Spring 2019 Education Report

Dear Friends of ACG Education,

I often find myself overwhelmed by the beautiful stories that pour into ACG each week of individual transformations, of achievements by students and programs and communities, of young musicians who have shaped themselves into career educators, of our own team members who have extended themselves beyond what they thought they could do.

At the heart of it all is purpose and belonging. I truly believe that, as gentle as music is, it has a deep super power inviting people to join together, with their own dreams and with others, to make positive change.

You have believed in us, you have supported us, and on behalf of all of us here at ACG Education, I am so profoundly grateful. I hope what you find in this brief report will make you proud.

Thank you,



Matt Hinsley, Executive Director
Austin Classical Guitar


Often in reports like this we talk about the big systems — the curriculum, the communities, the training — that support all of our partner programs. I’d like to begin this report, however, with a glimpse into the experiences of a few individuals.

Jeremy Osborne recently passed his ten-year mark as ACG’s Assistant Director of Education. I love starting off with Jeremy because he absolutely embodies the spirit of purpose and belonging I mentioned above. Jeremy is the member of our team most fully deployed in schools, and has affected the lives of thousands of students and teachers.

We created a special page in honor of Jeremy’s ten years of service, and invited people to share their thoughts and reflections. If you’d like to read some of the many tributes that have been pouring in, from students and teachers to colleagues and a Travis County judge who has seen the impact of his work with incarcerated and court-involved youth, click here. For this report, I’ll just include one of those tributes. This is from former student Makena Smith:

Mr. Osborne didn’t just teach us how to play guitar. He taught us to work hard for success, to believe in ourselves, how to work as an ensemble, and how to support each other. He gave us challenges and made us proud to be a part of our guitar program. Mr. Osborne is one of my greatest role models and I will never forget the wisdom, opportunities, and experiences he gave my peers and me. There was not a day guitar rehearsal went by where we weren’t excited to see Mr. Osborne.


We had a tragic loss in our student family this past February when Javier Niño lost his life at age 19 as the result of a traffic accident involving an impaired driver. Javi first discovered guitar at Eastside Memorial High School, where he began studying with Jeremy Osborne. With Jeremy’s help, he practiced hard and won an audition that allowed him to transfer to McCallum Fine Arts Academy. At McCallum, Javi distinguished himself both as a soloist and member of McCallum’s elite Guitar Quartet. He also began private studies with ACG Performance Engagement Artist Joseph Palmer. After graduating from McCallum, Javi became the first in his family to go to college, attending St. Edward’s University as a Computer Science major this past fall.

In a speech from earlier this year about Joseph Palmer, he wrote:

I always admired how amazing Joseph played and how easy he made it seem. I was nowhere near his level then, nor am I now. However that helped me understand what determination is, and how to pursue it. Have you ever wanted something so badly that you are willing to set everything aside just to accomplish that goal? Well that’s exactly how much I wanted to become a great player, and I established my determination to do so.

With the help of an initial gift from a family close to Javi, ACG has created a scholarship to honor and celebrate this remarkable young man. To learn more about the Javier Niño Memorial Scholarship Fund, click here.

There was a deeply moving interview with Javier’s mother on KUT’s Texas Standard that aired May 9th. You can find it here if you’d like to listen.


We meet so many bright young people through our work in schools. Angelica Campbell was a guitar student at Crockett High School in south Austin who worked very hard, received ACG lessons, and decided to audition for music school. We gave her a beautiful, guitar that a woman in Colorado had donated to us with the request that it be given to a talented and dedicated student who could use a high quality instrument. Angelica’s now a junior at the UT Austin Butler School of Music, and we couldn’t be more proud! She recently wrote a lovely letter of thanks to ACG and the donor who made the gift of her guitar possible:

I would not have been able to reach where I am today without the support of ACG and their donors/supporters and I am so incredibly grateful for the organization and all of its members. ACG has helped me with lessons to prepare me for my audition, with giving me opportunities to perform, and with providing opportunities to see professional performances and to meet many of the world-renowned musicians that I look up to.

Thanks to people like you who are generous enough to donate what you can, they were able to provide me with these incredible opportunities. Thank you so much for donating your Aparicio guitar to ACG; because of your donation I was able to have an instrument to audition with to get into the classical guitar program at UT and to help me begin my career path. Through your generous donation I was able to have a beautiful guitar that I was proud to call my own and perform numerous events and school requirements with. I hope to meet you one day to share my gratitude in person! 


Ann Richards School for Girls Guitar Ensemble at Concert & Sightreading, April 2019

The bulk of our day-to-day education activity is devoted, of course, to supporting Central Texas programs. Our core team is responsible for curriculum and quality in the development of more than 50 area school programs serving over 4,000 students, and we have five teaching artists providing 30+ free individual lessons every week to our students in Title I schools.


We helped install a new teacher who’s now leading programs at three schools in the Manor School District. Those classes are thriving we’ve just learned they are adding two new programs in the fall. Students in our for-credit after-school program in Del Valle participated in our Concert and Sight Reading assessment event for the first time this spring and received all “Superior” ratings. We are projecting significant growth in both San Marcos and Dripping Springs, where enrollment numbers are dramatically rising and new programs are planned. Our Austin ISD programs continue to be large, beautiful, and occasionally volatile, with lots that are thriving, and a few that struggle with challenges like large class sizes and teachers having to divide their time between multiple campuses.

While we spend a lot of time in the trenches helping individual teachers and students, our team continues to be involved in statewide advocacy and standard-setting activities, most notably in the creation and administration of Concert and Sightreading (C&SR) assessment events for large guitar ensembles.

We have developed and run a C&SR event in Austin for seven years, and assisted – through modeling, training, and sharing of procedures and documents – in the development of similar events in Houston, El Paso, and Corpus Christi. This spring, our C&SR event at the AISD Performing Arts Center drew 43 ensembles with nearly 1,000 students participating. Each ensemble played a prepared concert performance in front of three external judges, and then sight-read newly created musical excerpts for a second panel of judges. The importance of events like this for defining and ensuring educational standards across many programs cannot be overemphasized.

Our chief advocacy goals in the coming years are to establish C&SR events in at least 15 more districts in Texas, with the ultimate goal of convincing the University Interscholastic League (UIL) to begin overseeing contest and assessment events for large guitar ensembles statewide.

This is critical because the UIL is the official authority in Texas that governs C&SR events at all levels for established, traditional large ensemble programs – primarily choir, orchestra, and band. While we are working hard to get UIL to add guitar ensemble to this list, as well as advocating for a process that would create an All-State Guitar Ensemble, we are probably still several years away. So for now, our education team largely manages the C&SR event we hold each year in Austin – developing the protocols, recruiting and organizing judges and participants, creating new sight-reading excerpts, even taking the photographs and ordering and hand-delivering trophies!

The UIL does oversee competition events for solo classical guitar, however. ACG has been engaged in an intentional 2-year plan to increase student participation in these contests by deploying our Performance Engagement Artist, Dr. Joseph Palmer. Joseph has been visiting guitar classes in schools across the region, giving concerts in which he plays music from the UIL’s list of approved contest pieces. Then, as students prepare the piece they have chosen for the contest, they can reference a video of Joseph performing it as part of the 30+ Tutorial Videos he recorded. Since this effort began, guitar student solo UIL participation has nearly tripled, making guitar one of the most popular solo instrument categories in our region (UIL Region 18).

One other standard piece of district-level guitar education infrastructure is All-City and All-Region Guitar Ensembles. ACG is heavily involved in administering both the audition process and performances by these ensembles in Austin, and we are also supporting similar efforts by our partners in other communities. Our most recent All-City and All-Region events took place in the fall; details can be found in our Fall 2018 Education Report.

As you can see from our current curriculum user map, we have many teaching partners around the state of Texas. We interact directly with our statewide partners through our annual National Teacher Summit in Austin, along with in-person and electronic consultation as requested, and by sharing guest artists and performance engagement opportunities as they arise throughout the year. It is also worth mentioning that in 2014 ACG created the Texas Guitar Directors Association to serve as an advocacy organization for classroom guitar teachers. In 2017 the TGDA held statewide elections that transferred the leadership of the organization to a board made up of teachers from across the state. Today TGDA is growing and functioning beautifully.

Juvenile Justice

Jeremy and Javier after the Sunday, Dec. 9th Concert at Gardner Betts

We are particularly proud this year to have seen a former student from our local school programs come full circle, joining our teaching staff as the new director of guitar at the Travis County Juvenile Justice Center (Gardner Betts). You can read some of Javier Saucedo’s story here. He is now a certified music educator, and a treasured member of our teaching team. It’s beautiful!

We are also pleased to report that our services for youth in the juvenile justice system will be extending for the first time to Williamson County, with an enrichment program launching this summer and for-credit guitar classes offered to residents in the county’s detention facility starting in the fall. Also this summer, the Travis County Probation Department has asked us to offer individual instruction to youth in the community who are court-involved but not incarcerated. The intention of that program is to engage these young people in an enriching activity that can help establish a pathway to new social and scholastic opportunities when school begins again in the fall.

We were encouraged to see six years of academic data from Gardner Betts comparing performance of students enrolled in our guitar programs versus students not enrolled. While it is always difficult to draw large conclusions or infer direct causality from data like this, the trends are nonetheless encouraging.

United States and Beyond

We are always on the lookout for strong, motivated partners who could benefit from some extra support from our team. With curriculum subscribers in over 40 states and 20 countries, there are always exciting conversations happening with existing and potential new high-level partners. These conversations and the relationships that develop can produce positively transformative results for students, teachers, and families in the communities we partner with. I’d like to share a few stories here.

James McKay’s 7th Grade Guitar Class

St. Louis: St. Louis Classical Guitar (SLCG) continues to do beautiful things, including growth in programming, building capacity to add a full time education director, and developing their own program in the St. Louis juvenile justice system. We have spent extensive time with SLCG assisting both with education and organizational development, and I strongly recommend you read this beautiful feature on their work from the National Endowment on the Arts.

Cleveland: Perhaps our favorite story of 2019 so far was the CBS This Morning feature about Cleveland Classical Guitar. It is so beautiful that I won’t say any more except to encourage you to click here and enjoy!

Ontario, Canada: We were delighted to discover what we believe to be the first published scholarly paper about our online guitar curriculum! The title says it all: “Has Classroom Guitar Education Come of Age? A Review of the GuitarCurriculum.com Method.” It is perhaps the most detailed yet concise description we’ve seen of the tool we have been building since 2004 that is at the heart of all our classroom program building activities. You can read the paper online here.

Kathmandu, Nepal: We are simply thrilled to report that our program at the Early Childhood Development Center in Kathmandu is continuing. The new teacher, Ravindra Paudyal, trained internationally and has already begun making magic with the kids in the facility, which is a home for children of incarcerated parents founded by CNN Superhero Pushpa Basnet.

Guitar Education for Blind and Visually Impaired Students

The guitar program at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (video) is now in its ninth year. Two years ago, we realized that the world lacked a comprehensive tool for braille-based lifelong music learning on the guitar. With your generous support and 16 months of development, in July 2018 we launched LetsPlayGuitar.org, an online resource offering a sequential learning system that uses downloadable braille music files along with extensive audio guides to promote skill-learning in classical guitar and braille music literacy.

Our goal this year has been to expand the site with content supporting four additional skill levels, which will complement the initial four levels in place. With this Phase 2 addition, which includes 26 new pieces of music, we’ll have a system that will allow learners to progress to a point of fluency on the guitar in first position over several years of study, and make lots of beautiful, joyful music along the way! This will be a significant milestone for us. I’m thrilled to report that we have completed braille files for all 26 new pieces. In the coming months, the audio instructional guides will be prepared, and we are on track to launch the new levels in July, 2019.  


There is so much more to report! But I will stop there for this mid-year update. By the end of 2019 I look forward to reporting on major new developments with our core resource, GuitarCurriculum.com, along with the launch of LetsPlayGuitar.org, the results of new training relationships, and many more beautiful stories of personal transformation.

I would like to thank each and every one of you for believing in ACG Education, and for believing in the power of music to change lives. If in reading this report you have decided you might like to get more involved with us in any way, please don’t hesitate to email me.

I would also like to take a moment to thank our amazing sponsors and institutional supporters, including:

City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Augustine Foundation, Webber Family Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Sue L. Nguyen Trust, Kaman Foundation, Still Water Foundation, the Rea Charitable Trust, Cain Foundation, Texas Women for the Arts, Kodosky Foundation, Lucy Ross Farland, H-E-B Tournament of Champions, Tingari-Silverton Foundation, Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, Michael R. Levy, Texas Commission on the Arts, MFS Foundation, Sarah & Ernest Butler, the University Area Rotary Club, the Mitte Foundation, Shield-Ayres Foundation, the Skeel-Baldauf Family, Applied Materials, Bill & Lynne Cariker, Louise Epstein & John Henry McDonald, Long Foundation, Wright Family Foundation, Mercedes-Benz of Austin, Silicon Labs, 3M Foundation, Kendal & Ken Gladish, the Benavi Family, Austin Radiological Association, D’Addario Foundation, PwC, Urban Betty, Charles Schwab & Co., Burdine Johnson Foundation, Cindy Cook, William Metz, Karrie & Tim League, Austin Bar Foundation, Carl Caricari & Margaret Murray Miller, Rixen Law, Elaine & Michael Kasper, Victoria & Bill Donnellan, Bill & Mary LaRosa, Kerry & Carole Price, Bank of America Matching Gifts Program, Josh Stern & Reality Based Group, Tesoros Trading Company, Fiddler’s Green Music Shop, IBC Bank Austin, Savarez, Calido Guitars, and Strait Music.

On behalf of all of us here at ACG Education, thank you for your support, and I hope our work in the coming year will make you proud.

Fall 2018 Education Report

Dear Friends,

2018 has been another remarkable year in ACG Education. We are grateful every day for the unique opportunities we have to connect with children and adults across the globe through music.

Before 2001, music education in U.S. schools was primarily focused on choir, orchestra, and band. Our work these last 17 years has been to build deep, thoughtful, and advanced systems, from curriculum, to training, to assessment, to direct and adaptive services, all to add guitar as a rigorous option for engaging in the arts.

Guitar is easily the most popular instrument in the world, and our classroom-based model for teaching it has enabled schools and teachers to joyfully engage tens of thousands of new and different students in meaningful fine arts study – not in one-time or short-term engagements, but in years-long, deeply enriching educational endeavors.

On behalf of everyone at Austin Classical Guitar, we thank you for your support of our services, and for your belief in the power of music to positively change lives.

I hope the updates you find in this report will make you proud.



Matt Hinsley, Executive Director
Austin Classical Guitar

1) Let's Play!

CURRENT: We began our services at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) in 2010. Our partner teacher, Jeremy Coleman, converted our core curriculum into braille in 2012, and began a literacy-based approach to music instruction on the guitar at TSBVI.

In 2016, we realized that while our program at TSBVI was providing their students quality guitar instruction with impressive results, there was a lack of resources to support lifelong learning on the guitar for our students at TSBVI and other members of the low-vision community around the world.

We began an 18-month, $75,000 project to create an online resource that would offer a collection of graded, sequential solo guitar pieces, each with its own complementary set of audio and braille literacy guides. The site, called Let’s Play!, launched in early July, and within weeks was accessed by over 4,000 users in 20 countries.

One of them, Hendrik, wrote to us:

“I am a blind adult with an interest in playing classical guitar. In South Africa, there are not many teachers willing to take on the challenge of such a task. I am writing to thank you from the bottom of my heart for creating this resource and making it available to people like me.”

Explore Let’s Play!
Watch a KVUE News Story & meet three of our TSBVI guitar students

FUTURE: Let’s Play! currently guides learners through five “levels” of study. In the months ahead, we will be adding content to support two additional levels of study. Our goal is that by the time students have mastered all seven levels, they will have acquired the skills and music literacy necessary to begin exploring a large body of parallel literature without further core technical instruction. From our standpoint, this will be a significant milestone towards our vision of a true lifelong learning resource. Future development phases will focus on advanced skills and expanding the music library.

2) Central Texas


CURRENT: We have been very encouraged by the progress of our programs in three nearby districts. In Manor ISD, Decker Middle School just brought on Victor Longoria, one of our teaching artists, as a full time guitar instructor, and our curriculum is now being taught to students in general music classes at both Decker Elementary and Oak Meadows Elementary Schools. In Del Valle ISD, ACG’s Arnold Yzaguirre is teaching for-credit guitar classes after school. And in Dripping Springs ISD, we’re supporting a new high school program led by our partner teacher, Charles Cavanaugh.

All of these programs ended the semester with successful concerts this December.

FUTURE: We anticipate growth in all three of these districts, especially Manor. We also anticipate expanding our reach through new relationships in places like Hutto and San Marcos. The rising cost of housing in Austin is driving more and more families to outlying communities, which in turn is leading under-resourced school districts in those communities to seek our services.

Victor Longoria leads Decker Elementary School students in a performance of Jingle Bells, December 19.

3) Austin & District Infrastructure

CURRENT: Austin ISD is going through a volatile period, and with ACG-supported programs spread throughout the district, our services are widely impacted. At the heart of near-term and long-term challenges are well-publicized district funding decisions that affect all elements of AISD – including fine arts and guitar.

We are seeing challenges resulting from enormous class sizes, last-minute decisions to add or remove classes, unstable registration, and teacher assignments spread across two and sometime three campuses. Responding to these challenges has required new levels of support from our staff and teaching artists

Even in this environment of uncertainty, we have seen stability and notable growth in a number of programs. We are funding significant efforts at certain campuses where we believe there is unique need or opportunity, including LBJ/LASA High School, Travis High School, Martin Middle School, and Mendez Middle School.

We continue to focus on promoting district-wide standards and assessment. In April, ACG’s education team led the fifth annual District Concert and Sight-Reading Contest, which included 44 student ensembles with 608 total student participants. Other districts in Texas, such as El Paso, Houston, Odessa, Brownsville, and Killeen, are currently working toward piloting similar events with the help of ACG and our affiliates.

Our staff also assisted with the All-City and All-Region Ensemble concerts in November. These auditioned ensembles bring together top students from around the district to play together, help with setting standards, and celebrating achievement. ACG’s Matt Hinsley and Joe Williams conducted the Middle School and High School All-Region Ensembles at this year’s event.

4) Free Lessons Initiative

CURRENT: Six ACG teaching artists are currently providing free individual lessons for 34 students with financial need every week at Bedichek Middle School, and at Travis, McCallum, Akins, and Reagan High Schools.

We’re particularly proud that 16 of our free lessons recipients participated in this year’s All-City/All-Region Ensembles, including eight out of the 20 high school students selected for the top All-Region Ensemble.

FUTURE: We are currently developing a framework for a new kind of community presence we call Pro-Social Ecosystem. We aim to empower our students to serve their community with music, thereby benefiting both themselves and their community. Among other things, we expect our Free Lesson recipients to be involved in service projects ranging from performances in retirement homes to mentoring younger students.

5) Juvenile Justice

Jeremy and Javier after the Sunday, Dec. 9th concert

CURRENT: We’re very excited about our former student Javier Saucedo, who we met as a junior at Akins High School a few years ago. Javier received an ACG scholarship to attend Austin Community College, and then transferred to Texas State, where he earned an undergraduate degree in music. He’s now on our education team as the new guitar director at the Travis County Juvenile Justice Center. With support from ACG Assistant Director of Education Jeremy Osborne, Javier is doing a fantastic job, and just led his students’ first public recital on December 9th.

FUTURE: We’ve had several inquiries, from St. Louis to New York, about assisting other communities to build similar programs for incarcerated youth. Here in central Texas we are working toward two types of program expansion: the first is to build a new program in Williamson County, and the second is to launch services for court-involved youth who are not incarcerated as an intervention model to be included in their probation case plans.

6) Musical Wellness & The Lullaby Project

CURRENT: The Lullaby Project has continued to grow. Lullaby artist Claire Puckett has joined our existing team of Arnold Yzaguirre and Travis Marcum, and our institutional partners include Any Baby Can, Travis County Jail, and Dell Children’s Medical Center. In the video below, ACG Lullaby Artist Arnold Yzaguirre performs a lullaby with Jennifer, one of the moms he worked with through our partnership with Any Baby Can. You can learn more about Jennifer’s story here.

Our work at Dell Children’s Hospital is expanding beyond the Lullaby Project to include services individually tailored for children in long-term care scenarios.

The most significant new development is a formal partnership with the CALM Clinic of the Livestrong Cancer Institutes at the UT Dell Medical School, where Travis Marcum has been working to design music services for patients. One of the program’s components will be collaborative songwriting. To explore how this might work, Travis met over several months with Christina, a volunteer who serves on the Young Adult Advisory Council for the CALM Clinic.

Christina is a loving mother, wife, biologist, computer programmer, and athlete living in Austin. She’s also a seamstress extraordinaire, with a lifetime of experience knitting and quilting beautiful textiles for her friends and family. She received her cancer diagnosis 3 years ago, and has been undergoing treatment at MD Anderson in Houston ever since.

FUTURE: We anticipate services being available to patients at the CALM Clinic in spring 2019. We will continue to train and grow our Lullaby artist team, because demand far outweighs our capacity to provide these services.

7) National Programs

As of this writing our online curriculum resource has 773 active users across the United States. To provide insight into the kinds of things that are happening with our national partners, we asked several of them to share brief updates.

Cleveland, Ohio

CCGS students at Guitar Day at Cleveland Institute of Music in March 2018, where they took classes with CIM faculty and performed in CIM’s iconic Mixon Hall.

Cleveland Classical Guitar Society (CCGS) is dedicated to creating life-changing experiences for Cleveland’s kids. The city of Cleveland has the second highest child poverty rate for mid- to large-sized cities in the U.S., and combined with cuts to the arts in schools, it means many kids in Cleveland have no opportunity to learn to play an instrument. CCGS has built free guitar classes using Austin Classical Guitar’s GuitarCurriculum.com for 250 students each year and growing, and over 10% of these students also get individual lessons. One of these students, 10th grader Damian Goggans, was accepted into a fellowship at the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music more than a year ago, and they will provide free instruction for him until he graduates from high school. Damian received a full scholarship to Interlochen this summer. CCGS also has been teaching Katie Stubblefield for over a year, the youngest face transplant recipient in the U.S., who made international news recently through a feature in National Geographic.

Eric Mann, Executive Director
Cleveland Classical Guitar Society

Cleveland students created this video with help from CCGS Director of Education, Brian Gaudino.

Canton, Ohio

“Guitar education has experienced tremendous growth in the Canton City Schools over the last 4 years. We have grown to about a 110 high school students and a growing middle school population taking guitar. There are currently 5 sections of guitar at McKinley High School and 4 other middle school classes taking place in our district. We have added an advanced guitar class in which students receive college credit from Kent State University.
As of December of this year we have performed at the Kent State Guitar Festival and our middle school and high school winter concerts in the Canton City Schools. Students at McKinley are preparing to take part in a guitar day festival at the University of Akron, spring concerts as well as other community performances. GuitarCurriculum.com and ACG are at the heart of our curriculum in the Canton City Schools and I believe the reason for our tremendous growth. I am excited about the future and the development of the program.”


George E. Dean IV
Director of Guitar, McKinley Senior High School


New York City

One of the most memorable community service projects this year took place when the students of Leaders High School performed for a community of people in need of food while they were waiting for their pantry order within the facility the St. John’s Bread and Life soup kitchen in Brooklyn. After the students performed and the audience (who did not expect music during this time) roared with applause, one of the audience members walked up to the kids and said, ” You know, I was having a really messed up day and I have been extremely angry all day, but listening to you just made me forget about all my problems and I feel happy again, thank you for this”. The students then volunteered to help prepare the food orders for the community and worked until near closing time as we lost track of time. The students learned the beauty of giving back and how great it feels to help others who are in need, making them aware of how much they have to be grateful for and the power music has to help other people at all times. To add, while the students were volunteering, we also had audience volunteers come up to learn how to play a song together on the guitar, which they loved and bought smiles and confidence to their life in a matter of a few minutes. On our way home from the soup kitchen, one of our students asked, “How can I volunteer again? I really enjoyed helping the people out”….. This is what we call a heart-melter!


Jahzeel Montes, Executive Director
Internal Creations, New York City


St. Louis, Missouri

Students from Bermuda Elementary, a new Guitar Horizons program, in Florissant, Missouri with guitars purchased through local Old Newsboys Grant.

The St. Louis Guitar Horizons program is going full “STEAM”! With major sponsorship from The Augustine Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, we now send one of our six teaching artists to co-teach in twenty locations in underserved neighborhoods in the St. Louis metro area: Ferguson-Florissant (14), St. Louis City (3), Hazelwood (1), and the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club. We now include the Clayton Detention Center, inspired by the Austin program at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Detention Center. There were 22 November-December public presentations, attended by 5,000+ parents and students. We are in preparation for our All Metro Guitar Day next April 2019. Last year’s performance had 100+ students on stage!


William Ash, Education Director
St. Louis Classical Guitar

St. Louis All Metro Concert

Jennings, Missouri

“This is my third year incorporating classical guitar into our string program. I started it as an after-school guitar club when I returned from ACG’s Teacher Training Workshop, and currently I teach it in my 7th grade string class.
Our semester of classical guitar started off with a bang! Fourteen first-timers were very eager to begin instruction. The class is comprised of orchestra students who double on other instruments (i.e. violin, viola, cello, double bass). Guitar is worked into our regular schedule – we have instruction on Tuesday and Thursday of each week.”


James McKay, Music Teacher
Jennings Junior High

8) Teacher Training

CURRENT: ACG’s education team led two Teacher Training Summits this summer in St. Louis and Austin. These were the first training workshops dedicated to advancing the Five Elements we first detailed in our 2017 Education Report. Our staff was also hired to train teachers for Houston ISD in September, and a second visit is scheduled there for January 2019.

FUTURE: Our teacher training vision continues to focus on a path to certification. This must combine training and curriculum with work samples, assessment and feedback, and proof of mastery. This is a major goal we hope to realize in large part using the newly-enhanced technological capabilities of GuitarCurriculum.com (see #10 below).

9) International Partners

CURRENT: We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to share ideas and resources with partners outside of the United States, from Mexico, to Nicaragua, to Nepal, and New Zealand. We currently have GuitarCurriculum subscribers in the United States, Thailand, Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Canada, Argentina, England, Nepal, India, Uruguay, Haiti, Tanzania, the Philippines, Portugal, Nicaragua, Ireland, and the Netherlands. We were thrilled when 18 delegates from Central and West Africa visited ACG in November, and we look forward to sustaining these relationships going forward.

Perhaps most promising at the moment is a new partnership developing with Mario Quintanilla Saucedo in Mexico. We have met several times about strategy, and more training visits are scheduled. The goal is to develop a widespread music education program serving youth in Mexico as an alternative to, and shelter from, the crime and violence that threatens many communities around the country. Read more about this initiative here.

FUTURE: As you’ll see in the next section, a lot is happening behind the scenes with GuitarCurriculum.com to enhance our services for our teaching partners. This is especially important for our international partners. In particular, the additions of an interactive Teacher Forum and monthly webinars are helping us to more effectively and more regularly reach our partners across the world.

10) Technology Upgrades

CURRENT: GuitarCurriculum.com was launched on a new platform in August 2017. This ushered in a new era in terms of our ability to address needs, track user data, and communicate with users. Since then we have added a score upload function so that teachers around the world can begin to contribute their own music to the resource. We believe this will greatly enhance the quality, diversity, and quantity of teaching material available. We also launched a Teacher Forum that includes jobs listings, a space for teachers to exchange ideas, and video contest opportunities. And this fall, with the help of Reality Based Group in Austin, we have shot more than a dozen next-generation student tutorial videos with Dr. Joseph Palmer that will be released in early 2019.

FUTURE: In the coming year look for a newly-designed GuitarCurriculum.com! Apart from a variety of curricular and functional updates, our primary technical focus in the coming years will be on leveraging the resource to gather better data about the teachers using the curriculum and their students, and develop the technological infrastructure to support rigorous online certification process.
Below you’ll see an example of the kind of data reports we are now able generate thanks to our technology upgrades. This is a current map of the 773 active curriculum users in the United States.

GuitarCurriculum.com active users in U.S. (December, 2018)

11) Leadership

CURRENT: Jeremy Osborne gave a talk at SXSW.edu on Music and Juvenile Justice in March.

Travis Marcum, Matt Hinsley, and ACG Board member Dr. Ted Held presented at a Humanities Institute Symposium at the UT Dell Medical School in May. This paved the way for ACG’s partnership with Livestrong Cancer Institute’s CALM Clinic.

In July, Jeremy Osborne and Travis Marcum were invited to participate in an Art for Justice forum in Houston as part of a national initiative led by California Lawyers for the Arts.

In September, Matt Hinsley led a day-long Organizational Development workshop in Baltimore for leaders of 35 North American arts organizations. A story about it appeared in the 2018 fall issue of Classical Guitar Magazine.

FUTURE: Matt will lecture on Organizational Development and Community Service in the Arts as part of the Glasscock Distinguished Speakers Series at Texas A&M University in March, 2019, and again at the Scuola Universitaria di Musica in Lugano, Switzerland for three days in May, 2019.

In September 2019, Travis will be leading a study of community-based music with funding from research grant awarded by the Humanities Institute at U.T. Austin.

Thank you!

In conclusion, while our services have grown and deepened in beautiful and sometimes surprising ways, our main strategic objectives this year surround refining our processes, building our human resources, and enhancing our technological capabilities. We believe these steps are the most crucial as we move toward our next significant growth phase.

On behalf of Austin Classical Guitar’s entire board and staff, I would like to thank everyone who has helped make our work possible in 2018, including these major institutional supporters and program sponsors:

City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Augustine Foundation, Webber Family Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Sue L. Nguyen Trust, Texas Women for the Arts, Rea Charitable Trust, Cain Foundation, Texas Commission on the Arts, Still Water Foundation, Kaman Foundation, The Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, Michael R. Levy, Sarah & Ernest Butler, Kodosky Foundation, H-E-B, Tingari-Silverton Foundation, Shield-Ayres Foundation, Applied Materials, Louise Epstein & John Henry McDonald, The Mitte Foundation, Long Foundation, Wright Family Foundation, Mercedes-Benz of Austin, Silicon Labs, 3M Foundation, Kendal & Ken Gladish, Bill & Lynne Cariker, the Benavi Family, Austin Radiological Association, D’Addario Foundation, PwC, Jeanette & Ernest Auerbach, Urban Betty, Charles Schwab & Co., MFS Foundation, Lucy Farland, Cindy Cook, William Metz, Karrie & Tim League, Austin Bar Foundation, Carl Caricari & Margaret Murray Miller, Rixen Law, Elaine & Michael Kasper, Marcia Raff, Ed Pierce, Josh Stern & Reality Based Group, Tesoros Trading Company, IBC Bank, Savarez, Calido Guitars, and Strait Music.

Fall 2017 Education Report

Dear Friends,

2017 was another tremendous year for Austin Classical Guitar and, especially, for ACG Education. In this year-end report, my aim is to connect news of growth and change in our services with the theories and innovations that we believe have helped thousands of diverse students and teachers experience authentic growth, personal satisfaction, and moments of true joy.

What began in one school in 2001 has now spread to 60 schools in Austin and five surrounding districts, along with many partner teachers and organizations throughout Texas, the United States, and beyond.

We are overwhelmed and grateful for the opportunities we have had to introduce a new course subject in American schools. In this context of significant growth, it is more important than ever for us to remain focused on the fundamental beliefs that have guided us from the very beginning: that there is joy in music-making; that expressive and beautiful playing happens from the very first day; that music has the life-changing power to instill pride through hard work and accomplishment.

Thank you for supporting ACG Education. All that we have done, we have done with you. And our work is just beginning.

On behalf of all of us at ACG, thank you for believing in us, and thank you for your faith in the power of music to change lives.

Matt Hinsley, Executive Director


At The Core: Deep Personal Significance

At the core of everything we do in ACG Education is our belief that learning should lead to experiences of deep personal significance. Our curriculum, our teacher training, our teaching, and our social services are all conceived with this belief in mind.

After 17 years of service, observation, research, and growth, we have developed a theory that outlines Five Essential Elements (5-EE) of deep and personally significant learning experiences. They are:

  1. Sense of Safety/Belonging/Room for Mistakes
  2. Sense of Individual Importance/Personal Responsibility
  3. Adversity/Perseverance/Little Victories
  4. Performance/Success
  5. Acknowledgement/Celebration

A scholarship recipient of free individual lessons recently wrote:

I have been playing guitar since my first year at Lamar in the 6th grade. I picked up on it relatively fast, and was transfixed by it immediately. As the years went by I continued to improve and fall in love with the instrument. There aren't many pastimes I consider better than strumming away on the guitar in my room. The instrument has also helped me personally with goal-setting and self-improvement, as I'm able to practice different songs I want to learn on my own. I truly appreciate all that ACG has helped me to accomplish and learn.

This young person’s words encapsulate the principles of 5-EE. In this case we have a window into a years-long process and its profound results. But we have learned that a large impact such as this is a product of 5-EE playing out in the microcosms of each classroom, each day, each rehearsal, and each frame of learning within each rehearsal.

The Challenge

Promoting 5-EE teaching is challenging in the context of growth because we are dealing with expanding resources and many individual teachers across varied communities.

Take just the first step: to establish an environment that promotes a sense of safety, and belonging, and gives room for mistakes.

This is difficult! We can all think of teachers in our own past who did not do this well. Fortunately, most of us can also recall teachers who did it very well, consistently, day after day.

Furthermore, you do not get students (or anyone else) to feel like they belong by telling them to belong. You do not get students to develop a sense of personal responsibility by telling them to be responsible, nor do you get individuals to persevere only by instructing them to do so. Success and celebration are wonderful things but again, we can all think of learning experiences we have had that included neither.

So how do you do it?

We believe the cornerstone of quality music education’s ability to promote 5-EE learning is engagement in expressive, beautiful music-making.  Since 2004, this has been the stated, central aim of the ACG Curriculum: expressive, beautiful, music-making from the very first day.

When we engage in a pleasing, creative act, we participate in something greater than ourselves. In that environment, with proper intention, 5-EE learning can occur.

In this report we’ll group our activities into three main "buckets": Systems Building, Empowerment, and Social Service. All these ACG Education activities work together to promote the goal of 5-EE Learning.

Our Research Basis

In 2009, a team of researchers from the University of Texas School of Social Work conducted a study on ACG Education. Students enrolled in our guitar classes at Akins, McCallum, and Crockett High Schools made statements about what the class meant to them, then sorted, grouped, and ranked those statements. That sorting and ranking was analyzed by the researchers to create 3D maps of the concepts to identify what they were and which were most significant—all in the students’ own words. This type of study is known as Concept Mapping.

Here is the map that resulted:

The sizes of the linked concepts do not matter as much as the number of layers. The layers show how significant the grouped statements were considered to be. On this map, the highest ranked concept—with five layers—was “Self-Esteem.” It's on the left side of the map. The second highest ranked concept—with four layers—was named “Unique Learning Environment.” It's on the lower right side of the map.

Let’s look at the statements associated with each concept:


  1. This class gave me many new experiences; like playing in front of people
  2. Given me more confidence
  3. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment
  4. I feel proud of myself

Unique Learning Environment

  1. This class has more interaction with the teachers—everyone gets attention
  2. Easier to ask for help in this class, doesn’t make you feel dumb if you don’t get it
  3. It’s OK in this class if you don’t understand
  4. I like that we play in pieces or sections—so that we’re all needed
  5. Everyone messes up in this class sometimes, so it doesn’t feel bad to mess up in this class
  6. Good to have the same teacher over time.

If you compare the statements making up these top two concepts from the UT Social Impact Study with the components of 5-EE , you can see that “Unique Learning Environment” maps quite closely to the first two elements, while “Self-Esteem” maps most closely to elements three through five.


Systems Building: GuitarCurriculum.com

GuitarCurriculum.com is the basis for all of our work in ACG Education. Launched in October 2008 after four years in development, this comprehensive online resource for teachers includes a large and growing music library of both ensemble and solo pieces, along with a wide range of materials for improving student musicianship including sight reading and technical exercises, evaluation and testing, video tutorials, and more. Contact us for a tour!

Our big news this year is that, after five years in development, GuitarCurriculum.com has relaunched on a new platform. This is a big deal for us because we have big plans for the resource, but were unable to implement them effectively on the old site.

We have also named Eric Pearson, a member of the ACG Education team since 2011, to be our first-ever Director of Curriculum. This dedicated position, combined with the technology capabilities of the improved website, will pave the way for new developments and growth in the years to come.

For example, one of the first things we’ll be releasing, perhaps as soon as January 2018, will be an internal user forum. This network will allow serious classroom guitar teachers around the world to connect with a network of other professionals—a particularly valuable advancement in an emerging field where peer support can be difficult to find.

Another benefit of our new curriculum website is easy access to usage data. The map above, for example, shows current subscribers in the continental US by state, as well as local, state and global users. Before our new site launched, this type of information was difficult to obtain and unreliable.

Other features coming soon include: Increased data collection, automated score upload and license agreement (allowing users around the world to submit pieces to the library), licensing & commissioning, video consultation/feedback, and teacher certification.


Systems Building: State Advocacy & Standards

From an assessment and quality control standpoint a top priority has been to set up procedures for guitar at a statewide level similar to those used with established music education programs. For example, in the field of Orchestra Education, there is an Association of Orchestra Directors that advocates and provides professional for orchestra directors, there are district concert and sight reading contests, and city, regional, and state ensembles. These elements help set standards for teachers and students.

We created and organized a Concert and Sight Reading event for Austin ISD four years ago. Last year, about 1,000 students participated. Because this event does not exist everywhere across the state, we accept guest ensembles from places like Killeen, Odessa, and elsewhere. We have also helped establish similar adjudication events in Houston, Brownsville, and El Paso. This is a critical piece of quality control in an environment of growth, and will continue to be a priority going forward.

Two years ago we also established Texas Guitar Directors Association. Our plan was to begin the organization, host several meetings, and then hand off leadership to full time guitar directors around the state through statewide elections. We are pleased to report that these elections took place in January 2017, and TGDA is off and running under the direction of its first elected board.


Systems Building: Guitar Enrichment For People with Visual Impairments

The program we helped establish at Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired is thriving. Students from TSBVI will open this January's International Series concert!

Guitar classes at TSBVI began in 2010. In 2012, we prioritized music literacy, and converted the first lessons from GuitarCurriculum.com into braille notation. Last year, we identified our next priority: the creation of a lifelong learning resource for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. Why? Because nothing like it exists, and because we feel the students who graduate from our program at TSBVI deserve the opportunity to pursue lifelong enjoyment and continued advancement on the classical guitar.

In partnership with TSBVI, we envisioned a free, multi-platform, web-based app containing resources for step-by-step instruction in solo guitar, including downloadable braille music scores and accompanying audio guides. Development began in March, 2017, and we plan to launch the app in March of 2018. So stay tuned!

The picture above is from a focus group we organized in August with members of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas to try out some of the beginning lesson materials.


Empowerment: Austin & Central Texas

We now proudly offer guitar in all AISD middle schools, all but one AISD high school, and eleven area elementary schools. Our biggest news on the local front is that we were asked by five neighboring school districts to assist with building brand new guitar programs this year: Del Valle, Manor, Dripping Spring, Hays, and Comal. For a complete listing of our central Texas education partners, click here.

We have right around 4,000 students in central Texas who played over 300 performances in 2017 for an estimated audience of 25,000 people.

With our existing programs in Austin, we focus our time and resources based on need: Newer programs, as well as programs led by first-time classroom guitar instructors, receive the most attention from our staff, including weekly on-site visits and ongoing consultation and evaluation. For example, we are working with particular diligence right now at LBJ/LASA, where four new sections of guitar were just added this fall, assisting the first-time teacher there with everything from lesson planning to classroom management. And we continue to support every teacher in our Austin programs with free access to all of the instructional resources at GuitarCurriculum.com, complimentary registration to our teacher training workshops, as well as on-site consultation on an as-needed basis.

Eighty-five students performed for more than 500 people at the Widén Elementary School winter concert in December.

Students from our new program at Decker Middle School in Manor traveled to Austin to be our guests at the Eliot Fisk International Series Concert in November.


Empowerment: Texas & Beyond, Teacher Training

As you can see from the US map in the curriculum update above, we have many partner teachers around the country. In July 2017, we led teacher training sessions in St. Louis (students pictured above), Cleveland, and Austin. We chose to return to St. Louis and train teachers in Cleveland for the first time because of the highly-motivated and capable partner organizations in both cities.

The core of ACG Teacher Training is our efforts to promote expressive beautiful music-making from the very first day, and 5-EE learning experiences of deep, personal significance. This quote below, from a teacher in Canton, Ohio, is a good window not only into the enthusiasm we are encountering and the effectiveness of our program to empower teachers, but it also provides insight into the fact that our teachers need 5-EE learning experiences too—not just their students.

…This year I am teaching 6,7,8, and 9/10 grade guitar class as well as a community outreach ensemble.  I have to tell you I am blown away by the results! I would have never dreamed it would have transformed my class this much. I received immediate success from student engagement and standards based skill mastery. This program has completely transformed how I approach the guitar classroom. It has actually opened up more creativity for my students and me as a teacher…

George Dean, Orchestra & Guitar Director, Canton City Schools, Ohio


Empowerment: International

The number of curriculum-users from outside of the U.S. has ticked up noticeably over the past couple of years. In some cases, we are providing our international partners with free curriculum and support services — and we're happy to do so! At our teacher training workshops, we have welcomed guests from the UK, Mexico, Canada, Nicaragua, and Nepal. These are exciting relationships to develop, but—at least for now—international growth is not a top priority in our near-term strategic plan.


Social Service: Juvenile Justice

One of the programs about which we are most proud is our daily, for-credit guitar classes at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center. Our students there get deeply engaged, achieve impressive results, and perform publicly throughout the year in concerts we organize and as part of swearing-in ceremonies for Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). Contact us if you would like to see one of these—or any other—student performances.

The exciting news for our juvenile justice service is that Travis County Juvenile Probation Department has asked us to begin working with youth who are court-involved, but not incarcerated. After designing several models, we have settled on an approach that would enroll eligible youth into our existing school programs, paired with extensive and ongoing individual support from members of our team. We believe this will be a potent combination, and Travis County will award community service credits to the youth who participate.

Although it first aired in fall of 2016, we're including the PBS Newshour segment below about the program because footage inside the detention center is so difficult to attain. It's also really good! We invite you to watch it with 5-EE learning in mind—particularly at the end.



Social Service: Lullaby Project

We credit the Lullaby Project, and its creators at Carnegie Hall, as helping lead us to our current mission at Austin Classical Guitar: To inspire individual through experiences of deep personal significance. The Lullaby Project stretched us, and helped us realize that there are many ways music can reach people, heal, and connect.

We are particularly excited to begin a new Lullaby Project partnership with Austin Women and Children’s Shelter in 2018, as well as deepen our existing partnerships. We have also began service at Dell Children’s Hospital where we are visiting youth in a variety of circumstances, and may begin lullaby work as well.

Here is our newest lullaby, “I Will Protect You,” created in December at the Travis County Jail by Arlen, who wrote it for her four young children. I’d love for you to hear it. Just hit the play button on the video below. There’s also a reflection by Joey Delahoussaye, the Lullaby Project clinician who worked with Arlen to write this moving song.

Within a few minutes of meeting Arlen, I could tell that her soft-spoken manner belied her strength as a mother and protector of her children, who mean everything to her. In her lullaby, Arlen takes turns singing to her three daughters, Kamila, Fatima, and Valeria, and to her son, Angel. She hasn’t seen any of them since arriving at the Travis County Correctional Complex a few months ago. 

Arlen would be the first to tell you how unique each of her children are, and for that reason we decided early on that this would not be a one-size-fits-all lullaby. Arlen uses the verses to speak directly to each child, addressing them one by one to offer words of encouragement. Then, in the chorus, she expresses her love for her family and commitment to protect them, no matter what. For all the uncertainty in Arlen’s life right now, her devotion to her children is steadfast. Writing this lullaby was a special experience that I won’t soon forget.

– Joey Delahoussaye, ACG Lullaby Project Clinician


Social Service: Endowment Gifts

We are humbled and beyond thrilled to report that in November an anonymous donor gave us $75,000 to support our Lullaby Project, $70,000 of which will be held in ACG's Endowment Fund.

This is our second major endowment gift for a social service program. The first was a gift of $45,000 to establish a fund in support of our work in juvenile justice, given by the Houston-based Sue L. Nguyen Trust in the fall of 2016.

These extraordinary gifts are so inspiring to our team, and mark significant steps forward in our board and staff's shared vision of an organization that will continue serving our communities for many years to come.


Social Service: Individual Scholarship Lessons & Near-peer Mentoring

ACG Education actually began in 2001 as an individual scholarship lesson program, before growing into a curriculum and classroom development mission. But the individual scholarship lesson program has continued. Many of our most striking individual success stories have involved scholarship lesson recipients.

One such student is Santiago Esquivel, a graduate of Travis High School, who is also our current full scholarship recipient at Austin Community College (we give one scholarship each year).

This fall, Santiago wrote:

My future goals are to get a music education degree because I want to be a teacher one day. My guitar teacher, Ms. Rosanc, is probably one of the biggest reasons why I stayed in school and stayed motivated. She saw all the potential in me that I didn’t see and I strive to be as good as her. My career goals are to help students who don’t know what they want to do in life. I want to help them find a reason to stay in school and help them find their calling in life even if it doesn’t involve music. I want to help just like my teacher helped me.

Santiago volunteered this fall to be one of our near-peer mentors (see below) at Mendez Middle School, and we have also hired him to teach individual lessons at his alma mater, Travis High School.

This fall six advanced students from our Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra volunteered to be near-peer mentors at Mendez Middle School as part of a new pilot program. Our vision is that advanced students in all our high school programs will soon be mentoring less advanced students in their high schools or in feeder middle schools.

The pilot went well, we learned a lot, and we look forward to taking this program further in 2018.


Social Service: Performance Engagement

Performance Engagement is an increasingly active part of ACG programming. If you take our core aim of providing experiences of deep personal significance and apply it to performance rather than instruction, then you get a good sense of this program. The interesting thing is that 5EE learning still applies!

The more diverse audiences are invited to actively participate as listeners, the more they belong and become empowered as interpreters.

Our Performance Engagement Artist, Joseph Palmer, is constantly innovating in this regard from performing musical puppet shows with Austin Public Library storytellers to devising entire concert programs made up of selections on student contest lists so that as guitar students are listening, they can imagine themselves playing the pieces in contest. For more on this program, click here.

Conclusion: Pro-Social Ecosystem

This report has touched on our core principles and explored many applications of them.

Our top priority is to deliver learning experiences of deep personal significance. We have identified five essential elements (5-EE) that could be summarized as: Belonging, Personal Responsibility, Perseverance, Success, and Celebration.

Most of our efforts have been spent on creating resources, training, and models to empower these types of experiences for both teachers and students.

We are now investigating an extension of this theory, and we are calling it the Pro-Social Ecosystem.

In short, this is a vision of contextualized music learning. Much music instruction is relegated to the music room, practice room, and—once in a while—the stage. We believe, however, that the best way to promote 5-EE learning is through music experiences integrated more fully into daily life. In other words, when students do cool stuff with music, they care more about it, work harder, and it becomes more deeply personally significant.

We believe we are particularly poised to provide many meaningful opportunities for this kind of context through service like near-peer mentoring, through collaboration between schools and programs, and through creative opportunities like performing before major touring acts, writing music, or making videos.

So stay tuned! We have big dreams in this regard, and we plan to try out some new things in the year to come.


Thank You

On behalf of Austin Classical Guitar’s entire board and staff, I would like to thank everyone who has helped make our work possible in 2017, including these major institutional supporters and program sponsors:

City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Augustine Foundation, Webber Family Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, the Sue L. Nguyen Trust, Texas Women for the Arts, Rea Charitable Trust, Texas Commission on the Arts, Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, Sarah & Ernest Butler, Kodosky Foundation, H-E-B, Applied Materials, Louise Epstein & John Henry McDonald, Topfer Family Foundation, The Mitte Foundation, Texas Bar Foundation, Long Foundation, David & Shiela Lastrapes, Mercedes-Benz of Austin, Silicon Labs, 3M Foundation, Kendal & Ken Gladish, Bill & Lynne Cariker, Cain Foundation, the Benavi Family, Oliver Custom Homes, D'Addario Foundation, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Savarez, Urban Betty, Ameriprise Financial, Cain Foundation, Charles Schwab, Dr. Ted Held, MFS Foundation, William Metz, Ted Philippus & Carol Wratten, Austin Bar Foundation, Savage Classical Guitar, Dr. Michael Froehls, Carl Caricari & Margaret Murray Miller, and Bill & Mary LaRosa, Bill & Marilyn Hartman, Michael & Carol Fields, Elaine & Michael Kasper, and Calido Guitars.

A Lullaby Story from Matt Hinsley

This story is part of our ACG Fall Fund Drive Changing Lives Storyboard. Consider supporting ACG today!

A few weeks ago, a very good friend asked ACG's Director of Education Travis Marcum and I to lunch to talk about the Lullaby Project. We traded stories about the importance of music in our own childhoods. We talked about the young moms we've gotten to know in the course of this work, and the unforgettable songs they have created for their children. We were moved to tears.

Our friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, handed us a beautiful card expressing her hope for many more years of healing through music at Austin Classical Guitar. Inside the envelope was a check for $75,000 to begin a fund dedicated to the Lullaby Project within the ACG Endowment.

What an extraordinary gift. I am so inspired by the generosity that enables us to work toward healing through music with some of our community's most vulnerable individuals.

If you would like to add your support, you can make a contribution using the form below, or email me to learn more about gifts to the ACG Endowment.

The newest lullaby, "I Will Protect You," was created just last week at the Travis County Jail by Arlen, who wrote it for her four young children. I'd love for you to hear it. Just hit the play button on the video below. There's also a reflection by Joey Delahoussaye, the Lullaby Project clinician who worked with Arlen to write this moving song.


I Will Protect You
By Arlen, with Joey Delahoussaye

Within a few minutes of meeting Arlen, I could tell that her soft-spoken manner belied her strength as a mother and protector of her children, who mean everything to her. In her lullaby, Arlen takes turns singing to her three daughters, Kamila, Fatima, and Valeria, and to her son, Angel. She hasn’t seen any of them since arriving at the Travis County Correctional Complex a few months ago.

Arlen would be the first to tell you how unique each of her children are, and for that reason we decided early on that this would not be a one-size-fits-all lullaby. Arlen uses the verses to speak directly to each child, addressing them one by one to offer words of encouragement. Then, in the chorus, she expresses her love for her family and commitment to protect them, no matter what. For all the uncertainty in Arlen’s life right now, her devotion to her children is steadfast. Writing this lullaby was a special experience that I won’t soon forget.

- Joey Delahoussaye, ACG Lullaby Project Clinician

If you’re inspired by this story and would like to support the Lullaby Project, please consider making a financial gift using the form below.

Sorry. This form is no longer available.


The hit new Disney/Pixar movie Coco features a lot of guitar playing, so as soon as we heard about it we asked our friends at the Alamo Drafthouse if we could create a real, live, first-time-ever guitar experience for young movie fans right before the show!

Here’s what happened, along with a few adorable photos from the experience. Special thanks to the Alamo Drafthouse for yet another fruitful collaboration, and to HLK Fotos for taking and sharing these fantastic snaps!

The Idea

Our friend Dan Baugh from Calido Guitars first told us about Coco (Thank you, Dan!). ACG Education is all about engaging young people in beautiful music making right from the beginning, so we immediately knew what we wanted to do!

Getting It Together

We selected a song that was featured in one of the movie’s trailers, and with help from the Alamo Drafthouse we secured Disney’s permission to use it. We then tasked our amazing curriculum specialist from Knoxville, Tennessee, Chris Lee, with creating a three-part arrangement of the song that would be playable by beginners.

Then we set a date!

Brass Tacks

A few weeks out we assembled the team to come up with a lesson plan: What to teach, in what order, to reach the goal we were hoping to achieve. Our plan was to get the kids seated and set up properly with their guitars, get them to play one note together, learn to listen to one another, refine their togetherness and volume, teach them to count beats and play in time. Once that was accomplished, we’d teach them the first of two patterns, practice it with the band, teach them the second of two patterns, practice it with the band, then put it all together for a performance and take a bow!

Simple, right?

What Happened

The big day arrived. We tuned and prepared 50 guitars, and laid them out next to 50 chairs. By that point there was almost no place to step, and we were sure there would be a few casualties among the guitars! Turns out all the kids were super careful and we lost zero guitars – though one of our team members had to intervene as a particularly small girl was about to use a guitar as a stepstool to help her get into her chair!

As excited and full of energy as they were, the kids became focused pretty quickly. We watched a one-minute trailer that featured the song and then got to work. Within ten minutes, we’d already learned the first pattern—the simpler of the two. The second pattern was trickier and took longer, but after about 35 minutes we played the whole entire song together and it sounded pretty good! We performed it three times, the crowd went wild, and it was time to go see the movie!

Why’d We Do it?

For the same reason we do everything at ACG: because we believe in music.

We believe that music is one of the oldest, most enduring, most powerful, most gentle, and most patient teachers there is. We believe music brings us together, and we believe that coming together is at the center of peace and productivity. We witness it every day in classrooms across Austin, and through our many partners, across the world.

And we were absolutely thrilled to share a real music-making experience with 50 new young people!

This story was part of ACG's 2017 Fall Fund Drive Changing Lives Storyboard. If you’re inspired by Austin Classical Guitar’s work in Austin and across the globe, please consider supporting ACG today!

Hope After Harvey Reflection

As the "Hope After Harvey" benefit concert this past Sunday came to an end, I rose to my feet with the hundreds of other people who had gathered at Saint John’s United Methodist Church. We had just finished listening to a marvelous and heartfelt performance by the Miró Quartet, and were all about to start singing Amazing Grace in unison. Every seat was filled, with more people lining the aisles along the sides of the church, and even more watching a video simulcast of the concert from two overflow rooms. In this moment, I was reminded of the power of being together.

Less than a week before, I was sitting down with our team to explore the possibility of creating an event to support Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. The days that followed now swirl together as I think about how enthusiastically our partners at Conspirare, Austin Chamber Music Center, the Miró Quartet, St. John’s United Methodist Church, KUTX’s John Aielli, and KMFA jumped on board, ready to lend a hand, and eager to make this event a reality. I think of how volunteers from each organization pledged their time and their energy to make this event run smoothly. I think of the donations we received from people in Texas, Florida, California, and even Switzerland and Singapore, all to help those displaced in the aftermath of the hurricane. We did this together, and all of us at Austin Classical Guitar are honored to have been a part of it.

Hope for Harvey raised $31,500, all of which will go to Austin- and Houston-based disaster relief organizations. We were also surprised and delighted to receive two carloads of donated food, personal hygiene, and cleaning supplies, one trunk load of diapers, one carload of clothes, a car seat and two large toddler toys, as well as an unexpected donation of two tickets to Six Flags which will be given to children affected by Hurricane Harvey.

What’s Next?

There is still much work to do. Many people and communities will be working to rebuild their lives and homes for a long time to come. ACG will be organizing group volunteer trips in the coming weeks and months to areas experiencing hardship in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. If you’re interested in joining us, please email Julie Stoakley and she'll add you to the list.

Fall 2016 Education Report

Over the past year, with the generous support of our community, ACG Education made meaningful, enduring connections with more students and teachers than ever before. I am so pleased to share this Fall 2016 Education Report with you.

I’d like to begin with a brief story:

Our classroom guitar program at Gardner Betts Juvenile Detention Center, now in its sixth year, is the only daily, for-credit arts elective offered to incarcerated youth in Travis County. We met a young man last year who was struggling with his school work and rehabilitation program, as many there do. Then he joined the guitar class and something just clicked. He had found his passion. After about six months working with our teacher there, Jeremy, it was clear that guitar had transformed his attitude and changed his life.

Our schedule at Gardner Betts slows over the summer. When daily classes resumed this fall, this young student presented Jeremy with a full size replica of a classical guitar – made entirely out of rolled strips of copy paper and tape, with yarn for strings. The level of care and craftsmanship he had invested in the project was astonishing. Without guitar class every day, he had chosen, of his own accord, to spend his time creating one using the materials available to him. Click here to see a picture.

For me, this paper guitar is a powerful reminder of how perseverance, passion, and the power of art and mentorship can bring light to dark places.

Our mission at ACG is to inspire individuals in our community through musical experiences of deep, personal significance. Nowhere is this mission more vibrant than in our education programs and social services.

I hope you enjoy reading this report, and know how deeply grateful we are for your generosity, which has helped make everything here possible.

With thanks and my very best wishes for the New Year,

Matt Hinsley



Austin Classical Guitar Education Report, Fall 2016


Special Experiences

Our classroom guitar curriculum is founded on the principle of expressive, beautiful music-making from the very first day. We believe this simple but profound idea is the basis for the success of our programs.

In the most practical sense this means that the music we create for our curriculum library must lend itself to expressive playing at each sequential level. It also means that our teachers need to be trained and reminded of the importance of demanding beauty and refinement in every lesson.

In a broader sense, our goal is to place the study of music in the context of human expressiveness—to make the act of learning and playing music personally significant.

Extending this philosophy beyond the day-to-day classroom, therefore, we encourage our teachers to create high-quality and community-oriented performance and sharing opportunities, collaborations, and creative applications for their students’ music-making.

I’d like to share two videos from this fall that demonstrate the kinds of special opportunities meaningful arts engagement can lead to. Even if you see just a few seconds, you’ll understand why these kinds of experiences are so significant and unforgettable.

The first video captures the evening in October when classical guitar icon Pepe Romero rehearsed and performed a Vivaldi Concerto with 80 Austin ISD guitar students from six schools.



This next video shows what happened when a group of adult students from a class we teach at Silicon Labs agreed to sit in with students from the guitar program at Martin Middle School.



Core Service

ACG Education is driven by our efforts to build and support rigorous, for-credit classical guitar programs in schools. We accomplish this through a combination of ground-breaking curriculum development, teacher training, and direct instructional services. In 2016 we launched our 60th local school program, which collectively serve nearly 4,000 diverse young people in the Austin area.

Here is a snapshot of the kinds of challenges our education team approaches on a day-to-day basis:

  • Just days before school began in fall 2015, Bowie High School decided to add two sections of guitar. The district needed a certified educator to take a 1/3 time position on a few days’ notice and could not find a qualified individual. Toby Rodriguez from our education team stepped in, and under his guidance the program grew from 35 students to over 150 by the year’s end. The success of the program led the district to hire the school’s first full time guitar educator, Jody Mosely, who began over the summer.
  • Akins High School has been one of our great success stories. Working closely with ACG’s Jeremy Osborne, veteran band director Cathy Bennett developed a competitive, thriving program with a full-time guitar director and over 100 students involved each year. When Bennett retired this past spring, our education team made a special commitment to support her replacement, Paul Crockett (also with a band background), in maintaining the strength of this program and the quality of instruction.
  • In the fall of 2016, the Austin ISD was unable to secure a qualified instructor for two sections of guitar at LBJ/LASA. ACG’s Travis Marcum stepped in to fill the spot. The students recently presented their fall concert and are planning to compete in district Concert and Sight Reading Contest in March.
  • Also this fall, the guitar teachers at both Reagan High School and Murchison Middle School left their positions unexpectedly in the middle of the semester. ACG staff has stepped in to ensure quality instruction and smooth the transition while the district works to refill these positions.

These cases represent special challenges beyond the formal teacher training sessions, administrative support for assessment events and performance opportunities, and daily consultation throughout the district that have turned our community into a national model of high quality, school-based classroom guitar instruction.


Beyond Austin

We are continually impressed with the excellent work being done by our partners at the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society and their 18 affiliated elementary, middle, and high schools in St. Louis, Ferguson, Hazelwood, Jennings, and Normandy. One of their elementary school programs was the subject of a September 12th article by Elisa Crouch, St. Louis School Uses Guitar Training to Help Open Doors, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (online here).

In the wake of significant advances by our partners in Akron, Canton, and Cleveland, we have scheduled our first teacher training workshop in Ohio. The Cleveland Classical Guitar Society will host the training July 20-22, 2017. We also had a very promising meeting with the Director of Music for New York City Public Schools, where we hope to launch a pilot program in the fall.

We were surprised and honored in September when the US State Department asked us to meet and share our work with a delegation from Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Bahrain. The visitors were artists and civil servants interested in our approach to community service and cultural exchange through the arts. They were especially interested in GuitarCurriculum.com, our online curriculum that forms the basis for all our educational work.

More and more communities across Texas, the US, Canada, and beyond are using our training and curriculum resources. Just this week an affiliate in Nepal sent us a link to a short video by CNN about Pushpa Basnet, a woman who runs a youth shelter in Kathmandu where our curriculum is used to teach music lessons. In addition to offering their teachers free access to our curriculum, we created a custom arrangement of a Nepali folk song for the kids to learn - which you can see them playing about 45 seconds into this one-minute feature! Watch the video here.


Teacher Training

I mentioned earlier that the success of our curriculum stems from its commitment to expressive, beautiful music making from the very first day. Not only do we emphasize this idea in our lessons plans, we make sure that teachers experience it during their training. The video below is from our summer 2016 teacher training workshop, and features a performance by nearly 100 teachers from around the US and Mexico. Many of them had never played guitar before our training, but they still could participate in making beautiful music.

Summer 2016 also saw our second official training visit to St. Louis where we worked with some promising new teachers, and helped some veteran teachers enhance and refine their instructional methods.


Social Services

I received a call last week from an official at Travis County who asked, on behalf of a juvenile court judge, how to contribute to Austin Classical Guitar. He described the huge impact that our guitar classes were having on students at the county’s youth detention facility, and talked about one young man in particular whose dedication to guitar and composing played a significant role in the judge’s decision to release him on parole this summer.

Some of the most promising developments in our social service work have involved the Lullaby Project. Now in its third year, the project has been engaged by Dr. Ted Held, Medical Director for People’s Community Clinic’s Center for Women’s Health. We are now producing our first lullabies with new moms at PCC in a partnership that represents the most significant opportunity for service through this project to date.

Dr. Held also helped us bring the project to Travis County Jail. In the video below you can hear an especially touching lullaby written by our clinician Joey Delahoussaye with Trimonisha, who created it for her baby daughter Miracle and a son who had passed away during infancy.


Press & Academia

Arts in Context, an award-winning PBS documentary series produced in Austin by KLRU-TV, featured ACG in an episode that aired nationally this month. You can watch the 27-minute video by clicking on the image below (it will open in another window). While the main focus of the piece is the Lullaby Project, it also touches on our broader work in education and outreach.

Watch now: Arts in Context | Sing Me A Lullaby | KLRU-TV, Austin PBS Video

The winter 2016 issue of American String Teacher included an article I wrote with Travis Marcum and Jeremy Osborne about characteristics of successful teachers, as well as quality guitar classroom programming in general.

The ACG team will lead two sessions at the Texas Music Educators Association’s annual conference this February in San Antonio, and along with a session in March for the SXSWedu conference in Austin.

Several college professors have been using GuitarCurriculum.com in their guitar pedagogy courses. This fall Travis Marcum visited Patrick Feeley’s class at the University of Western Ontario via Skype, and I joined Zane Foreshee’s class at Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, also via Skype.

Carlos Diaz-Miranda, a masters student in Instrumental Education at Quebec’s Université Laval, is writing his thesis about ACG Education. Another student named Matthew Polk is working towards his Ph.D. at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. His dissertation, also focusing on ACG Education, is titled Expanding the Realms of Music Education: A Narrative study examining how entrepreneurial educators creatively navigate innovative music education programs for K-12 U.S. students.


It is clear that our local service is expanding through consistent growth in our social initiatives and education programs. At the same time, our work is having ripple effects far beyond Austin, demonstrated by our influence on other service providers worldwide and the increasing attention to our methods we are seeing from academic circles. 2017 will see, at long last, the launch of our new curriculum website. Among many improvements, the upgrade will enable critical community-building features we believe will promote a global dialogue about rigorous, literacy-based, inspirational classroom guitar education. We also have big hopes to realize our dream of a free online braille music resource to help visually impaired guitar students, including those from our program at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, to become life-long learners in the arts. Apart from Texas, some partners poised to make significant advances in the coming year include affiliates in New York, Ohio, and Ontario, Canada. Finally, in 2017, with the support of a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation, we will see our relationship with Travis County deepen through the introduction of new services for non-incarcerated, court-involved youth in the juvenile justice system.

Thank You

On behalf of Austin Classical Guitar’s board and staff I would like to thank everyone who has helped make our work possible in 2016, including these major institutional supporters and program sponsors:

City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Augustine Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, Webber Family Foundation, Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, Sarah & Ernest Butler, Kodosky Foundation, H-E-B, Topfer Family Foundation, Mercedes-Benz of Austin, Shield-Ayres Foundation, Silicon Labs, 3M Foundation, Kendal & Ken Gladish, Oliver Custom Homes, D'Addario Foundation, Louise Epstein & John Henry McDonald, David & Sheila Lastrapes, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Savarez, 3Can Events, Ameriprise Financial, Cain Foundation, Charles Schwab, Dr. Ted Held, MFS Foundation, William Metz, Ted Philippus & Carol Wratten, Sue Nguyen Management Trust, Texas Bar Foundation, Savage Classical Guitar, Dr. Michael Froehls, Bill & Marilyn Hartman, Carl Caricari & Margaret Murray Miller, and Bill & Mary LaRosa

A Tribute from Matt

Lona Burwell first approached us at Austin Classical Guitar 17 years ago. My very first impressions of Lona were of her strength, clarity, and persistence: Lona had a big idea, and she was keen for us to hear it!

Her big idea? Adults making music together. She explained - persistently - that while kids have lots of opportunities to play music together, music stops being a participatory experience for most adults.

Lona did not think this was right, and wanted to change it.

So in 1999, led by Lona, we launched our Community Guitar Ensembles program. Lona directed the program as a volunteer until 2005. And here we are, 17 years later, with a thriving adult ensemble program that still includes some of the original members!

Lona Burwell passed away at her home in Bastrop this past summer. As I sat with her friends and family at her funeral I found myself thinking back to memories of our years together.

And I realized something that surprised me.

Lona changed me, and she changed Austin Classical Guitar. Over the years, ACG's identity has emerged as an agent of community service through music. Education, Outreach, Community Ensembles, Lullabies: all of these services are driven by the belief our community has in the power of music to make life richer and more fulfilling - for everyone.

Sitting at her memorial service this past summer, I realized that Lona, in her tireless way, helped shape and encourage that belief in me. The reason persistence was one of the qualities that struck me most about Lona was that she needed it! She needed it to get through to me, and others I'm sure, that guitar was a more powerful agent for community service than we had realized.

Thank you, Lona. Thank you for helping to show us a better way. This coming Sunday at 5pm at St. Luke's on the Lake (5600 RR 620 N; map link) our Community Guitar Ensembles will perform their fall recital. We are dedicating the performance to Lona Burwell. I hope you will join us to celebrate her legacy and her passion for community-based music-making.


A Thanksgiving Message from Matt Hinsley

Something magical happens when we come together to celebrate beauty.

I felt it last night at our Youth Orchestra concert. I felt it on Friday at our "Staff Cactus" show at the Cactus Cafe, where the room was crackling with the warmth of appreciation and friendship in spite of the chilly air outside.

On one unforgettable evening last month, 80 students from Austin came together to play Vivaldi's Concerto in D Major with Pepe Romero.

A video from that special event is online here.

Watching the concentration and anticipation in each performer's face, and hearing the extraordinary music they are creating, I am transported. And I feel so incredibly grateful.

On behalf of all of us at Austin Classical Guitar, I would like to say how grateful we are to you for sharing these special moments of togetherness with us throughout the year.

Your belief in music, your belief in us, your belief in the beauty of artistic expression, make it all possible.

Happy Thanksgiving,




Matt Hinsley

The Paper Guitar

One of the things we’re most proud of here at ACG is our for-credit classical guitar program at the Travis County Juvenile Detention Center in partnership with Austin Independent School District. The program, now in its 6th year, has been featured on national television on the PBS NewsHour.

 In honor of Jeremy's 10 years of service to ACG, we're dedicating our May Fund Drive to him. Click here to make a gift.

We hope you enjoy this story.

L: Gardner Betts guitar instructor Jeremy Osborne assists student with his nails in preparation for his first class. R: Guitar students return to their school day carrying the guitars provided to them by the ACG guitar program.

It’s a full-size guitar. It has frets, strings, a sound hole, bracing. The frets are straight, thin, it has the correct number of them. There is a decorated rosette. It even has its own display stand.

But this guitar is made of paper. Copy paper, specifically. Yarn and tape were used in the detailed, caring construction as well.

It was made by one of our students; let’s call him David. David is incarcerated at the Travis County Juvenile Justice Center where one of our staff educators, Jeremy Osborne, teaches two for-credit classes each day. David discovered the guitar, and discovered his ability to learn, practice, perform, and excel on it, in these classes. This past May he played a solo for over one hundred people in the courthouse and received a standing ovation—the first standing ovation of his life, for anything.

Like a lot of kids in detention, David has struggled with motivation, especially with the work he has to do for school and as part of the conditions of his sentence. Guitar changed all of that. Talk to any of his counselors and they’ll tell you - since he picked up the guitar, David’s attitude toward his work was transformed.

Jeremy did not visit the detention center as frequently over the summer, just once or twice a week to check in, give a lesson, make contact. When the new semester began, Jeremy was back to teaching two classes a day. During that first week one of the facility staff members pulled him aside. “You need to see something,” he said.

Jeremy was escorted to a room in another part of the secure facility, where the paper guitar was displayed on its stand. It was David’s guitar, the guitar he had spent the summer creating by carefully rolling and shaping and taping pieces of copy paper, while waiting for Jeremy to come back and for the guitar class to start up again.

We reach people through music education. Where other pursuits might fail, music can forge powerful connections that last a lifetime. Studying music can reveal a better path, and link an individual to themselves and to their community.

At Austin Classical Guitar we think about this a lot. Perhaps it is the absence of specific referential meaning in music—the inherent mystery of musical communication—that helps make a positive musical learning environment a safe, nurturing place to discover one’s identity.

As the number of students we serve grows, so does our responsibility as a teaching community to do the best job we can to discover and promote those attributes of instruction that fuel positive student experiences in arts education.

We need to do this so that the kids we serve will make the kinds of connections with music, with each other, with our community, and with themselves that high-quality arts education can deliver. We need to do this so that more kids like David, who have struggled, who have made bad decisions, who are alienated and at-risk of dropping out of school or worse, will have a safe and supportive place to make something special that they can build an identity around and be proud of.

Paper Guitar