PLAY: A Celebration of ACG Education

PLAY celebrates our partner teachers and students who created inspiring works of joy and friendship during a year like no other. We are so proud of this extraordinary concert! If you are inspired by what you see, and would like to contribute to ACG Education, you can Donate Here.

ACG Education turned 20 years old this year! It's hard to believe what started in one school in Austin, Texas in 2001 has turned into a movement reaching tens of thousands of young people across the nation and beyond.

We created PLAY to showcase some of the incredible young musicians and alumni from our local programs and several of our partner programs, and to celebrate the beauty and joy of their music-making. 

In a year marked by hardship and challenges, we have been so inspired by the ambition, dedication, and determination of the teachers and students we have the privilege to work with and support. It is a thrill to be able to share the results of their hard work and passion. We hope you enjoy it too!

PLAY: A Celebration of ACG Education originally aired on March 27th, 2021. 

PLAY features music of young artists from Austin (Elijah Melodic Flores, Sydney Piper, Northeast High School Ensemble, Bedichek Middle School, ACG Youth Orchestra and Gardner Betts Juvenile Center), Ohio (McKinley High School and Cleveland Classical Guitar Society), Arizona (Glendale Community College Guitar),  Mexico (Orquesta de Guitarras del Ciclo de Iniciación Musical), and Paraguay (Municipal “Agustín Pio Barrios” de San Juan Bautista de las Misiones) as well as 36 middle and high schools from U.S. and Canada. Also featured are special guests Berta Rojas, Devin Gutierrez, Daniel Fears, Montsho Thoth, Claire Puckett, Claudia Chapa and Arnold Yzaguirre.

I Am Who I Am by Michael Beranek with John Churchill

We feel so fortunate at ACG to share inspiration through music in many ways from concerts to classrooms. Some of our most profound personal connections are made through ACG Music & Healing. ACG Music & Healing utilizes a trauma-informed, strength-based approach to facilitate meaningful expression and personal narrative through music making for members of our community facing significant challenges. 

Today we’d love to celebrate the connection between Michael Beranek and John Churchill.

Composer John Churchill met Michael in early February of this year to create a piece of music together as Michael is recovering from intense chemo and radiation treatment for cancer at 71. 

Here is what John shared with us about the experience, 

“Even though Michael is in remission, the procedures have left him with a longer road of recovery. This included a dramatic change to his voice. We spent the first month together talking about where he was from and a plethora of memories from throughout his life. The man has had such a variety of experiences that it gave us so many interesting things to talk about. He even saw Elton John perform in a duck costume at the Iowa State Fair in the early 70s!

It became clear over the course of our first few meetings that the song we would write together should be a chronological story of some of his memories. At one point during one of our meetings Michael made the comment "I am who I am because of the experiences that I have had". This stuck out to me, and I mentioned that we may have our song's hook in that statement right there. With a minor tweak, the tag in the song became "I am who I am because of the life that I have lived". 

This project was a true collaboration in which Michael played such a key role in writing the lyrics. I was so impressed with how he and I worked together. He even sent me some last minute edits right before I was set to record the vocals, and his improvements made all the difference. It was such a pleasure to work with him, and I am truly excited to share his work with others.”

Learn more about our Music & Healing program here


Play: A conversation with Elijah Flores

ACG Education turned 20 this year. What started in one school in Austin, Texas, has grown into a movement impacting tens of thousands of young people across the nation and beyond. PLAY celebrates our partner teachers and students who created inspiring works of joy and friendship during a year like no other. We are so proud of this extraordinary concert! If you are inspired by what you see, and would like to contribute to ACG Education, you can Donate Here.

Here at ACG we have so much to be grateful for! One of the top contenders on that list is our ACG Education program. Sharing the beauty, joy, and passion of music with young people has been our greatest passion at ACG for the past twenty years. 

We started this magnificent journey in one school in 2001 and now we are in more than fifty local schools including Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and three Juvenile Justice Centers, and stretching all across the United States and beyond. 

This year has brought many challenges to the typical flow of guitar education but we are so inspired by the ambition, dedication, and determination of the teachers and students in these programs. 

We were so thrilled to be able to share the results of their hard work and passion in PLAY

We are sharing videos of local students and partner programs as well as students from Mexico City all the way to Cleveland, Ohio and many places in between! 

One of the students we have the opportunity to see is Elijah Flores.

Elijah joined our partner program at Bedichek Middle School with Phil Swasey and is now a senior at Crockett High School with Ron Hare. We got the opportunity to speak with Elijah about his experience in these programs and this is what he had to share. 

“I found an outlet for my energy. Over time I started to expand and use my voice along with trying new instruments. I gained inspiration from the people I was around, and the environment. I had a lot of encouragement and guidance through school, and my family, and being able to have a healthy environment to practice.”

Elijah is an incredibly successful young musician and is considering continuing his music education in college. He just accepted a scholarship with UTSA and is planning to attend fall 2021. 

We are so awed by the hard work put in by Elijah throughout his path as a young musician even during the difficulties brought to us by COVID-19. Elijah shared,  

“When the pandemic hit, life became very different. I became different.. Isolation changed me, and the way I adapted to learning overall. On the bright side of the pandemic I had so much time, so I acquired new hobbies, new routines, and did not dwell on the past. I was constantly working on my writing skills, vocal skills, instrumental skills and I realized I find so much joy from music overall. It has always been my outlet and a medium for expressing my emotions.” 

ACG Education is our pride and joy and we feel so fortunate to be surrounded by so many inspiring individuals everyday. We are so grateful for the teachers we work with, the students in our programs, the lessons we learn daily, and all the many connections we make. We hope you can celebrate these remarkable accomplishments and people with us in PLAY.

Grisha with Internal Creations

One of our all-time favorite musical geniuses returns to inspire us in ways we can only imagine. Presented in partnership with Internal Creations, we will be able to experience the musicianship of Grisha live from Brooklyn, New York. Saturday, March 13, 2021 at 8pm CST. Register Online Here. Free, Donations Welcome. 


At ACG we have experiences every day that show us the power of music to inspire. In fact, it’s our mission: to inspire individuals in our community through musical experiences of deep personal significance.

Grisha is an artist that shines with an unusually bright light in this regard. Not only has he dazzled us many times on the concert stage, but he has always been willing to visit as many schools as we could fit in his schedule, to share his talent with countless young people. We frequently hear adult audience members and young students alike tell us how much they love and admire Grisha.

This week, Grisha is performing for us from Brooklyn, New York. So we wanted to take the opportunity to connect him with our education partner at Internal Creations, Jahzeel Montes.

Jahzeel and his students were able to have an online conversation, masterclass, and short performance from Grisha yesterday evening.

The class began with Grisha sharing his introduction into classical guitar and his inspiration to teach himself flamenco guitar from a recording of Paco de Lucia. His story was followed by a flamenco performance that left awe in the students eyes. 

Before hearing each student play their solos for Grisha, he taught and walked them through a fundamental rasgueado technique for flamenco. 

“Start by pinching the third string with your index and thumb, then strum the thumb up, strum the middle finger out and open the palm, and then finally strum down with the thumb and bring the fingers in to come back into the starting position.”

For the rest of the class, Grisha shared wisdom on musicianship, self expression, technique, patience, and motivated the students in individually unique ways. 

We are so ecstatic to be able to connect with the artistry and musicality of this incredibly talented and inspiring musician, Grisha, this Saturday March 13, 2021. We are also jumping in excitement to hear a program that includes repertoire by the man who inspired Grisha to become the musician he is today, Paco de Lucia. 

If you would like to join us please RSVP Here.

Amplify Austin: Justice Phillips

It’s Amplify Austin week. Our Amplify campaign is supporting pandemic innovations in ACG Education, and three very special projects designed to engage young people during this challenging time. In honor of ACG Education, we’re sharing a few personal insights this week. We hope you enjoy them! You can support our Amplify Austin campaign online here

ACG Education has brought us beautiful connections, friendships, experiences, and life lessons that we are so grateful to continuously grow into. 

One of these life-long friendships and beautiful connections we’ve had is with our Director of Customer Experience and Composer, Justice Phillips.

We met Justice when he was attending school at Lively Middle School (formerly Fulmore). 

Justice shared,

I started playing guitar in 6th grade at Fulmore through an after school guitar program that was happening there. It wasn't classical guitar, we just learned guitar basics like chords. I picked it up well though, and started venturing out from what the teacher was teaching. The program occurred in the orchestra room where I got to know Ms. McAlmon. She told me that there was going to be a guitar class the next year, where I met Jeremy Osborne and the story set off there.”

Jeremy Osborne has been ACG’s Assistant Director of Education since 2008. We are so amazed by the magic created between student and teacher and how that influences young people in their life journey. Justice shared his thoughts and experience,

“Guitar was something that I spent a lot of time doing and worked hard to get good at, so being known as the "really good" guitar player in Middle and High School did a lot for my overall confidence. Of course, playing music has always brought me joy, excitement, and sometimes frustration but at the end of it all it's given me something tangible to be proud of myself for.”

Justice attended UT Austin as a composition major, and joined the ACG Team as Director of Customer Experience upon graduation. This spring he’s made a full circle, getting back in touch with the orchestra director at Lively Middle School, Ms. McAlmon, for one of several special projects ACG is engaged with this spring.

“Ms. McAlmon approached me and asked if I would be interested in writing a piece for Lively's guitar ensemble and orchestra. What excites me the most about this opportunity, is being able to write a piece for kids who were in the position I was in, at the same school that I went to. Also, the combination of the guitar ensemble and orchestra sounds like it will be really beautiful.”

One of our greatest joys at ACG Education is growing with our students and teachers, as musicians and as human beings. Music will always bring connections, community, friends, and family. 

If you would like to support ACG Education please visit Amplify Austin

Introspection by Jennifer Kirby with John Churchill

At ACG we are so grateful to have opportunities to build connections, share love, heal, and inspire friends in our community through music. ACG Music & Healing utilizes a trauma-informed, strength-based approach to facilitate meaningful expression and personal narrative through music making for members of our community facing significant challenges.

Today we’d like to share a story of connection between Jennifer Kirby and John Churchill. 

Composer John Churchill connected with Jennifer in late October of 2020 to create a piece of music as she was approaching her final chemotherapy treatments for cancer. 

This is what John had to share from their experience:

“Working together was exciting from the beginning. Jennifer was very eager to take part in the program as well as open to whatever that might look like. Also, being fellow Mid-Westerners, we had a few things to relate on and reminisce about in regards to that part of the country. 

Though for the first few weeks we weren’t sure what direction we would go creatively speaking, we spent each meeting focusing on her life’s story in the past, present, and future while discussing what musicians and genres she enjoys. It became apparent to her that she wanted to have something describe her life’s stages through instrumental music. We had the idea of taking what we had discussed regarding her past, present and future and write about it in a letter to her young self. This letter would prove to be the inspiration for the composition. She wanted to have the major people in her life to be represented musically. The string sections represent both her parents and her grandparents supporting her at different stages within her life, and the guitar represents her husband, Chad. She would be represented by piano. Her and I are both so proud of how this turned out. 

With Jennifer being in the hospitality industry she has such a drive to help people. Though much of her experience during her treatment put her in a position to rely on others, she is excited at the prospect of this project bringing help, hope and comfort to those that are experiencing something similar to her. 

It was such a pleasure being able to take part in this with her. I feel honored to have heard her story in such detail and be able to have created something wonderful together.”

Learn more about our Music & Healing program here

ACG 2020 Holiday Special

We are so pleased to share magic with you this holiday season. We wish you an incredible holiday and a happy New Year. If you would like to support our artists and services here at ACG, click here

Celebrate the holidays with this 30-minute ACG special featuring special guests Claudia Chapa, Arnold Yzaguirre, Grisha, Pepe Romero, and young artists and dancers from all around Austin. 

We also invite you to dive into our ACG Top Ten of 2020 list featuring some of our favorite happenings during this wild year, as well as our 2020 Education Report featuring some of the magic happening in our school systems. 

Thank you for standing with us this year, and for your belief in the power of music to do good in the world.



Austin Now: The Space In Between

This concert occurred on November 7th. Austin Now events are conceived to be unique, moments of creation and togetherness. 

The Space In Between brings together three of our most-beloved partners: Multi-instrumentalist-global-citizen-artist Oliver Rajamani, KUT/KUTX voice of Austin for more than fifty years John Aielli, and Hartt Stearns with the breathtaking One World Theatre.

Read this interview with Oliver Rajamani and learn more about his connection to this event here.

UpClose Online: Pepe Romero

UpClose Online events are conceived to be unique, one-time, moments of creation and togetherness.

This concert occurred on September 26th.  Due to an overwhelming international response, however, Mr. Romero and ACG have agreed that this concert will remain online for a limited time. 

Read up on Pepe's connection with ACG here.


UpClose Online: Andrea González Caballero

Saturday, November 14th, we will experience the beauty and transcendence of one of the most remarkable young talents in the guitar world, Andrea González Caballero. Andrea will take us into the depths of spanish classical guitar in the intimate setting of our UpClose Online series. RSVP Online Here. Free, donations accepted. 


We had the pleasure of speaking recently with Andrea, and getting to know more about her as an artist. She talked about her upbringing as a young musician:

“I was 7 years old when I began playing the guitar, I found it very challenging but at the same time enjoyable. I started doing competitions after my first year learning how to play; I think being a determined child helped me develop the idea of becoming a professional musician. I started travelling to Germany to have private lessons with Prof. Joaquín Clerch at the age of 12 and then ended up doing my Bachelors, Masters and Konzertexam Diploma at the Robert Schumann Musikhochschule in Düsseldorf. All these experiences, good and bad, helped me develop as an artist and as a person. I have lived in four different countries and that in itself has taught me a lot. Two years ago, I moved to Baltimore to study with Prof. Manuel Barrueco.” 

Music and art contain a deep and powerful meaning for everyone, but the connection differs from person to person. Andrea shared a few words about what music means to her: 

“Music is something that is always by your side when you need it. I focus most of my energy on being a better musician, knowing more about music, or trying to be a finer guitarist. But, to be able to achieve it, one has to see the music as something so powerful that it will always be above us. The best thing we can do is to enjoy it and respect it.”

Andrea also wished to share her intentions in the performance with her audience: 

“First of all, I hope they will enjoy the program that I have prepared and I hope they can feel the music and enjoy it as much as I do. All I try is to do is be honest with my performance and make the music stand, because that is the most important thing a performer can do.”