Postcards: Internal Creations - New York City

Postcards is an Austin Classical Guitar (ACG) and GuitarCurriculum.com series that explores the guitar programs around the nation and strives to bring the guitar teacher community together. 

This week’s Postcards is written by Internal Creations’s (IC) Founder and Executive Director, Jahzeel Montes. IC is a New York-based “classical guitar program dedicated to empowering youth through music education while providing a safe, nurturing, family based learning environment centered on expanding the student’s knowledge in music and decision-making.” 

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Community Service Through Music

Jahzeel Montes

As a music organization, we must remember that all our work is to improve the quality of life for the communities and people we serve. In December, Internal Creations’ students performed Christmas songs for the residents, community members, local merchants and elected officials of East New York at Cypress Hills-Fulton Senior Center. This brought joy to the audience. Many of whom had never been exposed to a classical guitar ensemble. In return, the audience members and elected officials gave each student who performed citations for their community service!

That same month we performed at St. John's Bread and Life soup kitchen in Brooklyn. The performance took place while guests were waiting for their pantry order. Some of the audience members came up to learn how to play a song on the guitar! They loved the experience, and it bought smiles and confidence to their life in a matter of a few minutes. Later on, our students even helped prepare the food orders - working until near closing time. Through this experience, the young performers learned the beauty of giving back and how great it feels to help others who are in need.

Our students also performed an interactive concert at a Montessori School. We played children’s songs and the young audience was encouraged to sing along. The performance was followed by a Q&A, where the children asked the students about guitar, music, and their experiences. Our students then worked with the young children on educational games, and learned about what it takes to become a teacher in the pre-k settings. 

Lastly, when our students have gone into senior centers, it has not only been about the performance. It has been about the exchange of skills, ideas, and stories. Often, IC students take the initiative to teach the seniors how to play. Additionally, the students listen to the seniors’ stories and get inspired by their life experiences.

When students go into a soup kitchen, senior center, or a school to perform, it's not only about playing the guitar - it's about sharing and helping out with the work needed for their mission.

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Internal Creations approaches every community space trying to answer the question - how can we enhance our community through music? By creating meaningful performances, the organization inspires both the young musicians and the audience members. In turn, bringing people together through art, love, and respect. 


First Javier Niño Scholarship Awarded

Javier Niño

Javier Niño was wonderful young man who brought joy through beauty and kindness to countless people during his short lifetime. He was an excellent student, an inspiring musician, and a great friend to many. Javier graduated high school as a distinguished member of the McCallum Chamber Guitar Ensemble under the direction of Andrew Clark, and for years he worked closely with ACG team members Joseph Palmer and Jeremy Osborne. 

With the help of the Skeel/Baldauf family, Diane, Larry and Aaron, and many friends and supporters, we at Austin Classical Guitar honor Javier’s legacy through the Javier Niño Memorial Scholarship Fund. You can learn more about Javi’s fund, read comments from friends, and contribute, online here

 


Today we are pleased to announce that our first recipient of the Javier Niño Scholarship is Elijah Melodic Flores.  Elijah began studying guitar with Phil Swasey at Bedicheck Middle School. Currently, Elijah is a junior in the Crockett High School guitar program under the direction of Ron Hare. 

As a Javier Niño Scholarship award winner, Elijah will receive a new instrument, weekly lessons, and various performance and enrichment opportunities in the coming year.

We asked Elijah about his start with guitar.

Elijah Flores

“I started playing classical guitar when I was 11 years old at Bedichek Middle School. I was drawn to guitar after listening to my dad as a child. The main reason I wanted to join a music program was because of my dad. He wanted me to have a productive outlet for my energy.

Before I started Middle School, I struggled with focus and I was very hyper and uncontrolled. I would frustrate my teachers because I would never sit still or stop talking. I remember my very first day walking into guitar class feeling excited and a little scared when I met my first guitar teacher, Mr. Swasey. He was very nice and charismatic and helped me to feel comfortable along with the other students in a friendly environment.”

 

Phil Swasey had this to say when he heard the news. “Congratulations to Elijah on this amazing honor, I'm very proud! It was my pleasure to work with him for three years at Bedichek Middle School, and watching his musical development in that short span of time was inspiring. Every morning as a 6th grader he was in my room practicing with the 8th graders to learn their music, and every year after seemed to develop exponentially motivated by his thirst for music. I'm confident that Elijah will flourish with the resources granted to him through the Javier Niño Scholarship and conduct himself in the spirit of this generous opportunity.”

As for the future, Elijah had this to say. “My goal for my 6th year playing guitar is to try my best to perfect my technique, learn more challenging music, compete in more competitions, and build my auditioning repertoire for colleges. My dream with guitar is to create my own music and be able to record and edit it. This applies to any instrument; I want to learn it all.

Classical guitar has changed my life and will always be valuable to me. It takes a lot more effort and commitment to learn such a beautiful style of guitar than to just strum chords of play riffs, and I’m proud to call myself a classical guitarist.”


together

together is our guiding principle this year, it's what we're calling the whole season. together is also the name of our January concert -- the next step in our series of artistic explorations that began with i/we, and continued last year with dream.

We asked our Artistic Director Joseph Williams, and our Education Director Travis Marcum, to share their thoughts about together, and this is what they said:

One of the greatest challenges of our time is isolation. Whether we are cut off from one another by technology, addiction, health, or dogma, this separateness can make it difficult to see beyond the moment, beyond ourselves. 

As a theme for our season, together is about disrupting the pattern of isolation and fostering belonging. 

It is about meeting people where they are, and exercising the power of music to create a space for shared experience and beauty. It is a movement - a call to action to notice the distance between us, to dissolve social borders and build community.

together is a year long community effort spanning our upcoming season, and it is a new concert project that will be premiered January 2020.  Like our community-centered concert projects dream and i/we, we are asking people to share their experiences in their words so that we can all listen, bear witness, contribute our own voice, and learn.

Travis and I have been talking with people across the Austin community in hospitals, senior living facilities, shelters, and in homes. We have asked the questions: How are you alone? How do you belong? What are the times in your life that have pulled you to the fringes, resulting in isolation? What brings you closer to others? What are your experiences of unambiguous love and support that have made you feel one with your community, your world? 

The ACG Youth Orchestra.

Last Spring, Travis had the opportunity to work with a young woman at Dell Children's Hospital through ACG's Music & Healing Program as she was preparing for the latest of many major surgeries.  You can read about a very special day with her here.

When asked, how do you belong? She said: 

"There is life in this (hospital) room. I can see colors. I can hear my mom say I love you. I can taste, and I can hear laughter. I can hear the guitar. Even if I am stuck between these four walls and I can't move, there is life in this room. And I belong because I have a purpose. That purpose is gratitude. My purpose is to help people like they have helped me. As a person with a disability, I am an outcast. But I believe I can help people love themselves."

One of the songs from the Music & Healing program:

together is a collective celebration of our differences and an opportunity to marvel at our sameness.

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Do you have thoughts you might like to share about how you are alone, or how you belong? Join our discussion on FaceBook or email us!

Most of all, we invite you to be together with us, and we welcome your suggestions any time for how we can better include individuals in our community in meaningful ways -- especially individuals experiencing isolation.