I am so pleased to present ACG’s Spring 2016 education progress report. While I’ve been preparing this we have been receiving registrations from music educators around the country for our summer teacher training sessions, which are taking place this July in Austin and St. Louis. One of the registrants, an elementary school teacher from Odessa, Texas named Tyra, included this note:
Last year I attended my first teacher training for classical guitar. What I learned helped me immensely. It restored my joy, answered questions I had about introducing elementary students to ensemble experiences…My kids loved what we did. I am coming back for more! I want to keep growing and learning and teaching.
I love what Tyra says here. I think it encapsulates both the beauty and the complexity of the leadership role we find ourselves in here at ACG Education. There is an inextricable connection between consistent, high quality measureable student performance outcomes and joy. Our goal is not only to provide the most effective classical guitar curriculum and teacher resources in the world, but also to inspire a teacher like Tyra to keep “growing, learning and teaching.” Because as long she does, her students will thrive.
Thank you for making ACG Education possible. I hope that what you find in this report will make you proud of your support.
ACG Education Progress Report, Spring 2016
Special Needs: Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
With thousands of diverse students in our affiliated programs, our teachers are regularly called upon to address a variety of special needs. This fall we introduced Jeremy Coleman, a former ACG instructor now employed by Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, as a consultant available to instructors nationwide who seek assistance with adaptive strategies.
Our main focus in this arena continues to be the development of resources and techniques for teaching students with visual impairments. Having now developed a functioning system for teaching guitar and music literacy through a Braille adaptation of our curriculum, our next project is to publish a free online repository of graded self-study solo literature in Braille with accompanying audio guides, a resource that will empower our graduates to become lifelong learners.
Spotlight: Angelica and Oscar at Crockett High School
Three years ago, a music teacher named Ron Hare took over the guitar program Crockett High School, a Title I school located in south Austin. We have worked closely with Ron from the beginning, and his program at Crockett is now thriving. In an April 2016 letter Ron wrote:
Before I even taught my first class at Crockett the education staff at ACG met with me personally to discuss what to expect in the classroom, registered me for a free training, gave me access to their amazing curriculum, and provided me with a personal mentor who would work with me periodically over the course of the school year. This detailed and personal attention to the needs of my students has helped me tremendously.
This fall we learned about Angelica and Oscar, two promising seniors from Ron’s advanced class. They were both interested in pursuing music education degrees in college, but neither could afford private lessons or quality instruments in preparation for their auditions. We were able to provide both for each student, and are thrilled to report that, after months of hard work, Angelica and Oscar passed their auditions and were accepted into the highly-competitive Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin. In honor of their commitment we decided they should keep the instruments we had loaned them. Angelica wrote to us:
I’d like to share my appreciation for Austin Classical Guitar, the program itself, supporters of the program, and everyone part of it. The hard work, dedication, and support put in by everyone involved has given me so many opportunities to achieve. Without this program I don’t believe I’d be headed down the road I am today. I’m so excited to share that I achieved my goal of being accepted to the Butler School of Music, but I couldn’t do it without the support given to me from all of you.
Lullaby Project: Shirdyn Sings to Izaeah
The Lullaby Project has become our fastest-growing area of constituent-specific service. In partnership with Carnegie Hall, our clinicians visit with new and expectant mothers in challenging circumstances, guide them through a series of introspective writing exercises, distill their writings into song lyrics, and collaborate to compose and record an original song as an expression of their hopes and dreams for themselves and their children. The following video captures the moment when Shirdyn, one of our teen moms at Annunciation Maternity Home, sang her lullaby to her son Izaeah for the first time.
Lullaby Project: Travis County Jail
Dr. Ted Held is Director of Reproductive Health at People’s Community Clinic (PCC). In January he asked us to offer the Lullaby Project to women incarcerated at Travis County Jail, and is supporting a further expansion this summer to include patients at PCC. In explaining his support for this program, Dr. Held wrote:
A lifetime of financial and emotion stressors is highly correlated with preterm birth, low birth weight babies, and poor maternal bonding…Through The Lullaby Project, Austin Classical Guitar provides a unique and powerful intervention for pregnant women in challenging circumstances to have positive and creative engagement creating original lullabies that express their love, hopes and dreams for their babies. These engagements can improve women’s social and emotional health which is an area of increasing concern for medical professionals…
Here’s a recording of a lullaby that one of our clients at Travis County Jail wrote for her daughter Miracle, and also for her son, who passed away soon after he was born.
Local Support: Program-Building, Student Engagement, and Job Creation
ACG Education created and actively supports over 50 local school programs like the one at Crockett High School. We have been asked to help develop new programs in the coming year in Dripping Springs and Del Valle. The level of support needed by each school varies, and in 2015-16 we are particularly proud of what we helped accomplish at Bowie High School.
In August 2015 the AISD Fine Arts Department decided to launch a pilot guitar program at Bowie, but with the start of the school year fast approaching they were struggling to find a qualified and certified teacher. Two days before classes began we decided to step in and provide one of our own staff members, Toby Rodriguez, to lead the program in its pilot year.
Toby taught 57 students in two sections this past year at Bowie. More than 150 students signed up for guitar next fall, enough to fill five sections, meaning many new students participating in Fine Arts, and a new job opportunity for a qualified professional teacher.
Addressing Economic Disadvantage: Garcia YMLA & Mendez Middle School
Progress and refinement are keys to student motivation. ACG frequently offers direct support to specific programs and individuals that show promise but face economic challenges that impede their progress. Our work at Travis High School—highlighted in past reports —and Crockett High School are examples of these targeted efforts.
Earlier this spring we received a request for special assistance from Eric Walz at Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy in east Austin. We sent Arnold Yzaguirre, one of our teaching artists, to work with Eric and his students twice a week for the remainder of the semester. Eric recently wrote:
Arnold came to support our young men in more advanced guitar techniques and skills that I am unfamiliar with, and help guide students toward precision music-making that would not have been possible without him. Arnold continually held high standards for the sound production and musicality of each student…they are unquestionably better off with his guidance. His ability to quickly give them the tools they need was an extremely important step to the growth of their musical minds and our program’s success.
We have also invested significantly in the program at Mendez Middle School. One of our teaching artists there is Colin Fullerton, an exceptional guitarist who just received his master’s degree in performance from UT–Austin. In a recent letter, Colin shared a different perspective on the impact of ACG Education:
Teaching at Mendez Middle School, I’ve come to understand the true breadth of the impact of ACG’s free lessons initiative. Beyond instruction on how to play the guitar, this program provides the opportunity to engage students on a level that only arts immersion can offer; they are exposed to elements of collaboration and modes of critical thinking that can influence their lives well beyond the context of school, and all through the intimate, enriching medium of music. ACG is providing a vital service to which, otherwise, students in these communities would never have access.
On Sunday, April 22nd over 100 guests gathered in the Gardner Betts courtroom for the first public recital by our students at the Travis County Juvenile Justice Center. The students played 5 ensemble pieces and 4 solos, and received a standing ovation. After the concert, we invited guests to write a short note to the students. Here’s what one said:
Today you inspired me. You reminded me of how powerful music can be. As an ensemble, you presented a united front. As soloists, your attention to detail brought your pieces to life. Music unites us, it’s the universal language, and today that unification made me want to be a better guitarist. Thank you for that.
On the heels of a PBS NewsHour story and an appearance by our staff before the Texas State Board of Juvenile Justice, Travis County officials have requested a significant extension of our program to serve non-incarcerated court-involved youth as part of their case plans. This expansion is set to begin as soon as summer 2016.
Community Programs: Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra
ACG offers a variety of other programs designed to meet the needs of people where they are. These include a workplace education initiative piloted at Silicon Labs, a program for adults living with mental health diagnoses at Austin Clubhouse, and audition-based youth and adult ensemble programs based on the civic orchestra model. Here is an excerpt from this spring’s final concert by the ACG Youth Orchestra.
Organization: Structure, System, Training and Evaluation
The highest administrative priority to emerge from our 2015 Strategic Planning process was to hire a full-time marketing staff person. We are pleased to announce that veteran communicator and social servant Carlos Femat joined the ACG team on June 1st as our first Director of Marketing and Communications.
Our online curriculum and teacher resource, GuitarCurriculum.com, has been undergoing a major overhaul for over a year. We have made significant progress in recent months, and look forward to launching the new and significantly improved site this summer.
Our national training sessions will take place in Austin and St. Louis this July. Our team led three sessions at the Texas Music Educators Association convention in February, including the first meeting of our statewide advocacy organization, Texas Guitar Directors Association. We are also presenting at this summer’s Guitar Foundation of America International Festival in Denver, CO.
As our programs expand our primary concern is quality control. We are addressing this through the creation and implementation of smart, systemic, and replicable evaluation procedures. In March, 49 guitar ensembles participated in the first official pilot for a UIL concert and sight-reading assessment event. We assisted with similar events in Houston and Brownsville, and hosted guests from El Paso who are planning a similar event for their district next school year. Our team also contributed significantly to the new revisions of the UIL statewide Prescribed Music List for solo contests, and we will launch a new statewide video and guest artist outreach initiative to promote and improve solo guitar participation in the coming year.
ACG Education would not be possible without the generosity of our many individual donors, along with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Augustine Foundation, Webber Family Foundation, Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, Sarah & Ernest Butler, Kodosky Foundation, H-E-B, Shield-Ayres Foundation, Topfer Family Foundation, Mercedes-Benz of Austin, Silicon Labs, Texas Commission on the Arts, 3M Foundation, Kendal & Ken Gladish, Oliver Custom Homes, D’Addario Foundation, Louise Epstein & John Henry McDonald, David & Sheila Lastrapes, PricewaterhouseCoopers, 3Can Events, Savarez, Ameriprise Financial, Cain Foundation, Charles Schwab, Dr. Ted Held, MFS Foundation, William Metz, Bill & Marilyn Hartman, Ted Philippus & Carol Wratten, and Calido Guitars.