Alumni Reflection: Francisco De La Rosa

For our ACG Fall Fund Drive, we’re sharing stories on our Changing Lives Storyboard of ways music has changed our world, and how our community helped make it happen. Consider supporting ACG today!


We came to know Francisco De La Rosa in 2009 when he joined the guitar class at Akins High School and began working with ACG’s Assistant Director of Education, Jeremy Osborne. We’re proud to count Francisco, who's currently a Music Performance major at Texas State University, as one of our alumni. He recently sat down with us to talk about his love for music, and what motivates him to continue playing.


How did you start learning guitar, and what were your early experiences with Austin Classical Guitar?

I started classical guitar my freshman year at Akins High School. Before that, I was self-taught and had never been exposed to classical music. I still remember the first time I heard a Bach cello suite on guitar. It was unbelievable.

At Akins, guitar was more than just a class - it was a second family. And Mr. Osborne was like an older brother, a role model. High school can be a stressful time, but guitar class was my comfort zone. Everyone was friendly, and there was no judgement. We worked as a team.

I remember that I needed to improve my grades to participate in guitar competitions, and Mr. Osborne helped me study until my GPA was good enough. Before that, I didn’t have to worry about grades, and could just play guitar. He helped me become a better student.

When I talk, I can’t always find the right words, but when I play guitar, I can express exactly how I’m feeling.

What has it been like studying guitar in college?

I received a scholarship from ACG to attend Austin Community College. After that, I reached out to Mr. Osborne for some help preparing for my audition for Texas State’s classical guitar program. I’m proud to say I just finished my second year there, and I'm working toward my Bachelor's in Music Performance. It hasn't always been easy, but ACG helped me discover my passion and go further with guitar than I ever thought I could.

What does music mean to you?

Music completes life for me. It allows me to express who I truly am. When I’m playing guitar, it's like I’m transferred to a different world. Music is a magical feeling. I step outside my consciousness. When I talk, I can’t always find the right words, but when I play guitar, I can express exactly how I’m feeling.

In the future, I want to continue performing and composing, but my biggest dream is to become a teacher. I want to follow in the the footsteps of Mark Cruz, Jeremy Osborne, and Travis Marcum. They all showed me how music can help to achieve my dreams, and I want to share that with others.


The Gift of Guitar

For our ACG Fall Fund Drive, we’re sharing stories on our Changing Lives Storyboard of ways music has changed our world, and how our community helped make it happen. Consider supporting ACG today!


In partnership with Austin Independent School District and Travis County, ACG developed the only for-credit arts class offered to young people incarcerated at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center. Now in its eighth year, the impact of these classes has drawn national attention, including coverage on PBS NewsHour and a feature story in Teen Vogue. Most recently, the Travis County Juvenile Probation Department has asked that ACG expand this program to begin serving Austin students who are currently on probation.

Below is a reflection from Kerry Price, an ACG board member, who recently attended a performance of students at Gardner Betts.



Last Sunday, May 6, I had the opportunity to attend a guitar performance by five students at Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center.  In the courtroom, each student played one or two solo pieces in front of the judge's podium to an audience of family members, friends, teachers, and ACG Board members and staff.

While the regular use of this room is anything but festive, on this particular afternoon we were there for an accomplishment: young students' hard work to prepare for the daunting task of performing alone.

I was very moved to hear a student play the same Villa-Lobos Prelude which, forty years ago, was the first piece of classical guitar music I'd ever heard. It was the same piece that began my own journey with the guitar and brought so much joy to my own life. What really made my day was seeing the piece performed on a guitar that I once owned - I'd given it to ACG so that maybe someone could use it. That my old guitar was used on this day, and that I had an opportunity to hear and see a student playing Villa-Lobos on it, was icing on the cake.

-Kerry Price, Board Member

If you are inspired by Austin Classical Guitar’s work with young people in the Juvenile Justice System, please consider making a donation to support this work today.


Music all around us - literally!

A dream we have at ACG Education is for all children to have opportunities to find safety, success, and celebration in their lives through music.

So we spend lots of time carefully developing and refining curriculum materials, training teachers, working with local and state administrators, and building special resources to serve as many kids in the very best ways we can.

But something else we love to do is help create memories to last a lifetime, whether it be performances on big stages like the Paramount Theatre or the Long Center, opportunities for 85 students to collaborate with superstars like Pepe Romero or....

...a chance for our amazing youth orchestra to perform in a 360 degree video on the rooftop of the art museum in downtown Austin!

And here it is!

If you've not experienced a 360 degree video then you're in for a special treat. You, as the viewer, will actually be in the middle of the experience, so if you're watching on a mobile device you will actually be able to physically move around and see different kids playing! You can also use your finger to navigate within the video. On a desktop computer you can click and drag your mouse to see everything.

On a mobile device we recommend using the YouTube app, rather than watching it through your browser. We also highly recommend headphones, or having your volume nice and full - because the kids gave an amazing performance!

We hope you love it.

And thank you for helping make everything at ACG Education possible.


ACG Alum Comes Full Circle

For our ACG Fall Fund Drive, we’re sharing stories on our Changing Lives Storyboard of ways music has changed our world, and how our community helped make it happen. Consider supporting ACG today!


We first met Javier Saucedo during his junior year at Akins High School. He had always loved guitar, but never had a teacher or an opportunity to perform. That all changed when he saw a flyer about a new guitar class at Akins. Javier told us, "I couldn’t believe I could actually play guitar during the school day and receive credit for it!" That first semester the class was small, but Javier felt right at home with the other guitar students, and the experience of rehearsing and performing together made them all close friends.

Javier excelled in guitar class during that first year, and began taking private lessons with Tate Coyle, a local professional guitarist, and Jeremy Osborne, ACG’s Assistant Director of Education. Javier says, “Mr. Osborne became a mentor. He helped me with guitar and helped me figure out my future, what I was going to do with my life.”

"Guitar was a place for me to put my energy and emotions. It gave me a constructive activity to be a part of. I always had a guitar by my side or in my hands. It became a part of my identity and motivated me to work hard in school and at home."

Javier also credits guitar with helping him stay focused as a teenager: “I went through a rough patch in high school, and guitar was a place for me to put my energy and emotions. It gave me a constructive activity to be a part of. I always had a guitar by my side or in my hands. It became a part of my identity and motivated me to work hard in school and at home.”

Javier remained committed to guitar throughout high school, and was awarded a full scholarship to study classical guitar at Austin Community College. Eventually, he transferred to Texas State University, where he earned his Bachelor of Music degree this past fall.

Mr. Osborne stayed in touch with Javier over the years, and attended his senior recital this past November. Impressed with his maturity and musicianship, Mr. Osborne began mentoring Javier once again. But this time, instead of helping Javier with his guitar playing, Mr. Osborne began showing him how to be an effective and inspiring guitar teacher.

In January, Javier became an instructor with ACG's Free Lessons Initiative, which provides weekly private guitar lessons to students with financial need. He’s now teaching at Paredes and Mendez Middle Schools, as well as Akins High School, working with students in the very same classroom he himself was in only five years ago.

Javier says his goal is to keep teaching and performing guitar as much as possible. He’s currently applying to get his teaching certificate, and hopes to one day work as a full-time classroom guitar educator in one of ACG’s programs in Austin. He told us:

"I’m thankful to ACG not only for helping me when I was in high school, but for their support through college, and now for helping me to get my teaching career started. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to give back to my community and to the program that helped make me the musician I am today.  I love being able to work with students who are in the same place I was not too long ago. I’m even helping some of them get ready for college auditions. The cycle continues – I had great teachers in high school who helped me, and now I get to do the same for others."


Guitar & Juvenile Justice: a student perspective

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


In 2010, in partnership with Austin Independent School District and Travis County, ACG developed the only for-credit arts class offered to young people incarcerated at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center. The impact of these classes has drawn national attention, including coverage on PBS NewsHour. Most recently, the Travis County Juvenile Probation Department has asked that ACG expand this program to begin serving Austin students who are currently on probation.


A couple of weeks ago, we sat down with several of ACG's students at Gardner Betts to ask them about their experience with guitar. We’d like to share one young man’s perspective:

My mom cried she was so happy after my first guitar concert.

I hadn’t even told her that I was learning to play. For that first performance, I just told her to come to the courthouse, that there was something going on and she needed to be there. When she showed up and there was a concert, and I played, she was amazed, and just kept crying.

I already finished my fine arts credit, but I decided to stay in guitar. I just like it. It keeps me busy, keeps me out of trouble and makes me feel grounded. It calms me down when I’m feeling angry or upset, for real. When I start playing, my mind slows down and pretty soon I’m lost in the music and everything else goes away, like blurs, and it’s just me playing guitar.

Guitar is just interesting. I’ve even learned how to figure out songs by ear. I used to bring in a recording of a song I wanted to learn and Mr. Osborne would start showing me how to play it. One day he told me to try and figure it out myself. I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but I started trying. At first I couldn’t do anything, so Mr. Osborne showed me the first note. Then I got it, one note here and there until I had the whole thing. If I got stuck or something, he would help, but other than that, I figured it out myself.

You practice to get better, you make a little progress, but you can’t really see it happening in a big way. Then one day you’re able to play this crazy piece. When I’m about to perform, I don’t worry about messing up, I just worry about playing. I close my eyes, and just focus on the music. When I sit down to play my hands always shake, but you just gotta play, get in your zone. The audience might not like it, they don’t have to like it, as long as you like it, that’s what matters.

If you are inspired by Austin Classical Guitar’s work with young people in the Juvenile Justice System, please consider making a donation to support this work today.


Fall 2017 Education Report

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

Matt Hinsley, Executive Director


 

At The Core: Deep Personal Significance

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

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

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

A scholarship recipient of free individual lessons recently wrote:

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

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

The Challenge

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

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

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

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

So how do you do it?

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

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

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

Our Research Basis

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

Here is the map that resulted:

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

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

Self-Esteem

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

Unique Learning Environment

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

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

 

Systems Building: GuitarCurriculum.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Systems Building: State Advocacy & Standards

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

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

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

 

Systems Building: Guitar Enrichment For People with Visual Impairments

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

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

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

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

 

Empowerment: Austin & Central Texas

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

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

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

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


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

 

Empowerment: Texas & Beyond, Teacher Training

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

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

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

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

 

Empowerment: International

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

 

Social Service: Juvenile Justice

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

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

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Rt0UvAOqa8

 

Social Service: Lullaby Project

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

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

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

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

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

– Joey Delahoussaye, ACG Lullaby Project Clinician

 

Social Service: Endowment Gifts

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

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

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

 

Social Service: Individual Scholarship Lessons & Near-peer Mentoring

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

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

This fall, Santiago wrote:

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

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

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

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

 

Social Service: Performance Engagement

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

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

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

Conclusion: Pro-Social Ecosystem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thank You

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

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


Nepal

In 2006, Pushpa Basnet created a special home in Nepal for children of incarcerated parents who - due to overcrowding in Nepal’s orphanages – were left to either live with their parents in the prison or on the streets. In recognition of her work, she was chosen as CNN’s Hero of the Year in 2012, and in 2016 she was declared the CNN Super Hero: Above and Beyond!

Last year, she decided to bring music to the home, and into the lives of the dozens of children living there. She partnered with the Gharana Music Foundation in Kathmandu, and together they approached us here at ACG for support starting a guitar class.

We were thrilled to provide full access to our curriculum, training, guidance - anything we could do to help. Also, as we always do with new friends around the world, we created new arrangements of Nepali folk songs to add to our curriculum music library, so that the kids could learn to play songs they recognize.

We were delighted to learn of this beautiful video about the music education happening in this very special place.

 


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.
 

Future

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