Spring 2016 Education Report

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.

Matt Hinsley


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.


Juvenile Justice

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.


Special Thanks

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.

Donor Spotlight: Matt Oliver

Matt Oliver is a custom home builder here in Austin who has become one of ACG’s most committed supporters. He joined the board in 2013, and today chairs the Endowment Committee, and works closely with ACG’s development team. We asked Matt to tell us about what drew him to the organization, and why he feels the ACG Endowment Fund is so important.


You seem to be really connected to ACG’s education and social services. What about this work moves you, and how has this kept you involved with the organization over the years?

The reason I stay involved is because when I wake up in the morning and think about how I want to make a difference in the world – or my tiny corner of it – ACG is how I want to do it. I’ve always loved the Robert F. Kennedy quote that speaks to this, something like, “each time a man acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.” The idea is that this ripple of hope, over time, combines with other ripples, and builds energy until eventually it becomes wave. No matter where you fall politically, I think we all want to make people’s lives better. Very few individuals are in a position to create a wave by themselves. But, if you get enough people to make ripples, the combined energy can be enough to make a difference in the world. I’ve realized that I’m a tiny ripple, but ACG is the way I can help create that wave.

“Music is magic. It’s an emotional experience you can see and feel. For some students, their eyes light up like a light bulb when they’re practicing or performing, and you see them grow and become more aware of themselves. It’s about showing a kid, who might have gotten into trouble, a path to success.”

What are some moments or programs in which you’ve seen ACG have an impact on people’s lives?

To me, the Lullaby Project speaks to the commitment ACG has to making people’s lives better through musical experiences. In this particular endeavor, we seek to help young women who are pregnant and in a tough situation, be it financial, emotional, physical, or what have you, to write a personal lullaby for their baby. These young mothers, or mothers-to-be, are wonderful people, and if you can intervene and help them in some way, you help their child, too. With the Lullaby Project we try to take a stressful, difficult situation, and reveal the beauty in it. That beauty is already there, and through music we find a way for the mother to express it. No matter the situation, everyone deserves to cherish the experience of being pregnant and having a child. I think the Lullaby Project is a way to help people do that.

I also love our program for incarcerated youth at the Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center. As an organization, ACG is committed to meeting people where they are, and to providing an enriching artistic experience. When it comes to kids who are incarcerated, we can’t give up on them. They deserve music, too. They deserve to find their passion, have a great teacher, even if they’ve made mistakes. The staff at the detention facility, judges, and counselors have all told us they see a difference in the students who learn guitar. This is what I mean when I always say that I see God in the work we do. It’s not a religious thing – it’s an energy. Music is magic. It’s an emotional experience that you can see and feel. For some students you can see their eyes light up like a light bulb when they’re practicing or performing, and you see them grow and become more aware of themselves. It’s about showing a kid, who might have gotten into trouble, a path to success. Music can light up someone’s life.

You were an early supporter of ACG starting an endowment and have been one of the lead donors. What prompted this?

The reason I pushed for the endowment was because I’m most passionate about the direct educational services we provide. We work in schools, maternity homes, jails, and medical clinics, and I love the work I see our education staff doing every day. But, having grown up in the church, I know firsthand how much energy needs to be spent on raising money. My idea for ACG is that one day there will be enough money in the endowment so that all of the organization’s energy will be able to be focused on direct service and we won’t have to worry about raising money anymore. This won’t happen in my lifetime, but that is why I wanted an endowment – I’ve seen the work we do and the impact it has, and I want there to be enough money coming in from the endowment so that ACG can help any student who needs it, no matter the cost.

Beijing Guitar Duo Program

Beauty. Virtuosity. Clarity.

Two years ago, the Beijing Guitar Duo made their Austin debut and left us all speechless. When these two young artists return on April 29th, we’ll all be reminded why they are one of the world’s most acclaimed guitar duos.

On their program, we’ll hear works by composers we have come to know and love, like Scarlatti, Isaac Albéniz, and Enrique Granados. We’ll also hear something completely new: the world premiere of a piece by the Chinese composer Chen Yi, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2006. She wrote this piece specifically for the Beijing Guitar Duo and on April 29th, Austin will be the first audience to hear it performed live!

Please join us for ACG’s Season Finale Concert. Come hear beautiful music played by two brilliant young artists and be a part of history as a new work is added to the guitar’s repertoire.

Join us for ACG’s Season Finale Concert!


Beijing Guitar Duo Concert Program 4/29/2017, Austin, Texas

Sonata K.173, L.447Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), arr. Alexandre Lagoya

Valses PoéticosEnríque Granados (1867-1916)

Meng Su & Yameng Wang, guitars


Five BagatellesWilliam Walton (1902-1983)
Alla cubana
Sempre espressivo
Con Slancio

Meng Su, solo guitar




Sonata “Omaggio a Boccherini” Op. 77Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968)
Allegro con spirito
Andantino, quasi canzone
Tempo di Minuetto Vivo energico

Meng Su, solo guitar


Nian Hua (Chinese New Year’s Paintings)*Chen Yi (b.1953)

Bajo la PalmeraIsaac Albéniz (1860-1909), arr. Grubler-Maklar Duo

Meng Su & Yameng Wang, guitars


*World-Premiere, written for the Beijing Guitar Duo

Spring 2017 Lullaby Project Update

We are so pleased to share the following update on our Lullaby Project with you. Thanks to the incredible support of hundreds of individuals in our community, along with the Cain Foundation, the Webber Family Foundation, Texas Commission on the Arts, the St. David’s Foundation, and our partnership with Dr. Ted Held and his team at People’s Community Clinic, we have been able to bring on new lullaby clinicians and offer this special opportunity to more women than ever before.

The Lullaby Project was also the central focus of a documentary about Austin Classical Guitar produced for KLRU’s Arts in Context series by the Emmy award-winning filmmaker Mario Troncoso. You can view the episode online here.

We are so proud of the beautiful songs this project has produced, and the care and effort that has gone into creating them. Here is a small sampling of some recently completed lullabies, along with notes from the clinicians who worked on them. The names of the moms have been changed to protect their privacy.


“Memories With Navaeh” by Christine, with Joey Delahoussaye.
Created at the Travis County Correctional Complex in 2017.

Notes from Joey Delahoussaye:

For “Memories with Nevaeh” we tried to make a lyrical scrapbook of some of the more special memories shared by Christine and and her daughter Nevaeh. Visually evocative memories comprise most of the verse portions of the song. The refrain is inspired by a memory Christine shared about a common dialogue between the two: Whenever Christine would say “I love you,” Nevaeh would respond, “I love you harder.” This lullaby was supposed to have been performed by Christine herself, but she was transferred to a drug rehab facility the day before we were set to record her vocals. Fortunately, Tatyana, a wonderfully talented high school senior, offered to sing in her place – and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.


“Tesoro Especial” by Carolina, with Arnold Yzaguirre.
Created at People’s Community Clinic in 2017.


Notes from Arnold Yzaguirre:

Carolina was my first Lullaby Project mom, so she and her story will always hold a special place for me. During our sessions, Carolina was pretty soft spoken and said very little. She has gone through some unimaginably difficult and traumatic experiences, and was struggling to bond with her new baby. Carolina only speaks Spanish, and had been in the U.S. for just a few months, but when she heard the finished version of her lullaby for the first time she said “WOW!” As I mentioned earlier, Carolina didn’t say much during our sessions – until she recorded the dedication you hear at the very end of her lullaby. In preparation she had written down a couple of sentences in her lullaby workbook, and when I asked her if she wanted to add anything else, she replied, “No, esta bien asi.” But when I pressed record, Carolina just opened up and spoke directly from her heart. Her words were so beautiful I had to keep it all, even though it was tricky fitting it in the song. Her baby was with us in the room for that last session, and I believe the child’s presence is what inspired her outpouring of emotion. So awesome. Being my first time as a Lullaby Project clinician, this song was a great challenge for me, emotionally and creatively, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world. I am truly grateful and humbled to have been a part of it.


“I am Mommy” by Teresa, with Arnold Yzaguirre.
Created at People’s Community Clinic in 2017.

Notes from Arnold Yzaguirre:

Teresa is also a very soft spoken, and had mannerisms that reminded me of my older brother. For example, when she spoke she would hang her head down. Like my brother, I believe Teresa did this to avoid eye to eye contact. It can be too much for some people. Teresa is a sensitive soul and expresses a lot with her eyes. In our first meeting, Teresa told me that she enjoys creating silly, fantasy-like stories for children. She would listen to music, mainly instrumental or classical music, and create stories out of thin air based on ideas inspired by the music. As soon as I heard this I knew that Teresa would be an amazing mother. Her baby will be so lucky to have a fun, imaginative mother like her. She wanted her lullaby to have a Spanish feel to it. I play a lot Spanish classical guitar music, so this was definitely in my wheelhouse. When Teresa heard the final version, she said, “WOW!”  Just like Carolina, my first lullaby mom! Two wows in a row! A member of the clinic staff who was with us told me told me afterwards that she was holding back tears when she heard the lullaby. I was so touched by their reactions. This is another moment in my life that I will never forget.


On behalf of all of us at Austin Classical Guitar, along with the mothers who shared their stories and their hopes and dreams for their children, thank you to everyone who has helped make the Lullaby Project possible.


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

Top 10 Moments of 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, we find ourselves thinking back to some of the unforgettable experiences we’ve had over these past 12 months at Austin Classical Guitar. There were so many, but ’tis the season for Top 10 lists – so we took a shot at narrowing them down to our favorites. We hope you enjoy reminiscing with us.

Have we left anything out? Let us know your most memorable ACG moments of 2016!

#10 – Guitars Under The Stars Gala

We loved this year’s gala for a bunch of reasons: Our staff and volunteers were shining, the setting was beautiful, our student speakers and performers were inspiring, and we got to share this magical evening with our amazing and supportive community. It was a night that showed ACG at our very best.

#9 – State Department Delegation Visits ACG

We were surprised and thrilled 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. It was our first experience with simul-translation! 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. So far, we’ve had follow up conversations about assisting with a new guitar program in Lebanon – we’ll see where it all leads!

#8 – ACG Youth Orchestra performs Fugata y Danza

We love this performance, not only because ACGYO is in peak form and director Joseph V. Williams II brings so much refinement and elegance to their work; we also love the music they’re playing! Fugata y Danza by Carlos Rios was the winning entry in our 2016 Composition Competition. You may not have known this, but for more than 10 years ACG has encouraged Texas-based composers to write music for guitar ensembles through this statewide contest. What a great piece Carlos Rios gave us this time around.

#7 – Narratives Summer Series

Thomas Echols blew our minds this summer as our first-ever Guest Artistic Director, bringing to life his unique vision for a literature-inspired series of three concerts called Narratives. It was a magical ride, and one of the most daring and deep excursions we’ve ever taken at ACG. The centerpiece of the first concert was the premiere of “Persona,” a song-cycle written by our Composer in Residence Joseph V. Williams II. Here’s the fifth movement.

#6 – Teacher Training Sessions in St. Louis & Austin

We had two marvelous teacher training sessions this summer. The first was in St. Louis where our affiliates have established over a dozen high quality classroom guitar programs, including the one we visited at Adams Elementary School (pictured above). The second was here in Austin, where we were joined by music teachers from all over the US and beyond. Here’s a video featuring them in a finale performance.

#5 – Video project about Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

We’re so grateful to Woody Harrison and his team at UPG Video for creating this remarkable piece about the guitar program at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We have big dreams for this program, and some are already coming true!

#4 – Pepe Romero plays Vivaldi with 80 Students

During his October visit, Maestro Pepe Romero graciously agreed to rehearse and perform Vivaldi’s beloved Concerto in D Major with 80 kids from six local middle and high schools. The kids were so excited, so prepared, and had an experience they – and we – will never forget.

#3 – Sing Me a Lullaby, An ACG Documentary by KLRU’s Arts in Context

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

We are so grateful to director Mario Troncoso and his whole award-winning team at KLRU for shining their bright lights on ACG and creating this lovely 27-minute documentary about our education and social services. The cameras follow us to St. Louis and New York City, with The Lullaby Project as the narrative through-line.

#2 – Trimonisha’s Lullaby

We’re incredibly thankful to Dr. Ted Held of People’s Community Clinic for helping us bring the Lullaby Project to PCC and Travis County Jail this year. This beautiful lullaby was written over the summer by Joey Delahoussaye and Trimonisha, and is one of the most touching songs we’ve ever heard.

#1 – The Paper Guitar

Now in its sixth year, our guitar program at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Detention Center provides the only for-credit fine arts course available to the young people incarcerated there. These daily classes, taught by Jeremy Osborne from our education team, have had a profound impact on the lives of the participants – so much so that Travis County has just asked us for a major expansion of the program. But that’s another story.

Last year, we met a young man who, like many of his fellow residents, was struggling to keep up with his academic work and his rehabilitation plan. Then he joined the guitar class and something clicked. He had found his passion.

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 this work of art was astonishing (click on the image to enlarge).

For us, the paper guitar is a remarkable example of how perseverance, passion, and the power of art and mentorship can bring light to dark places. It represents everything our mission at Austin Classical Guitar is about, and motivates us to work harder than ever in the coming year to inspire our community with musical experiences of deep personal significance.

Thank you so much for supporting us in this effort. We couldn’t do it without you.

Happy New Year!


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.


Holiday Magic

Some photos from of our “Holiday Magic” Salon Concert at the lovely and festive home of Edwina Carrington, which featured our Performance Engagement Artist Joseph Palmer, along with homemade egg nog, great friends, and lots of good cheer.

The team at Gusto Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar provided an array of delectable – and beautifully arranged – culinary delights.

The talented Garet Gomez from Akins High School takes a bow after opening the concert.

Joseph Palmer deepened the audience’s listening experience by introducing key elements of the pieces he was about to play.

To close the concert, Matt Hinsley joined Joseph to lead guests in singing a couple of holiday classics.

At the end of the night, ACG’s crack team of staff and volunteers swooped in to restore Edwina’s home to its pre-concert condition. Careful…that rug looks heavy!

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

Pepe Romero plays Vivaldi with 80 students

On Thursday night, October 13th, Pepe Romero joined 80 students from our high school guitar programs in Austin to perform Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major.

Experiences like this are possible because of people like you who share Austin Classical Guitar’s belief that music can change lives. If you would like to support ACG please consider making a donation today.


Central Concert Series

austin-guitar-ensembleHoliday Classical Guitar

Austin Classical Guitar and Austin Public Library invite you to attend the Central Concerts Series bringing musicians and the community together for free live performances at the Faulk Central Library 800 Guadalupe St.

Sunday, December 4, 2016
2:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Enjoy the holiday classical guitars of the Austin Classical Guitar Ensemble featuring adult players of all levels and led by ACG Director of Community Ensembles, Eric Pearson.

Sunday, December 11, 2016
2:00 PM
to 3:00 PM

Enjoy a holiday classical guitar performance by Steve Kostelnik.

Praised by Soundboard magazine for his “lyrical playing” and “remarkable counterpoint,” Steve Kostelnik tours extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has won top honors at several important competitions.

His highly acclaimed debut recording Steve Kostelnik: Guitar Recital was released on the Naxos label in 1999. Dr. Kostelnik maintains a thriving private studio in central Austin.

Sunday, December 18, 2016
2:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Enjoy the holiday classical guitar and voice duo of Kevin and Rachel McCormick.

“There are no production gimmicks or studio tricks here, just sensitive playing and beautiful singing that capture the warmth, mystery, hope, and joy of Advent and Christmas. Kevin and his daughter, Rachel, bring a quiet confidence and remarkable sense of intimacy that make this a truly enchanting collection of hymns and carols.” – Carl E. Olson, editor, Catholic World Report