Sponsor Spotlight: Harlow Russell & Awesome 3D Cards

We’re super grateful to Harlow Russell of Awesome 3D Cards for his generous sponsorship of our UpClose Series concert featuring Mateusz Kowalski at the home of Chaya Rao on Sunday, February 2nd at 6pm (tickets). Guests will enjoy Chaya’s delicious homemade vegetarian Indian Food, and they'll also get to take home one of Harlow’s awesome cards! Harlow has a neat story, and we asked him to share some of it.


ACG: How did the idea of 3D cards come to you?

HR: I lived and worked in Asia for the last 25 years, most of my adult life. The last 4 years were in Vietnam. So, I was very familiar with the Vietnamese artform of "Kirigami". It’s like Japanese Origami, but distinctly different. Kirigami always takes the form of a pop-up gift or thank you card. It contains a 3D paper model inside the card that "folds." For many years I would always bring back the cool cards when I came home to visit my mother in Austin. In fact, she kept all those cards over the years and would frequently show guests at her house because they were so unique. Real paper art.

I moved back to the USA in 2018 and among other things I had to buy insurance. Once I finally settled on an agent he sent me a thank you card and said I was a VIP customer. The card was a plain white generic card. You know, the kind that come in a stack of 100 at the Dollar stores. I didn’t feel like a VIP with this card. Then it hit me!  What if he had a custom cool Kirigami card! That would be amazing and make me feel special. And I knew everyone always keeps these handmade Kirigami cards because they are totally unique. Hence...Awesome 3D Cards was born!

ACG: What is something you wish everyone knew about the artistry?

HR: The art and skill is the 3D model inside each card. It’s like a Jack in the Box. When people open any of my cards, they smile. They are amazed. They play with the cards. Gen Z or Boomer, male or female, CEO or house sitter, every single person who has received one of my Awesome 3D cards in the last 12 months has had a moment of joy and fun. That’s the special artistry of these custom handmade cards.

ACG: You make a lot of custom designs for people in Austin. Why is it important to you to make special things for our community?

HR: I first lived and work in Austin in the 1980's. Then I moved west to LA and west again until it became "East"...Jakarta Indonesia, 1992. I always remembered how wonderful Austin was as a young person. My mother retired from Philly to Austin in 1994. So for 25 years, I've been coming back "home" to Austin once or twice a year. In early 2018, I came back home to take care of her in her final chapter of life. I loved being back, to the Live Music Capitol of the World, to the BBQ scene, to the "keep Austin Weird" scene. 

When I decided to start my Custom 3D card business, I first produced two Austin-themed concept cards: our beloved, historic, State Capitol Building, and the “Bat Bridge” (Congress Ave. Bridge) - where people from all over the world come to watch our 2 million bats go out on the town every evening. These two cards also demonstrated the skill and fine detail of using Vietnamese Kirigami but in an "Austin" style. Now I create cards for companies and organizations in Austin and across the US and Canada. If you’d like to know more, email me anytime or call 512-571-1615.

 


'together' Artist Profile: Jennifer Choi - Violinist

We are thrilled to be collaborating with some incredible artists for our January 24-26 season centerpiece together. Jennifer Choi will be the violinist on the show. We asked Jennifer to tell us a bit about the process and a bit about herself. 


Austin Classical Guitar: You’ve been part of this series form the beginning. i/we, dream, together. What does this series  mean to you?

Jennifer Choi: I feel so honored to have been a part of all three concerts in this series, which is one of the most unique projects that I have been involved in. I loved how much the community at large has been interwoven within the programs, and that we heard these voices from the heart.  It brought us a real perspective and deeper understanding of the events happening around us each day, and made the music so meaningful to perform.

ACG: What do you wish everyone knew about the process of creating, collaborating on, and sharing new music and new art?

JC: With new music, there is always a sense of adventure because you are meeting the music for the first time, and on some occasions, you're meeting the composer for the first time too, like going on a musical blind date!  You don't know exactly what you're gonna get, so of course there's a feeling of the unknown.  But then, you take a peek, and when the music speaks to you, it can feel like something strikes a chord in your being and that something can be soul-moving, bring you to tears.. or it can be joyful and exciting, and you just want to get more of it!  I have so much respect for composers. They are putting all their energy into something they believe in for us to listen to and be moved with them.

ACG: What’s it been like work with this team?

The process here at ACG has been one of deep connections and collaboration from the beginning.  So much thought has gone into each concert with a vision that is large and all encompassing. I loved that there were no constraints. Every idea was considered, and in the end, a wide range of music and genres has been incorporated into the format.  It says a lot about an organization when year after year, the core team stays the same and everyone is in it for the same, beautiful purpose.

ACG: Tell us a little about what else you have going on - how can people learn more about you?

JC: Last month I was in Toulouse, France playing with Les Freres Meduses -no strangers to ACG- guitarists, Randall Avers and Benoit Albert. I have found that chamber music with guitars and violin to be a divine combination.  The Texas Guitar Quartet with Isaac Bustos and Alejandro Montiel have also graciously invited me to perform with them and I also brought Isaac and Al to NYC last season and it was just so much fun to reunite then as it is now. I continue my various collaborations with composer/performers in New York, and most recently I have joined the Artist Faculty of Juilliard Global which takes me around the world for performances and master classes.  My website is www.jenniferchoi.com if you'd like to know more about me go to https://www.jenniferchoi.com.


If you would like to know more about the inspiration of ‘together,’ we invite you to read this article by Artistic Director, Joe Williams, and Education Director, Travis Marcum.


'together' Artist Profile: Celil Refik Kaya - Composer

We are thrilled to be collaborating with some incredible artists for our January 24-26 season centerpiece together. Composer and guitarist Celil Refik Kaya has created a beautiful and moving new work for these shows: There Is Life In This Room. We asked Celil to tell us a bit about the process and a bit about himself. 


Austin Classical Guitar: Tell us about together? What has this project meant to you so far, has anything surprised you?

Celil Refik Kaya: I believe this project is very enlightening in an age that people are disconnected from each other. Today, we as a society are more disconnected than ever. When we think about a family, it is like the smallest country. Family members love, trust and support each other. We should achieve this as humanity as well. When I heard the interview with the young patient, it was one of the most touching things I have ever heard, and I dedicated “There is life in this Room” for her. The title is taken from her interview expressing her feelings and life in the hospital room. I believe the commissioned pieces that we will hear for this project will change the way people see each other, and will guide us to have superior empathy toward each other. 

ACG: What do you wish everyone knew about the process of creating, collaborating on, and sharing new music and new art?

CRK: Today new music and arts in general should be supported more. Performing, composing and sharing beautiful projects as artists are possible thanks to the support of people. People often don’t realize how important music is in our lives as a whole. It is everywhere—we almost don’t live a moment without it. New music and arts in general reflect our civilization, and people should realize how important this is not only for today but also for future generations. All the creation, collaboration and sharing process comes with a tremendous amount of work, practice and sacrifice just so we change people’s lives and touch people’s souls.

ACG: What’s it been like working with this team?

CRK: Working with the Austin Classical Guitar team is a wonderful experience. They are full of creative ideas and every project is meaningful and immortal in my opinion. I always think of an artist as a person of creativity rather than imitator or craftsman. Although we don’t create from nothing, the unique ideas come from an artist’s mind and this is what ACG is doing. Over the years, I enjoyed collaboration with Matthew Hinsley, Joe Williams and all my other friends in ACG team. I was able to express myself as composer and performer. 

ACG: Tell us a little about what else you have going on - how can people learn more about you?

CRK: I have a busy performing schedule while teaching classical guitar privately. For the future, I have 4 CD projects coming up with Naxos records. I will be continuing recording the works of Agustin Barrios Mangore, Jorge Morel and Carlo Domeniconi. Sometime around next year my 4th recording, the music of Joaquin Rodrigo, will be released. I am currently planning on publishing new works that I have written including Five Turkish Folk Dances for solo guitar, Dicle ve Fırat (Tigris and Euphrates) for trio and many others. My recordings are on Naxos Records and can be found on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. Some of my compositions, recorded by me and my colleagues, are on Youtube. People can also visit my website for more information about concerts and other news.


If you would like to know more about the inspiration of 'together,' we invite you to read this article by Artistic Director, Joe Williams, and Education Director, Travis Marcum.


'together' Artist Profile: Isaac Bustos - Guitarist

We are thrilled to be collaborating with some incredible artists for our January 24-26 season centerpiece together. Guitarist Isaac Bustos has been with us since the beginning of this series playing in both i/we and dream, and many others. We asked Isaac to tell us a bit about this project and a bit about himself. 


Austin Classical Guitar: You’ve been part of this series from the beginning. i/we, dream, together. What’s it mean to you?

Issac Bustos: It has been a powerful experience to be part of each of these projects because of the profound impact each event has had on me as an artist and person. I/WE, in particular, hit so close to home because of how I related to the refugee experience expressed in the interviews. This short anecdote encapsulates how significant this concert was for me: I vividly remember that while working on the solo of "I am not afraid", I was overwhelmed by how perfectly Joe's music captured the message of the text! I remember how my own experience was guiding my phrasing, the way I breathed with the music, which colors to bring out, what kind of touch to use on the strings, how loud/soft to play. All these things, obviously, are always part of our interpretative process, but the fact that they were serving a greater purpose - at least from my perspective - made the whole experience much more meaningful. 

ACG: What do you wish everyone knew about the process of creating, collaborating on, and sharing new music and new art?

IB: The music, collaborative efforts, creation, and production of these new works of art reveal our humanity and how much we have in common. One of the most fascinating aspects of these events is the fact that most musicians involved in these concerts have never worked together! Somehow, however, the music brings us all together to serve a common purpose - which we in return share with audiences that have come to experience something new. This entire process takes open minds and hearts.

ACG: What’s it been like work with this team?

IB: Inspiring! The professionalism, dedication, and camaraderie are nothing short of exceptional. I have gotten to work with top-notch musicians in settings that allow the creative process to flourish. Plus, we get to share beautiful and impactful music. 

ACG: Tell us a little about what else you have going on - how can people learn more about you?

IB: This spring is full of exciting new adventures for me! I have concerts with the Texas Guitar Quartet in Feb, March, and April! In the summer, we are touring Mexico. Plus, I am hosting the Southwest Guitar Symposium and competition in March (13-15) as part of my new position as director of guitar studies at UT -San Antonio! Then, a solo show in Anaheim, California followed by a performance of the Concierto de Aranjuez with the Rapides Symphony in Alexandria, LA. Lots of music to be made and I can't wait to share it with people.

---

If you would like to know more about the inspiration of 'together,' we invite you to read this article by Artistic Director, Joe Williams, and Education Director, Travis Marcum.


'together' Artist Profile: Alejandro Montiel - Guitarist

We are thrilled to be collaborating with some incredible artists for our January 24-26 season centerpiece together. Guitarist Alejandro Montiel has been with us since the beginning of this series playing in both i/we and dream, and many others. We asked Alejandro to tell us a bit about this project and a bit about himself. 


Austin Classical Guitar: You’ve been part of this series form the beginning. i/we, dream, together. What’s it mean to you?

Alejandro Montiel: I can’t believe this is the third and final one! It has all been building up to “together” - this idea that we are never alone. “i/we” dealt with the very real and terrifying act of uprooting your family to seek a better life for them. Through his harrowing story, our protagonist appealed to our shared sense of humanity. “dream”’s universal message of hopeful fear of the future in our youth successfully bridges across generations because we all share in the experience of growth, and we all remember how difficult it was (and in some cases still is). While I’m sad to see it end, “together” seems like the natural stopping point to the story Joe has been telling for the past three years. I’m so incredibly proud and fortunate to have played a small part.

ACG: What do you wish everyone knew about the process of creating, collaborating on, and sharing new music and new art?

AM: Birthing a new chamber work varies from one piece to the next. Sometimes the process is quite easy and will quickly comes together. Other times, it’s incredibly difficult and we’ll have to roll up our proverbial sleeves. Eventually, the piece reveals itself and the story begins to take shape. It’s during these “ah hah!” moments when I regain my sense of magic and wonder at the power of music - and it never gets old!

ACG: What’s it been like work with this team?

AM: It’s a bit like going to camp: I get to see old friends, make new ones, and then there’s a big performance at the end! For three years (four if you count “Persona”), the ACG team has had the difficult task of putting this production together and making it run smoothly. Their tireless professionalism never ceases to amaze and inspire me. 

Working with spectacular musicians is always a highlight of my year. In the past four years I’ve learned so much from Hakan Rosengren, Louis-Marie Fardet, Esteli Gomez, DaXun Zhang, Chris Lyzak, Ta’tyana Jammer, Travis Marcum, and Line upon line, but it’s two-thirds of the trio at the core of the pieces whom I’ve learned the most from. Jennifer Choi’s ability to do anything and everything on the violin is frightening, but so amazing to watch from five feet away. Isaac Bustos, my friend and Texas Guitar Quartet brother, is someone I always look forward to working with because he makes it ridiculously easy. Jenni and Isaac are two of a handful of people I’ve played with in the past 25 years who share in my musical sensibilities, and I’m incredibly lucky I get to perform with them. 

Of course, there’s Joe Williams. Every time he calls, I always say yes without asking what I’m doing. I know that whatever the project is, it will be beautiful, magical, and spiritually rewarding. It’s Joe’s vision we are bringing to life - his lead we are choosing to follow and believe in. I’m going to do my very best to help.

ACG: Tell us a little about what else you have going on - how can people learn more about you?

AM: This spring semester, I start my 11th year at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. In addition to being part of Conspirare’s world-premiere recording of Nico Muhly’s “How Little You Are”, the Texas Guitar Quartet has been hard at work on an album of new compositions which we hope to have ready by next year. I’ve been arranging a few pieces (one of which will be performed in “together”) which should yield some exciting new collaborations! I’m also traveling to Virginia, New Orleans, and Brownsville with the quartet as part of a few festivals and residencies, and we’re planning a multi-week summer tour of Mexico.

While I personally keep a very low online profile, people can learn a little bit more about my main project, the Texas Guitar Quartet via our website.

---
If you would like to know more about the inspiration of 'together,' we invite you to read this article by Artistic Director, Joe Williams, and Education Director, Travis Marcum. 

'together' Artist Profile: Russell Pinkston - Composer

We are thrilled to be collaborating with some incredible artists for our January 24-26 season centerpiece together. Composer Russell Pinkston has created to beautiful and moving new works for these shows: AloneTogether and Nobody Tells You. We asked Russell to tell us a bit about the process and a bit about himself. 


Austin Classical Guitar: What has this project meant to you so far, has anything surprised you?

Russell Pinkston: It’s truly an honor to be part of this project. I think what ACG has done the past two seasons is wonderful, both artistically and in terms of the underlying concepts. I am sure that “together” will be just as powerful and well-produced and I hope that my little pieces will contribute in some small way. I’m especially looking forward to working with these great musicians!

 ACG: What do you wish everyone knew about the process of creating, collaborating on, and sharing new music and new art?

 RP: I first got into writing music when I was playing in a “Prog Rock” band in New England, back in the late sixties and early seventies. We had a pretty big following and we played all over the northeast, mostly doing our own music. We lived in a rambling old farm house in Vermont, which had a separate outbuilding where we practiced and worked out our songs and arrangements. For a songwriter/arranger, there’s just nothing quite like the experience of coming up with a new idea, sharing it with your friends/fellow musicians the same day, working out the arrangement collaboratively, and then performing it together onstage – sometimes that very night. And best of all, to be playing your own music for people who know you, have come to hear you, and really appreciate what you’re doing – that’s an amazing experience! Since leaving rock ‘n roll and becoming a “Composer” with a capital “C,” I haven’t had that kind of musical fellowship very often, and I miss it. Writing music for other people to perform is a very different, much more solitary experience. But when I finally get to hear what I’ve written played, especially by such outstanding musicians as I have been privileged to work with over the years, it’s no less of a joyful and satisfying experience. Delayed gratification, if you will! One of the pieces I wrote for this event is called “Alone, Together,” and it’s about the joy of communal music-making, and how it can lift us up when we’re feeling isolated.

 ACG: What’s it been like work with this team?

 RP: Well, I’ve certainly enjoyed my conversations about the project with Joe and Travis, and I’m looking forward to working with the musicians in the near future. I hope they like what I’ve come up with for them!

 ACG: Tell us a little about what else you have going on - how can people learn more about you?

 RP: Since retiring from UT after 35 years of teaching there, I’ve been splitting my time between Harpswell, Maine, and Austin. One of my great joys has been starting to study classical guitar (with Joe Williams). I was a self-taught electric blues/rock guitarist back in the day, but I never really knew what I was doing. I’m loving the experience now – practicing a lot, unlearning bad habits and discovering the wonderful literature for this instrument. Playing classical guitar is right up there with sailing these days – at least, when I’m up in Maine! There’s more of my music, for anyone interested (including some of my rock ‘n roll) on my website. Thanks for listening!


If you would like to know more about the inspiration of 'together,' we invite you to read this article by Artistic Director, Joe Williams, and Education Director, Travis Marcum.


Fall 2019 Education Report

Dear Friends,

It has been a truly remarkable year in ACG Education. As you’ll read in this report two of our national partners have hit major milestones in their organizations, proving that mentorship and modeling from ACG combined with time and effort from faraway partners can turn into sustainable programming with wide-ranging positive community benefit. This is extremely encouraging, and will impact our strategy going forward as we actively seek more willing and capable institutional partners.

Another of our most significant developments is the creation of a second daily juvenile justice system program, this time in Williamson County. This new program is going beautifully, students have performed in public three times, and the staff and community are responding with tremendous enthusiasm. This means that the program we started nine years ago in juvenile detention in Travis County is replicable, and we’re already in talks with another county to the south about starting a third program.

In these reports I often focus on program growth and demonstrable change in our systems and resources. It is slightly more difficult to capture the direct impact we’re having on hearts and minds, on individual students, parents and teachers. I have so many stories! So many parents have come up to me at concerts with statements of gratitude, so many teachers around the world send us videos of their students playing music from our curriculum. It can be overwhelming in a good way. As one example, here is an excerpt from a student’s college essay we were invited to share this fall:

Music has been a love of mine since I started in middle school. I have progressed from taking it as an elective, to private lessons, to an Austin-wide youth ensemble…When I play, I feel lost in myself and I have benefited greatly from the transferable skills I’ve learned from my music education thus far. I feel I have a gift, which allows me to live through my life with a purpose. 

Sometimes I feel anxious and agitated and am not sure how to manage my emotions…I had an intense period of hardship and needed to get some focused help for a few days. I was in an environment that had other adolescents with all sorts of various hardships regarding mental and emotional health…Instead of staying quiet and removing myself…I actually surprised myself by stepping up to help. I played the guitar they had on hand. I made acquaintances in the short time I was there…When I left, the social workers indicated how proud they were of me, of my openness, and willingness to share my music. To me, that experience demonstrated leadership under difficult circumstances.

We have a guiding question at Austin Classical Guitar: “What good can music do in the world today?” To be sure one of the best answers to that question is to take any steps necessary to ensure as many young people as possible have an opportunity to find joy and satisfaction through music education in their schools. That is the purpose of our work in ACG Education, and that is the subject of this report. There are other answers, however, answers like raising money for charity, reaching people facing profound challenge or isolation, or international cultural exchange to help foster understanding and empathy. If you’re curious about some of the work ACG does in those arenas, I’d like to invite you to take a look at our Top Ten Moments of 2019 that includes glimpses of our other service areas.

Thank you. 

If you are reading this report it is because you care. You have given to ACG Education, you believe in the importance of quality music education in young people’s lives, and you have helped make everything we do possible. As a team we have never been more convinced of the gentle power of music to welcome all people, to help individuals build their identities in pro-social ways, and to help nourish the spirit. We are deeply grateful to you, and we hope what you find in this report will make you proud.

Matt Hinsley, Executive Director
Austin Classical Guitar


Central Texas

Our deep partnership with Austin ISD continues. With dozens of schools perhaps our most common challenge is teacher turnover or changes in school structure leading to class disruption or large or unstable class sizes. We have added one new middle school program this fall (O. Henry), are working actively to stabilize personnel in one high school campus currently, and are looking at the prospect of three new middle school programs in fall 2020.

Recent successes include the placement and multi-year intensive support of a teacher at LBJ/LASA, and the addition of two support instructors for growing programs at Lively, Covington, and Akins. Both instructors, incidentally, are former ACG students who are now full-time employees of AISD teaching guitar in ACG programs. You can read more about Mr. Saucedo and Mr. Hernandez in this article about ACG alumni: Where Are They Now? 

ACG Education can be summarized as including four main elements: Curriculum, Teacher Training, Special Support Services, and Standards and Systems Building. In this final category, one example is our development of the Austin ISD Concert and Sight Reading Contest (CS&R). This is a standard element of orchestra and band programs, but until we developed the event for Austin ISD six years ago, it did not exist for guitar in the state of Texas. This kind of event is critical when building large education systems as it is the evaluative measure for districts to communicate standards and expectations for all programs. ACG Education staff has run this contest for AISD for six years, continually develops materials and processes, and has also assisted four other districts to develop similar contests around the state. More than 700 students from over 40 ensembles participated in CS&R in spring 2019 (contest results, rules, procedures, and sight reading examples available upon request). 

Surrounding Communities: San Marcos High School under the direction of Juan Carlos Cavasos continues to be very impressive. They participated in our 2019 CS&R, and there are plans to expand guitar into the middle school levels in San Marcos soon. Mr. Cavasos also had one student selected for the All Region High School Ensemble in November 2019. Del Valle’s after school for-credit program is run by ACG’s Arnold Yzaguirre, and received straight superior ratings in the 2019 CS&R. Manor’s Decker Middle School program is thriving under the direction of Victor Longoria, and though there has been administrative change in MISD, January will see the reinstatement of elementary programs at both Oak Meadows and Decker Elementary Schools run by ACG alumni Angelica Campbell and Alex Lew. We are in current talks about the expansion of the Dripping Springs High School guitar program as well. 

 

Free Lessons Initiative

ACG Education began in 2001 as an initiative to provide free lessons for low-income students. Our mission quickly expanded to curriculum development and program building, but the free lessons program has continued and expanded. ACG has six teachers: Jeffrey Fratus, Douglas Stefaniak, Tony Mariano, Angelica Campbell, Tom Clippinger and Javier Saucedo providing individual lesson support primarily in Title 1 Schools.

We are particularly proud to report that 8 out of 21 students selected for the All Region High School ensemble in November, are participants in the ACG Free Lesson Initiative. 

Some of our most dramatic examples of personal growth and success over the years have come about through these special and intensive mentor relationships. When a student is identified as both qualifying for the program and showing special interest to avidly pursue music, they are paired with a teacher for 30- or 60-minute lessons every week for the entire school year. All students in ACG Free Lessons are expected to perform publicly as soloists on a regular basis.

This year we established a special scholarship fund in the name of former Free Lesson participant, Javier Niño, whose life was tragically cut short by an impaired driver in February. You can learn more about this remarkable young man, his scholarship, and the scholarship’s first recipient, Elijah Flores, online here

Mr. Flores wrote: “Classical guitar has changed my life and will always be valuable to me…I’m proud to call myself a classical guitarist.”

Juvenile Justice System

ACG’s Jeremy Osborne runs our Juvenile Justice programs. One of the most significant developments of 2019 is the addition of our second such program in Williamson County (WilCo). Instruction at WilCo began June 3rd, and the students performed July 8th, August 10th, and December 10th.  

Our programs in juvenile justice are highly unusual. They are the only for-credit, daily, performing arts elective programs we know of in the United States. While there are many shorter-term enrichment or activity-based arts programs, the opportunity we have to make deep and lasting change through relationship-building and significant skills development is unusual. We’re thrilled, then, to have had the opportunity to build a second program in a neighboring county. We’re also very pleased to report that we are in talks to build a third program in Hays County in the year to come.

In September the Austin American Statesman published the largest print article ever written about ACG, over 3,000 words! The article includes special focus on our work in juvenile justice and a brief video feature shot in part at WilCo. You can view both the article and video feature online here

Let’s Play: Braille Music Learning Resource

ACG began a guitar program at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) in 2010. In 2012 we supported a Braille adaptation of our GuitarCurriculum.com resource that has led to a full-scale literacy-based guitar program there ever since led by Jeremy Coleman. In 2016 we became aware of the need for a lifelong learning pathway for Braille music readers on the classical guitar. No such pathway existed, and we had TSBVI graduates leaving school with skills for whom there was no supported lifelong learning sequence.

With the goal of addressing that need, we created LetsPlayGuitar.org, a free online resource pairing graded pieces of solo music in Braille and print formats with audio instruction guides for both guitar proficiency and Braille reading. The site launched in July 2018 and so far has had over 8,500 unique visitors and the Braille score packet (.brf) has been downloaded more than 1,500 times.

The site contained only beginning level material, however, and as soon as it launched we began a second phase of development. Phase 2 includes a site redesign, and significant content additions that should allow users at least 3-5 years of study material yielding successful students who are fluent music readers in first position on the guitar, who possess a full compliment of basic guitar techniques, and who can play dozens of beautiful solo pieces. We’re pleased to report that content is now complete for Phase 2, and the new site will launch in January 2020.

We’re also extremely excited to announce that Rados Malidzan, a world-class guitarist and educator in Montenegro, has asked to translate and adapt the materials for use in the Balkan Peninsula. After a nationwide fundraising campaign including multiple televised appearances, he has raised the funds necessary for the project. Our new website will be capable of supporting multiple languages from a single database.

GuitarCurriculum.com

GuitarCurriculum.com is the core of ACG Education. The philosophy, curriculum, and vast support materials within it have allowed us not only to advance the quality of classroom guitar education, but also to replicate success across the US and beyond. One of our top strategic goals has been to redevelop the site for superior functionality in terms of content, data, functionality, and appearance. It was a huge job and it took us years to complete, but we’re thrilled to report that the new site became fully functional in August, 2019.  

We would love to take you on a personalized tour! Reach out any time. 

We are also constantly adding and improving content within the site from new music, to new video and audio tutorials and guides. For example, we’ve recently added ten new ensemble pieces by Celil Refik Kaya representing music of central Asia. We also now have the capability to embed videos on the landing page of every piece in the teaching library so that ensembles around the world can be featured as models when other ensembles are learning a selection.

National Highlights

We now have over 800 curriculum users across the United States. Each week we hear about successes and challenges from our teaching partners far and wide. Our online Teacher Forum, email newsletter, GuitarCurriculum blog, webinar series, and social media channels are all ways we seek to stay in touch, and provide support for our many partner teachers. Of course we also have direct contact with teachers who attend our Teacher Training Summits (2019 Summits were in Austin and St. Louis), through in-service training (we visited New Mexico in 2019), and by individual email and telephone support.

Two places our team has spent the most time in person, on the phone, and online, have been St. Louis and Cleveland. We have enthusiastically invested a lot of resources in both areas because the leaders there have reflected back such tremendous energy, and such willingness to do the hard work of growth and community development, while at the same time always putting the needs of their communities first.

Cleveland Classical Guitar under the direction of Erik Mann has been so incredibly beautiful to watch. They have produced innovative programming, been in the local and national news a bunch (like this beautiful CBS Sunday Morning Broadcast), and this year won a $150,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation to grow their programming to reach 500 students each week.

St. Louis Classical Guitar, run for many years by Bill Ash, and now led by super-talented Executive Director Kevin Ginty, has built more than twenty beautiful school programs. Our team has been in St. Louis training teachers every summer for seven years. The reach of their services has been a beautiful thing to watch first-hand. So you can imagine how happy we were when Bill Ash was recognized this year by the Missouri Arts Council as Arts Education Hero of The Year!

You have to imagine with us a time ten years ago when we had no sister organizations building education programs of this caliber anywhere in the country. Or twenty years ago when school-based guitar education was rarely found anywhere at all, few resources or standards existed, and our ideas were met with skepticism. Fast-forward to today when so many thousands of kids are finding joy and identity in school through participation in guitar, and partner organizations are winning major grants and awards, it’s like jet fuel for the ACG engine!

International Highlights

Who would have thought that a nonprofit music service organization in Austin, Texas, could help inspire kids in Mexico, could help put guitars in the hands of students in Cambodia, could train teachers in Nicaragua, or help build and fund a music education program in an orphanage in Kathmandu, Nepal? Who would have thought that the same organization could develop a Braille and audio guide lifelong learning resource that people as far away as Montenegro would want to raise funds to translate and bring to serve blind and visually impaired students in the Balkan Peninsula? 

Not us! Yet here we are. 

We’ve been overjoyed this year by our many wonderful connections across the globe. Some of our partnerships are well-established, like our work with Ravindra Paudyal at the Early Childhood Development Center in Kathmandu, Nepal. Ravindra regularly sends us videos of kids playing beautifully and confidently, and has plans to grow the program in Nepal soon. 

Other initiatives are bubbling rapidly, like Rados Malidzan’s plan – mentioned earlier - to bring our LetsPlayGuitar.org Braille lifelong learning resource to Montenegro.

And still more programs, like our new partnership with the Caring For Cambodia network of schools, are just getting started. With our friends at Calido Guitars we’re just now sending twenty new guitars to Cambodia, and will begin teacher training soon. 

Pro-Social Ecosystem

From time to time we like to share some of the theories behind the work we do. Several years ago, for example, we shared the Five Elements Theory of Deep Personal Significance that is the basis of our Teacher Behavior training and evaluation. While these theories can seem esoteric, we believe they are at the heart of what has made ACG successful overall because they guide and focus our work.

Pro-Social Ecosystem is the top concept to emerge from our 2018 Strategic Planning Process. It is the acknowledgement that our work does not happen in a vacuum, and the significance of an experience someone has with us is different based on who they are, and on what levels that experience resonates. In an effort to be the very best, most positively impactful service organization we can be, we have begun the development of a Pro-Social Ecosystem Playbook, and so far have defined three vectors: Breadth, Depth, and Interrelation.

Breadth refers to who we have the opportunity to impact at ACG. Our implicit goal is to have the widest breadth of impact possible. So along this vector are discussions of diversity in terms of ethnicity, culture, age, artistry, geography, economics, etc.

Depth refers to the impact itself. Not just the how, but the quality, relevance, resonance, value, transformative power, taking into account especially that what might make deep impact for one individual, can be quite different than what might make deep impact for another. This involves, then, investigation of personal significance (ACG Mission), and personal relevance (see Eric Booth’s Red Wheelbarrow video).

Interrelation refers to the mixing of both elements, potentially even in the absence of ACG involvement. An example might be a peer mentor program where students are coaching other students. Another example would be a student service project where students perform in retirement facilities. By mixing training, learning, performing, and production, with multiple populations, ACG sets in motion through Interrelation programming that expands both Breadth and Depth.

This year’s overall theme at ACG is Together. Together (see the poster image at the bottom of this report) is a direct outgrowth, of our Pro-Social Ecosystem Theory. We look forward to reporting on the progress of this theory and the various ways in which it will impact ACG Education in the months and years to come.


Thank You!

The programs and services described in this report are made possible through the generous support of many individual and institutional donors, including:

City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Augustine Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Kaman Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Webber Family Foundation, Still Water Foundation, Lucy & Bill Farland, Rea Charitable Trust, Texas Commission on the Arts, HEB Tournament of Champions Charitable Trust, Tingari-Silverton Foundation, Kodosky Foundation, Long Foundation, The Skeel/Baldauf Family, Louise Epstein & John Henry McDonald, Bill Metz, MFS Foundation, University Area Rotary Club, Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, Applied Materials Foundation, Shield-Ayres Foundation, Seawell Elam Foundation, Sue L. Nguyen Management Trust, Dr. Michael Froehls, Sarah & Ernest Butler, Mercedes-Benz of Austin, Carl Caricari & Margaret Murray Miller, Burdine Johnson Foundation, Rich & Caryn Puccio, Wright Family Foundation, 3M Foundation, Karrie & Tim League, Kendal & Ken Gladish, Jack & Vanessa Wolfe, D'Addario Foundation, Kerry & Carole Price, Rixen Law, Bank of America, Elaine & Michael Kasper, IBC Bank Austin, Strait Music, Urban Betty, Inc, PwC, Tesoros Trading Company, Calido Guitars, Ted Held & Nuria Zaragoza, Reverb Gives & Reverb.com, Chelle & David Neff, Lazan & Bill Pargaman, and many, many others.

If you would like to make a contribution to support ACG Education, click here, or call us at 512-300-2247.


Live at the Library: “Evening” with Thomas Echols & Invoke

Dr. Thomas Echols - performer, composer, songwriter, instructor at Austin Community College – is one of the most creative artistic innovators we know. At home in many styles and multiple media, Echols was the mastermind behind ACG’s Summer Series NARRATIVES that rolled together poetry from Argentina, Portugal, and England, minimalism, ancient and modern instruments, synthesizers, and contemporary responsive composition.

 On Sunday, December 1st at 2pm (doors at 1:30), Echols will be joined by award-winning and supremely imaginative Invoke String Quartet for the first of two ACG Live at the Library shows.  The event will be held at Austin’s new Central Public Library, it’s free, and open to the public.

We asked Echols to share a few thoughts on the show, which he’s calling, EVENING:

ACG: Tell us about EVENING?

TE: Evening” presents a sonic landscape that is inhabited by songs, compositions, and improvisations. The focal points of the performance are four songs, somewhat sparse and inward looking, that unfold out into instrumental forays.  At times, the players are guided by GRADUS, a contrapuntal algorithm that I built to be an additional participant in the work. GRADUS performs a complex role: providing pitch content to be played by us, processing the sounds captured from our instruments, and performing newly generated material through various types of synthesis. The emotive content of the songs is rather soft, dark, and heavy. GRADUS provides a kind of levity, by revealing that a lot of these same sonic experiences can come from a source essentially devoid of emotion (a computer). To help GRADUS to follow our expressive intent, I have made a device that mounts to my guitar that sends the algorithm information about the physical movement of my guitar and monitors the motion of my left hand, as I engage in a kind of hyperbolic expressive histrionics to communicate musical intention.

ACG: What do you love about working with Invoke String Quartet?

TE: Invoke, is amazing! They are a top-shelf string quartet that has chosen to ardently pursue a path of deep creative work: improvising, composing, song-writing, and working with new composers. With Invoke, I can provide a skeletal layout of what we are working on, and we can improvise around it until we come to something we love. I can also give them a detailed score and they can read it easily. They are a dream.

 

ACG: What do you wish everyone knew about working with synthesizers/electronic music?

TE: It’s more than people often think it is. Synthesizers are an amazing way to learn about traditional instruments: by creating a “patch” that resembles the sound of a clarinet or snare drum, you learn quite a lot! So, it is a means of learning to orchestrate. But just as importantly, computers, synths, circuits et al are a way of exploring new sounds and textures, new ways for musicians to engage with themselves, other musicians, and their audiences through various interactive techniques.

ACG: Why is creativity important to you, to humanity?

TE: When thinking of creativity, I really come to focus on two things: the idea of free will and of learning as its expression. A hot take on free will through a Tolstoyan lense is that we have it, but we have a whole lot less than we like to think. We are bound by a multitude of constraints that determine so much about our live, but in spite of that, we do guide the ship in some way.

 

About learning.... Creativity, for me, is the natural end result of learning, with learning and creating being somewhat like inhaling and exhaling. The creative act is the trace left by the fire that was the learning.

The creative part seems to come about through an important need: the need to connect with others, while continuously learning about the next thing that we will eventually create serves as a kind of path towards greater freedom. So, going back to the free will thing, a creative life allow a person to have greater agency, providing us with the most obvious mean of having a say in what we become. That's the long and short of it, so I tend to focus on learning and then find myself creating as a kind of happy accident, at least in the initial inception of the thing!

---

Thank you Dr. Tom! We can’t wait. Learn more about Thomas Echols on his website or by checking out his band here.

 


Ryan Runcie: Studio Artist, Muralist, and Instructor

We are thrilled that Ryan Runcie will share an exhibit of his extraordinary artwork as part of our season opening concert with Xuefei Yang on Saturday, October 5th at the Austin ISD Performing Arts Center.

The lobby exhibit will open at 6:30pm. Beginning at 7pm, ACG’s Artistic Director Joseph Williams, and our Education Director Travis Marcum, will lead our Let’s Connect discussion in the Blackbox Theater, and Xuefei’s performance will begin at 8pm in the main hall. Also in the lobby will be delights from our Season Partner in Deliciousness, Edis Chocolates!

Information and tickets are online or call us any time at 512-300-2247.

Ryan Runcie is a busy guy.

He’s got 8 public murals around Texas—including two new ones in Austin at Penney Lane Bar and Blackshear Elementary School. We first met him in a discussion around a show he’ll present soon at Umlauf Sculpture Garden, and when we caught up with him to talk about working together, he was on his way back from installing an exhibit in Killeen.

Our theme at ACG this season is together. Joe Williams and Travis Marcum recently explained it like this:

“One of the greatest challenges of our time is isolation. Whether we are cut off from one another by technology, addiction, health, or dogma, this separateness can make it difficult to see beyond the moment, beyond ourselves. As a theme for our season, together is about disrupting the pattern of isolation and fostering belonging.”

Ryan Runcie’s art is captivating. When we learned more about why he makes the art he makes, it resonated even more deeply with us—with together—and we knew we wanted to work with him.

Jasmine's Purpose - Ryan Runcie

Runcie explains on his website: “My portraits revolve around my intention for social and racial reconciliation. To move past a mere tolerance of others, we must cultivate a higher sense of empathy for other cultures. A healthy self love allows us to see others and understand that we can be different and still exist together. By allowing this for each other, we may act more freely as our desire to judge and condemn fades, hopefully, allowing others to do the same.”

Resolve - Ryan Runcie

When we asked Ryan about the intersection of life and art he replied:

“For my personal art practice, I veer from the standard artist. I do not only create in one style because I do not only process one emotion, one concept. I am human. I change and grow with my work through what I would define as an honest pursuit.”

You can learn about Ryan Runcie and see more of his artwork on his website. We are so excited that he and his works will be present for Opening Night of our International Concert Series, be sure to come early, visit with him, and experience his beautiful artistic vision.