASA is a national organization that started over 40 years ago in Seattle, and the Travis County organization began in 1985. Last year we had over 700 volunteers helping almost 1,800 children.

We speak up for kids in the child welfare and foster care system. We recruit, screen, and train volunteers to work directly with kids in child protection services. Our volunteers don’t need a special education or background to become children’s advocates in the courtroom, in schools, and in the community.

The volunteers spend time building a trusting relationship with the child. If something goes wrong, or if the child is scared, the child knows to call the CASA volunteer.

To help build a well-rounded picture of the child's experience, the volunteer gets to know the parents, foster home parents, shelter workers, therapists, doctors, attorneys, and case workers. The advocate will see the child more often than most parties on the case, and will go to the courtroom and defend the interests of the child or sibling group about four times a year. Unlike an attorney with multiple cases at a time, our CASA volunteers are focused on only one child or sibling group.

CASA volunteers keep children in protection services from falling through the cracks of the system.

It's really a big commitment. About half of our volunteers have full-time jobs, and they range in age from 21 to 83. They have families, careers, and travel obligations. We ask our volunteers to commit to the lifetime of a case, which on average is around seventeen months. Volunteers typically give about fifteen hours per month.

It’s a really empowering and very engaging volunteer job, and probably the most professional volunteer role out there. I’m always amazed at how many people are able to do their end, and how much time they’re able to give. Our volunteers are incredible people.

A volunteer once told me that “It doesn’t take up time, it creates a space. It makes your life bigger.” 

I interviewed someone who was aging out of the CASA system a few years ago. We try to help the children make healthy adult connections and go in a successful direction after leaving our program. This young woman told me that she couldn’t decide between going to school to be an attorney or an engineer.

I asked where she would be without her Court Appointed Special Advocate, and she said with zero hesitation, “I’d be in jail.” She really attributed the success and direction in her life to her CASA volunteer.