Let's Listen: Grisha

We thought you might enjoy a little guided concert experience. ACG's major events through May 1st have been cancelled. But our next guest artist would have been the one and only flamenco sensation Grisha.

So here is a special playlist created by ACG Executive Director Matt Hinsley. When the time is right, we invite you to gather in your living room, pour a glass of wine or sparkling water with lime, and take a tour through some amazing music!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7wuzEY0eIyDd77oe6vLTe3GBAXE90mNv


Braille Score

We are Expanding Let’s Play! Braille curriculum!

Braille Score

We at Austin Classical Guitar (ACG) are extremely proud of our longtime commitment to bringing the universal love of music to under-represented populations.

In response to a worldwide lack of comprehensive tools for Braille-based music learning, we created Let’s Play! In July 2018. The Braille lifelong learning resource, created in partnership with the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), provides meticulous students at school and online with stepwise Braille and audio classical guitar in Levels 1-4, suited for their first six to 18 months of study.

The groundbreaking curriculum, created by our very own guitarist Joseph Palmer, is comprised of newly composed musical selections and others taken from our collection. Of each of the engaging compositions, students receive access to audio recordings and a braille notated version of the sheet music. 

“I believe the reason I was asked to be the designer of the curriculum was due to my passion and experience as an educator along with my tendency to be detailed and pour myself into the work I do,” said Palmer.

Jeremy Coleman, who runs the renowned guitar program at TSBVI, aides students through the material, demonstrating how to use the braille notation, as well as assist them in the learning and memorization of the rest of the song.

Students at TSBVI have been extremely responsive to the program, as indicated by Superintendent William Daugherty in a released statement. “There is something about the guitar that connects with these students in a way that instruction on piano and other common instruments had not done.”

“Students who have participated have really enjoyed the camaraderie with other student musicians, the sense of accomplishment in learning something new and self-confidence that comes with a successful performance,” said TSBVI principal, Miles Fain.

It was instrumental to expand on the success of Phase 1 and continue to provide ongoing resources for the enthusiastic students eager to learn more.

It is with great pleasure that we announce the addition of Phase 2 to the program. Through the hard work of our team and Palmer, Let’s Play! will now offer Levels 5-8, providing lessons for up to five years of learning. 

At the completion of Phase 2, featuring 26 new pieces of music, musicians will become fluent Braille music readers in first position across all six strings.

“After phase 2 launches, I think the future direction of the project will largely be determined on feedback from the users of the resource,” said Palmer. “A lot of content has been created at this point, and though the resource has been met with much enthusiasm and thanks from users, we're ready to really hear from the students and users of the resource and see the results and impact.”

According to ACG Matthew Hinsley, Phase 2 was always part of the plan. “Learning to read and play (all notes in the first position) and combine it in a sophisticated way is a milestone in the lifelong learning pathway,” he said. “Even though we couldn’t get to everything in Phase 1, we knew we needed to do Phase 2 as fast as possible.”

With the launch, we are excited to hear the success stories across the U.S. and abroad. Shortly after introducing the first four levels of the program, we discovered that Let’s Play! had been utilized by musicians in 25 different countries. Additionally, Palmer received an email from an adult learner in South Africa who expressed gratitude for the program, as he had been seeking someone who could teach him guitar for years. 

Rados Malidzan translates Let’s Play! for Balkan learners!

Rados In a recent and outstanding development, we are pleased to announce Montenegrin guitarist  and Director of the Montenegro Guitar Foundation Rados Malidzan has secured funding to translate the Let’s Play! curriculum for Balkan learners.

The translation is part of the Music Into All Hearts (Muziku U Sva Srca) program, which was created to bridge the gaps between music schools, teachers and blind and visually impaired pupils. The program will utilize the Let’s Play! Curriculum, as well as acquire braille printers for schools.

The innovative program earned funding by winning the Montenegrin Telekom Contest for Best Socially Beneficial Project.

“This project, not surprisingly at all, has awakened a great wave of sympathy and love among people in the small Montenegrin community... not only by means of a small nonprofit, but also through the participation of the thousands of people who voted for the funding of this project,” said Malidzan.

Malidzan was introduced to Let’s Play! two years ago when he performed in our UpClose Concert Series. Malidzan was amazed, not only because of its importance, but because he too has experience working musically with the blind and visually impaired, and the resources to collaborate with our team and the Let’s Play! program.

“My initial thought was saying ‘God works in mysterious ways’ - I felt like it was not me that heard about the project, instead it was the project that has found me,” said Malidzan.

Malidzan has worked with the Library of the Blind of Montenegro as a performer and assisting them in organizing concerts. Now, after conducting research and securing funding and partnerships, he is ready to make the curriculum available to the thousands of families with blind or visually impaired members in the Balkan region.

During his initial assessment of the region’s music education situation, Malidzan quickly realized how few blind or visually impaired students there are, that music teachers weren’t experienced in assisting them and that schools didn’t have access to braille printers. His program will address these shortcomings.

With the translation of Let’s Play!, Malidzan believes the curriculum will bring guitar music to the homes of those who don’t have an assistant to escort them to music schools, those too old to enter music schools, those who live in remote villages with no available music schools or simply those who prefer to learn to play on their own.

“I find this connection between me and the project nothing less than a miracle,” said Malidzan. “What are the odds that a guitarist with interests, experiences and characteristics needed for the realization of this project, from such a small country such as Montenegro, comes to Austin, Texas, and learns about Letsplayguitar.org?”

To say Malidzan is excited about the partnership would be an understatement.

“Together with you guys from ACG, we can spread Music into All Hearts....I am so happy to have you in my life, and to witness, share and get inspired by your wonderful and truly inspiring work. So, as Matthew (Hinsley) said,‘dear friends, lets make some magic together.’”

- by Benjamin Beane, ACG communications


'together' Artist Profile: Jennifer Choi - Violinist

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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.


From the Desk: Phil Swasey - ACG Partner Teacher

From the Desk is an Austin Classical Guitar (ACG) and GuitarCurriculum.com series that explores the organization through the eyes of the staff members. These articles focus on the staff’s thoughts and motivations, and hopefully provides a chance to get to know the people behind the scenes.

This week’s From the Desk is written by ACG Partner Teacher, Phil Swasey. Phil is currently a classroom Guitar Director at Bedichek Middle School in Austin I.S.D., he is the district content lead for middle school guitar and mariachi, and was named the campus Teacher of the Year in 2016. In the classroom, his focus remains on finding creative and empowering strategies to remove common obstacles in the way of student success.

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Impact in the First Years of Teaching by Phil Swasey

As most teachers can attest to, the first years in the classroom can be an emotional, physical and mentally trying time for young professionals. Working with directors that are experiencing these fresh and raw feelings for the first time has encouraged me to look back at my own experiences during the early stages of my career.

Almost ten years ago, after deciding on a career change and a cross-country move to Austin, I finished my alternative certification with Region XIII and jumped right into the classroom. I was excited to be on my feet, not chained to a desk, and grateful to have a guitar in my hands, collecting an adult paycheck. 

Despite my eagerness, my classroom was not the magical learning environment that I had envisioned. It was a chaotic swirl of indecisiveness, unwanted student behaviors, emotional swings and a general doubt about my effectiveness as a teacher. When I looked at my first group of 6th grade beginning guitarists, motivated, wide-eyed and full of potential, I thought that they deserved someone more experienced to guide them through the start of their musical careers.

During my moments of doubt, ACG and Jeremy Osbourne were there to support me and focus my energy on solutions to the problems that I was facing. I’m convinced that this outreach helped me to obtain a level of confidence in my practice, allowing me to serve my students more effectively early on. 

The truth likely is, my classroom was never as chaotic as I perceived it to be. Maintaining perspective on your own teaching practice and environment is a constant challenge. Teachers are impactful from their first moments on campus, and having mentors around to encourage growth and recognize strength is an invaluable part of learning the teaching craft.

The 6th graders that I looked at with doubt and hesitancy graduated from high school last year, many having continued on with guitar through their senior year at Crockett High School. Watching them mature as musicians and people over the last 7 years was a continual source of reward and gratification. 

Last year, I was talking with Rey, one of the students from that chaotic and mis-managed beginning guitar class. He was preparing his college applications for guitar performance, and in a moment I will never forget, he said, “I wouldn’t be doing this without you.” Rey is now on scholarship at the University of Texas and I couldn’t be more proud of him. This serves as a reminder for me that teachers are impactful every day of their careers, even the first one.


Postcards: Loudoun County, Virginia

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 Dr. Kevin Vigil, Guitar & Music Theory Director at Heritage High School, Chair of the Virginia Music Educators Association Guitar Council & All-Virginia Guitar Ensemble, and Member-At-Large of the NAfME Council for Guitar Education.

This week, Dr. Vigil focuses on a student in his county, Jack Osborne, excelling in the guitar world! 

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Postcard from Loudoun County, VA - By Dr. Kevin Vigil

Meet Jack!

Jack Osborne is a senior at Briar Woods High School (BWHS) in Loudoun County Public Schools. He served as concertmaster for the 2019 NAfME All-National Honors Guitar Ensemble that took place from November 7 – 10. Not only was Jack selected for this honor, but also acted as concertmaster for the 2018 All-Virginia Guitar Ensemble (AVGE) and (again) for the 2019 AVGE; which performed on November 21. Oh yeah… he also won the Beatty Scholarship Competition in Washington, DC!  Among the prizes was the opportunity to open up for classical guitar legend, David Russell.

So how did Jack get to this point? 

One word - opportunity. 

Jack has had the opportunity to learn guitar at BWHS under the direction of Dr. Michael Murphy, from his private instructor, Jamey Mann, and the PAVAN Regional Governor’s School to list a few. Jack has also, and perhaps more importantly, had opportunities to stumble along the way. He told me about a poor outcome from a competition; which damaged his spirit and passion to continue with guitar.  However, a friend and fellow competitor, Ryan Robinson, gave him some sound advice, “performing is not about winning or losing, but about reaching your audience.”

Jack has certainly taken his friend’s advice and continues to strive to reach others with his musical performances. He is also planning definitely to continue his studies of the instrument in college as a performance major and potentially double major with computer science.


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.


ACG Global Services: Ravindra Paudyal - Kathmandu, Nepal

There’s no better way to describe Ravindra Paudyal than an absolute miracle worker. Internationally trained and accomplished, Ravindra began teaching at the Early Childhood Development Center in Nepal earlier this year and has already made a world of difference in the lives of his students.

In Nepal, resources are limited for children, especially those of incarcerated parents. According to UNICEF’s 2010 Nepal Child Poverty Report, over a third of Nepal’s 12.6 million children live below the national poverty line, and two in every five of them are severely deprived of at least two basic human needs. With life on the street as their only alternative, many Nepali children are forced to accompany their mothers to jail, since caretakers in the area are few and far between. Nepalese law permits children to stay in jail with their incarcerated mothers only until they reach the age of five, at which point relatives usually assume custody. Unfortunately, in many cases there are no relatives available to take care of these children, ultimately leaving them helpless and homeless. 

That’s where ECDC comes in. Their mission aims to ensure incarcerated mothers have more control over their children’s fate, working tirelessly to supply each and every child with the resources necessary to shape their ideal future. With the help of Ravindra and the rest of their team, ECDC offers these children something they could never get in prison: the chance to be a kid. Through the power of music, children who were once in a seemingly impossible position are given a fresh start, finally able to enjoy their childhood.

Ravindra leads classical guitar classes every week, using ACG’s resource GuitarCurriculum.com to teach his students how to play and perform. For them, music is more than entertainment, it’s a rare privilege that becomes a source of great pride when they learn how to create it themselves. 

Ravindra Paudyal

“They want to show their ability and enjoy themselves in the field of music, and as a result, they find their dreams here,” Ravindra explains. 

Much like the children he teaches, Ravindra’s own upbringing largely shaped his future in music. “My older brother was a very good musician, until all of a sudden he became very ill and his kidney stopped working. At the hospital, he held my hand and told me, ‘you must learn music, because I don’t think I’ll get the chance.’ It was very hard for me to hear those words. Then one day he passed away. Our house, once full of musical sound and melody, suddenly turned into grave silence. These circumstances are what inspired me to learn music.” 

Slowly but surely, Ravindra began practicing guitar by himself.  “I couldn’t help but feel like the soul of my brother was imbedded in me. I felt like his dream was leading me,” he recalls. “Since then, I’ve realized just how much my instrument means to me. My guitar became a friend that led me to celebrate in joy, counseled me and supported me during my sorrows.”

Teaching guitar allows Ravindra to do the same for his students. “My greatest wish is to produce brilliant classical musicians through ECDC, so that they can make a living on their own after they leave the program. Beyond that, I hope to produce future teachers through ECDC so that they can teach the next generation of musicians.” 

He insists that ACG has made it all possible. “Working with ACG is truly gratifying because of their heartfelt intentions and their prolific direction of creating skillful musicians by providing quality education purely based on non-profit social work. They provide countless opportunities to a lot of skilled classical musicians, which drives me to be truthful and dedicated in my work. Because of this, I’ve been fortunate enough to enhance the lives of so many children.”