30th Season Begins: Pepe Romero

ACG turns 30 this year! In celebration, one of our generous supporters is matching every gift up to $50,000 between now and our opening concert with maestro Pepe Romero on September 26th! Make a gift today.

Ever since his standing-room-only, sold-out, people-in-the-hallways, first performance for ACG on Friday, October 10th, 2003 at the Unitarian Church, guitar legend Pepe Romero has been a huge part of Austin Classical Guitar. He has lifted us over the years with his music, with his stories, with his generosity, and his deep, spiritual presence. Los Romeros’ Father’s Day concert in 2006 marked the beginning of our summer ensemble programming. When we hosted the Guitar Foundation of America and produced sixty five events in six days at the Long Center, the week began with Pepe’s solo recital to a sold-out crowd in Dell Hall, introduced by the UT System Chancellor Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, and live-broadcast by KMFA.

It’s because of this deep connection, that we couldn’t imagine anyone else opening our 30th year. His concert on September 26th at 8pm CT will be free, donations accepted, and beamed from Pepe’s living room into yours. RSVP Here

One of our warmest memories was made on October 13th, 2016, when Pepe graciously agreed to perform and record Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major with over 80 of our high school students from all around Austin. You can watch the magical video below!

We caught up with two people who were there that night, and asked for their recollections. 

Rey Rodriguez, a student who we met in our local school programs Bedichek Middle School under the direction of Phil Swasey, and Crockett High School under the direction of Ron Hare, was part of the performance in 2016. We asked Rey how that performance was for him, he shared:

“It was amazing and I am very grateful to ACG for the experience. It was a great performance and super fun! I was able to sit front row and see Pepe Romero perform with us. It was also very impressive how he was able to lead that many students and keep their interest through many hours of practicing. It was inspiring to say the least.”

 We were lucky enough to be able to have Rey share the impact of this performance on his future as a musician with us: 

“I had seen interviews and multiple performances of Pepe through youtube prior to the performance, but afterwards I was able to truly see who he is as a teacher and musician. He is incredibly knowledgeable about musical phrasing and was able to convey that to a young 16 year old me who was still figuring out how to truly feel music. I am a second year B.A. guitar major at UT Austin and am currently teaching for the UT string project. I am grateful to have that performance to look back on and take notes from for my teaching.”

Rey also shared how the experience influenced him beyond the surface of being a student, and how it influenced him as an expressive musician and artist. 

“From the performance I learned that if you are truly passionate about what you love, there will always be someone there to listen. I'm sure if Pepe Romero was unenthusiastic and impatient with us no one would be inspired from the experience, but that didn't happen. He showed compassion and was very happy to see so many young guitarists in one place. His passion for guitar is inspiring. I hope through my playing and teaching, I can convey that passion to my audience and students like he does.”

We spoke with a parent who attended the rehearsal and the performance as well. Diane Skeel’s son, Andrew Baldauf was in the ensemble. She recalls,

 “The thing that sticks with me is the amazing energy that was in the room. Having that opportunity to play for and with Pepe Romero, it was like meeting an idol. I remember the nervous excitement, and the exhilaration as the music started to come together. It was particularly fun watching the kids as they went up afterwards to meet him and take photographs."

We are so grateful to have had the privilege of Pepe Romero’s musicianship, inspiration, and presence with us and to have the opportunity to share that with our community. We are so excited for his upcoming performance with us on September 26th. We hope that you can join us for the magic and look forward to experiencing more beauty and music together in our 30th season.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CfFxRzCwcA


ACG Instrument Drive

ACG turns 30 this year! In celebration, one of our generous supporters is matching every gift up to $50,000 between now and our opening concert with maestro Pepe Romero on September 26th! Make a gift today.

We are hosting an instrument drive for guitar donations!

This drive will benefit local school programs that do not have enough instruments to support their guitar classes this year. This is especially important right now, because students are learning from home and do not have access to classroom instruments.

So, if you have any lonely nylon-string guitars collecting dust somewhere round them up and donate them to an aspiring young musician today!

Due to the structure of our classes, we are not able to use steel-string or electric guitars, only nylon string classical guitars will help at this time. If you’re unsure what you have, email us and ask!

You may drop off your donations at our office address any time during business hours.

5900 Balcones Dr. Suite #240 Austin, TX 78731

In the interest of safety, we won’t meet you at the door, but we’ll be checking for donations regularly.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email Ciyadh Wells at ciyadh@austinclassicalguitar.org

Thank you for your help in supporting our local students become successful young musicians and experience the joy of music making!


Remote Teaching Resources

As many teachers in our community are faced with the prospect of remote teaching, the GuitarCurriculum.com and Austin Classical Guitar Team want to share all the remote resources we have available.


Let's Play.com

This is a completely free, graded, solo study track with 44 expressive sequential pieces. You and your students can download the entire 82-page book for free online here (choose pdf download).

The music, mostly written and arranged by Joseph Palmer, is beautiful and engaging, with ample fingering and dynamic indications. Even more exciting is that each piece in the first seven levels have accompanying audio guides, also free, and available for streaming online here.

As you may know, we developed this site specifically for use by the blind and visually impaired community, so some of the audio guides are labeled Braille Lessons, which your sighted students may simply ignore. The other audio lessons, however, address detailed technical and musical subjects, and provide recorded examples of each piece.

How can this help you and your class?

For beginning and intermediate classes you could assign, for example, an appropriate piece for each student to learn on their own using the audio guides. This will assist the speed and quality of their progress through the new material, and allow your remote teaching sessions to be more productive. They can prepare a section on their own, and share their progress with you via video exchange or in remote consultation. Additionally, since the 44 pieces are directly sequential, you and your students will have a clear path forward.

How does this relate to GuitarCurriculum?

It relates directly! The LetsPlay material was created to mirror the sequencing of GuitarCurriculum as follows:

LP Level 1 = GC Level 1 (simple, open string songs)

LP Level 2 = GC Level 2 (introduces reading on strings 2 and 3)

LP Level 3 = GC Level 2 (introduces reading on string 1)

LP Level 4 = GC Level 3 (3 pieces + 1 scale to learn and master im alternation and string crossing)

LP Level 5 = GC Level 3 (im alternation solos with open string bass notes)

LP Level 6 = GC Level 4 (solos with fretted bass strings)

LP Level 7 = GC Level 5 (more advanced solos with fretted bass strings)

LP Level 8 = GC Level 5+ (parallel literature, 1st position only, no audio guides)


Other Resources & More GuitarCurriculum.com Materials:

GuitarCurriculum.com: Our Director of Curriculum, Eric Pearson, has just changed permissions on videos in GC.com and are available for anyone who navigates to the video page. These videos are tailored specifically towards students and you can find them here.

Using Zoom? Here is a great video on how to optimize audio on a Zoom call for music.

Need more resources? Here is a comprehensive list of remote teaching tools.


Please be kind to yourselves during this time. All the solutions proposed above are imperfect, and there will be a ton of troubleshooting in the weeks ahead.

Additionally, feel free to reach out to anyone on the ACG team if you have any questions or need support!


Interview: Clint Strait - Owner of Strait Music Company

Thanks to the generous support of our friends at Strait Music Company, we're thrilled to be able to offer FREE TICKETS to middle and high school students for all of our International Series concerts during the 2019-20 season.

On Saturday, we will be hosting International Acclaimed Guitarist, David Russell - and we will have a record number of students from Austin ISD and surrounding school districts in attendance. This is in large part due to Strait Music Company. 

Interested in the inspiration for the ticket program, ACG Development Associate, Ciyadh Wells, headed out into the field to talk with the owner of Strait Music Company, Clint Strait.


Ciyadh Wells: Since this business has been in your family for 3 generations, can you provide some background as to how this business started? 

Clint Strait: It’s actually crazy because we were at TMEA this past year and the theme of our booth was, “Set the Record Strait”. We did a 57 year museum-like timeline of Strait music company to tell the true story about this company. It was pretty cool. There were some instruments for instance, like this bugle on my desk that was my great grandfather's WW1 bugle. I never met my great grandfather, but he worked for a Lyons music company in Chicago.

My grandfather was in WW2 and when he came back he was living in Houston. I think he pestered this one guy enough to where he gave him a job selling pianos. So my grandfather was a pretty good salesman and back then the main piano franchises were Baldwin franchises. So he started selling those, and then he received the opportunity to open up his own franchise in Austin. Austin was a much smaller town back then - just a little college town. So he moved the family here and started Strait Piano and Organ. He had a bookkeeper, repair person, and he was the salesperson. That was it. That was pretty much the original staff. 

What happened is that the Beatles started playing Vox amps, and Baldwin Piano owned Vox amps. We were able to get them pretty easily. So we started selling amps and guitars, and that was pretty much our first expansion. Beatles exploded, guitars exploded along with it. Then we started getting into the band instrument business and then we just expanded over time. 

The 80’s happened and then we had big synths and keyboards and all that stuff. We really pride ourselves on being able to service everything that we sell in the store. So I have a full service repair shop . We’re really big into rock and roll stuff because this market supports that. The school, band, and orchestra side is a really big part of our business too. Rentals beginner rentals and yeah that is our music store. 

CW: Do you have a first memory or experience about Strait Music that you would like to share? 

CS: Oh man, definitely the store at 9th and Lamar. That’s the store I grew up at. So, honestly my first memories are of going to that store with my dad when the store was closed. We had an organ room, all those organs with all the buttons, and I would go back there and turn all the buttons on and just make noise. I was just banging on stuff to see what sounds they made and that’s kind of what I remember, the organ room. 

I spent a lot of time there with my dad when I was a little kid. Whether we were open or not open. I really liked it when we weren’t open because I could just go around the store and make noise on anything. Play the drums or whatever so that’s kind of my first memory. Also that store was next to the original Whole Foods and my dad gave me money and I would go next door to buy fruit leathers - that’s what I remember. 

CW: So you have some guitars on the wall in your office. Do you play guitar at all? 

CS: I do not. I am not a musician. There really aren’t a lot of musicians in my family. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. It might not be a bad thing really and it’s been good for business I think. You know, I’m so passionate about music and I think even more so than a lot of people in my family. I am a crazy music nerd. I have an amazing record collection that I still add to on a weekly and monthly basis. 

Growing up I was super into music. I really identify with the different types of music that I listened to growing up. Like whatever music I was listening to at that time really defined that time in my life. Whether it was first when I got into Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Dead and then going to college I was really into jam bands - so I would go on tour a lot and saw a lot of different bands in a lot of different places and now my musical taste is so wide open to hip-hop to jazz to whatever. 

So I’m really crazy passionate about music. I see it sometimes through a different lens as the owner of this store. I’ll see people on stage and think about what they’re playing and their gear set up. I've developed a good ear for sound quality and stuff. So it’s weird, I see it through a different lens. It’s a fun place to work and I get to see all these great musicians who come by the store. I definitely do not take it for granted that I get to work in an industry like this because it’s a really good industry to be a part of  and this is a fun place to work. 

CW: Where does music education and the Strait music tickets for kids start? Did you start lessons here? 

CS: So, we’ve never really provided lessons because the Austin School of Music has always been our partner. Dave started the school of music with one recital that was connected to our 9th and Lamar store. When we built out of the 5th Street store, we built out the school of music to be a part of us. So they have that entire side of our building - so Strait Music has never really provided lessons. For every iteration of this company and where we have been, the Austin School of Music has always been with us. 

From a music education standpoint, I have kids now and so I now have a much deeper understanding of what music can mean for children. Everything from confidence and cognitive abilities just everything, music helps them. I was into sports, and I had a lot of friends who were into music and went to college on music scholarships. I have friends that still play a lot of music now even though that’s not what they do now for a living. 

You know, music is a lifelong thing. It’s really amazing and just the impact it can have on a young child’s life, and through adolescence as well just for helping with everything and it’s really amazing. I’m on the board of directors of Kids in a New Groove. It’s an organization that provides mentorship through music to youth in foster care. So I get to see first hand what that impact is. So for the students, they have a dedicated music teacher that comes to them every week. Kids in that program have a 100% high school graduation rate compared to a much lower rate for kids who are not in these types of programs. So that alone, that stat to me, is mind blowing. I’ve really been subjected to the power of music through that organization. It’s amazing to see what those students can do. 

I also spent time on our industry the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) board of directors. I did a three year term as a board member of NAMM. Their motto is more to start, fewer to quit. And we feel that it is every child’s right to have access to music education. It’s our job to fight for that right. I grew up with great music programs, and there’s other parts of the world inside and outside this market where we just want to make sure that as a member of NAMM that those kids have access to a quality music education. And once again we know what that can do for children. So I’m very passionate about what music education can do for kids whether that be in the public education sector or privately. 

CW: How did you get involved with ACG? Where did that relationship begin? 

CS: I don’t remember where I got involved originally. Probably just meeting ACG’s Executive Director, Matthew Hinsley. As far as the Tickets for Kids program is concerned, it’s just a natural fit. To be able to provide the opportunity for these students to be able to go see these amazing performers is just amazing. I think Matt said the next show might have as many as 100 kids - that’s just amazing. Additionally, to be able to go see that quality of performer, to be inspired and to be able to take that inspiration back to your own life and your own practice, it can have an amazing effect. 

Even if only one of those kids is affected in a deeply positive way, whether it gets them to take that next step in their music playing journey is just awesome. So I am just really proud of that program, and that they thought it was really cool. I’m just so proud that we got to put our name behind it, because it’s going to give kids access to both directly through the Tickets for Kids program, but just being able to support ACG and being able to help to provide that access to kids is amazing. 

CW: What about Strait Music is uniquely Austin?

 CS: Well I think that Strait Music is the epitome of uniquely Austin. We’re a 3rd generation family owned business. We have been in Austin since it was so much smaller. My dad and I went to the same high school. When he went there, Westlake was finished being built and it was just a school far from everything. When I went there, I graduated with 600 people. Where houses exist now, there were just barb wire fences and ranches. And it's hard to imagine.

I think we’re helping keep Austin weird. We’ve always been a weird company. We have been forever. We’ve had to grow over time and we like to refer to ourselves as a professionally managed, family owned business. We’ve just grown so much that we’re not just a mom and pop shop anymore. We can’t run our business like that. Just alone in that 57 year business, Strait Music Company has bought out or absorbed 6 companies. Most recently, we bought Music Makers in 2013 and all of their employees are still here with the exception of 1 of them because he’s on tour with a grammy award winning band, but they're all still here. This past year we bought Violins Etc. and all their employees are still here. I have a brand new orchestral luthier shop with 2 luthiers. Their instrument manager is still here. 

So we’ve been able to grow and then also continue to support the musicians who are working at these companies that for one reason or another haven’t continued on. I identify myself as an Austinite and I can’t think of anything that is more uniquely Austin than Strait Music Company. I hear stories all the time of how someone’s family member or friend bought a piano from my grandfather. There’s a lot of history here. My grandfather's line, that we still use today, is where customers become friends. And we’ve been lucky enough to make a lot of friends and we hope to continue to make more with people from where and that move here. And we just do us really well. We have a deep rooted culture as a company that we will never lose sight of and that’s a culture that’s based on customer service. The customer always comes first. We’ve got the best and most knowledgeable people working for us. I think as an employer we take pretty good care of our employees and we’ve got people who’ve been here for 10, 20, 35 years.  We have just grown with this city, but we have kept our principles in tact.


Postcards: Americas High School - El Paso, Texas

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

This week’s Postcards is written by Adrian Saenz, guitar director at Americas High School in Socorro ISD* in El Paso, Texas. He is currently in his 16th year of teaching at Americas HS and his 20th year in public education. In the larger guitar community of Texas, Saenz edited and revised the UIL Guitar Prescribed Music List from 2007 to 2016. Saenz also holds a bachelor’s degree in general music from UTEP, a master’s degree in music education from NMSU, and as a guitarist, he studied under Stefan Schyga, Aquiles Valdez, and John Siqueiros. 

In this postcard, Adrian Saenz discusses the successes of his guitar program, but he also talks about some of the challenges his program faces due to district policies and changes.


Postcard from Americas High School in El Paso, Texas

By Adrián Sáenz

Hello from El Paso! In this postcard I’d like to share a bit about us, a challenge, and an inspiration. 

About us: There are three major school districts in El Paso Region 22 (El Paso ISD, Ysleta ISD, Socorro ISD) and four smaller districts. Within these districts, there are approximately 25 high school guitar programs and a few middle school programs. Americas High School (AHS) is in Socorro ISD. 

AHS has seen particular success at UIL Contest. We usually register one of the largest entries at regional UIL Solo and Ensemble Contest, and a lot of our students advance to Texas State Solo and Ensemble Contest (TSSEC). A high percentage of students even receive number 1 ratings at TSSEC.

On an individual student level, AHS Guitar has had 3 outstanding soloists at TSSEC (2012, 2015, and 2016). These outstanding soloist awards were accompanied with offers of full scholarships to continue their studies at various Texas universities, including UTSA and Sam Houston. Many of our guitar students have gone on to study at North Texas and UTEP. Perhaps our biggest accolade is Dario Barrera who received a full scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music in 2018 and is currently studying under Oren Fader. 


A challenge: My enrollment has dropped over the last 3 years, so I am rebuilding. One reason is that students are now required to select an endorsement (Graduation Plan) in middle school leading into high school (you can read more about this plan here). Band, orchestra, and choir students in the middle school feeder programs mostly select this endorsement, and the other career paths only allow for 1 year of a fine arts class. Compounding this issue is the lack of middle school guitar programs, meaning students are not seriously studying guitar at the time they are making these important decisions.

Lastly, because Texas has just one fine arts requirement, there are many “one-and-done” students who just need to fulfill the single fine arts credit requirement. So I often have high numbers in the beginner classes with low enrollment in the upper classes.

To counteract this I am advocating for more middle school guitar programs. Currently, I am personally teaching 40 students at a local middle school split across two guitar classes. We also have a phenomenal Mariachi instructor who is teaching four beginner guitar classes in an effort to build up our guitar program. The students in these classes will be able to enter the intermediate guitar class at AHS their freshmen year. 


An inspiration: I took a trip, along with the Socorro HS guitar director, to Austin in 2016. The purpose of the trip was to observe the Guitar Concert and Sight-Reading Contest in Austin ISD. We were impressed with the quality of high school and middle school guitar programs from Austin ISD and around the state of Texas that participated at the Austin ISD Guitar Concert and Sight-Reading Contest. 

This inspired us to build our own Guitar Concert and Sight-Reading Contest. And In 2017, we were able to implement the Concert and Sight-Reading Evaluation at Socorro ISD. In 2019 all 6 high schools in the Socorro District registered a Varsity and Non-Varsity group for 12 total groups. This was made possible with the help and guidance of Austin Classical Guitar and Edward Grigassy and Susan Rozanc from the Texas Guitar Directors Association.


In conclusion: The Socorro ISD high school guitar programs believe in the importance of advocating for music instruction; to teach the correct methods, techniques, best practices, and music literacy to elevate the status of the guitar. In order to secure the guitar’s future, we must establish guitar programs that are aligned to the national and state music standards to provide guitar students with a high-quality level of instruction. Socorro ISD is committed to elevating the guitar programs through the development of music education, establishing the guitar concert and sight-reading evaluation, and developing performance skills necessary for acceptance to music universities. 

Guitar Segment ends at 1:36

And finally, I am excited to work with Dr. Joseph V. Williams II, Artistic Director at Austin Classical Guitar, on their ‘together’ Youth Orchestra Tour in March. Their kids will work with our kids here in El Paso, and make something beautiful for our community.

And that’s it from El Paso for today! If you come to our city, I hope you’ll stop by and see us.

Adrián Sáenz, Guitar Director

Americas High School/Clarke Middle School

 

*ISD Stands for Independent School District


We’d love to hear about guitar in your part of the world next! Reach out to Jess Griggs anytime with your story and a photo or two.


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.