Dream Big: Concert & Sight Reading

We dream of a world where music is accessible to all, connecting us, inspiring us, and bringing joy and meaning wherever it goes. We are having our Dream Big spring fund drive here at ACG and it’s because of our community and supporters that we are able to share stories like this. Click here to learn more about supporting ACG.


Education is at the center of our service here at ACG and we are grateful to continue to grow and share in moments of inspiration with teachers and students in this, our 20th Anniversary of ACG Education.

In 2012, ACG in collaboration with Austin ISD, built the first Large Guitar Ensemble Concert and Sight Reading Contest. Just a couple weeks ago, after a two-year pandemic hiatus,  we had the opportunity to host forty one middle and high school guitar ensembles from across Texas at the AISD Performing Arts Center . We are truly amazed by the talented teachers and students that bring such artistry, passion, and dedication to their performances. And we are so thankful to be a part of the evolution and growth of these programs. 

Here are a few select performances from the two-day event. 


Ann Richards HS Non-Varisty Guitar


Kealing MS Varsity Guitar


Bedichek MS Varsity Guitar


Read a beautiful story in our Celebrating Music Educators series here. Learn more about ACG Education here.

Celebrating Music Educators: A Conversation with Andrew Clark

It’s our Dream Big spring fund drive here at ACG! We dream of a world where music is here for everyone, connecting us, inspiring us, and bringing joy and meaning wherever it goes. Click here to support ACG or call us any time at 512-300-2247. We are able to share beautiful stories like this, thanks to the support of friends like you.

This week we got to speak with McCallum High School’s guitar director, Andrew Clark. Andrew’s connection with the guitar began in Northern British Columbia in his early youth. He shared, 

“Though I initially wanted to play the electric guitar, the only teachers where I grew up taught classical. I soon grew to enjoy the lessons as time went on, and hearing albums by Julian Bream sparked an obsession with the instrument. I went on to study at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto for my undergraduate degree, Escuela Nacional de la Musica in Havana on full scholarship for a year, followed by graduate studies at Columbus State University in Georgia.”

Andrew began teaching private students during his early 20’s and was offered a graduate assistantship during his time at Columbus State. The assistantship offered pedagogical specialization in guitar and teacher certification. Upon graduating from Columbus, Andrew was offered a teaching position at McCallum high school in 2009!

During his time in Columbus, GA, Andrew developed a friendship with ACG’s former Assistant Education Director, Jeremy Osborne and was then connected with ACG Executive Director Matt Hinsley. After speaking with Matt about his interest in pre-college guitar education, Andrew grew a deep connection with the organization. 

Andrew shared a little bit about his choice to become a music educator, 

“I knew that I loved the classical guitar and wanted it to be central to my career. But to be honest, I had no idea how I was going to eventually make a living, but just kept swinging from one branch to another and moving to different cities to study with a scholarship. I feel incredibly fortunate that the specialized degree with Dr. Zohn turned more of my focus to education.”

Andrew has now been at McCallum for thirteen years! How amazing is that? He shared a little about his favorite parts of the job and a couple highlights throughout the years,

“I enjoy being on my feet and moving around the classroom all day conducting, singing, playing along, and interacting with my students. It’s rewarding to start a piece from scratch, refine a piece of music, and have my students proudly share it with an audience. 

It’s always so amazing to see students pursue music in college and then come back to perform or send us music to play if they are composing. I have great memories of performing one of my favorite pieces, Ben Verdery’s ‘Scenes from Ellis Island’ with Alex Lew who is now finishing graduate studies at Yale, and Justice Phillips, who played a mesmerizing electric guitar solo and now currently works with ACG.”

Andrews students will have their final program concert on May 11th at McCallum Theater! 

We’re so excited to hear more stories from music educators we have the pleasure of working with! 

Read another story in our Celebrating Music Educators series about teaching artist, Francisco De La Rosa, here.

Celebrating Music Educators: A Conversation with Francisco De La Rosa

We are so grateful for our community of incredible music educators! Education is one of our most precious assets here at ACG and we would like to take this opportunity to spotlight some of the amazing people we have the privilege of working with. Click here to learn more about ACG Education.


This week we had the pleasure of speaking with teaching artist Francisco De La Rosa. Francisco was born and raised in El Paso, TX, where his love of music was inspired. Francisco shared, 

“Growing up with my family in that region exposed me to a variety of music styles. From traditional Mexican folk music, Salsa, Cumbia, country, to rock, metal and hip hop. 

I received my first ever guitar at around four or five years old. It was a toy guitar from Mexico that I begged my parents to buy from a street vendor at the border crossing of Juarez and El Paso on our way back from visiting family.”

Francisco moved to Austin in 2007 and attended Akins high school in 2009 where he joined his first classical guitar class led by Dr. Travis Marcum, Jeremy Osborne, and Cathy Bennett. Francisco shared, 

“Joining this guitar class was a big dream of mine because I never had the opportunity to have formal guitar Instruction. Prior to that I had only taught myself to play by ear listening to rock songs on the radio and playing in a punk rock band. After graduating from Akins highschool in 2013, I was inspired to study Classical Guitar at Texas State university where I studied with Professor Mark Anthony Cruz and earned a degree of Bachelors of Music with a concentration in Classical Guitar performance.”

Upon graduating from Akins, Francisco became more involved with ACG. He volunteered at concerts and events during his time at Texas State, and also participated in our outreach concerts! Now, Francisco is a teaching artist as part of our outreach program. 

Francisco began teaching lessons at Mendez Middle School, Akins High School, Travis High School, Decker Middle School and Manor High School in February of 2022! Francisco shared a bit about what inspired him to become a teacher, 

“I was inspired to become a guitar instructor by the amazing educators at ACG. Dr. Marcum and Mr. Osborne have been amazing role models to me since my time at Akins High School, and It was thanks to them believing in us as young adults that I am where I am today. Much of my life in high school I didn’t feel like I belonged or like I was great at anything. But with Mr. Osborne, Dr. Marcum and Mrs. Bennett and my guitar class I felt like I was doing something important, I felt valued and like someone believed in me. This is what I hope to inspire in my students, that they have a place to do what they love, and educators that support and believe in them.”

Francisco shared more about what he enjoys about his position as a teaching assistant, 

“My favorite part of the job is when I see students really excited to play and learn new music. I love seeing their faces light up with joy when they hear a new piece and they say ‘I wanna learn that!’”

We had the pleasure of seeing some of Francisco’s students perform at our student spotlight concert on March 31, and one of his quartet groups are preparing for the Hill Country Classical Guitar festival at Texas State University!

We’re so excited to hear more stories from music educators we have the pleasure of working with! 

Read another story about Akins guitar and mariachi instructor, Susana Diaz-Lopez, here. 

Celebrating Music Educators: A Conversation with Susana Diaz-Lopez

We are so grateful for our community of incredible music educators! Education is one of our most precious assets here at ACG and we would like to take this opportunity to spotlight some of the amazing people we have the privilege of working with. Click here to learn more about ACG Education.


This week we spoke with Akins High School’s Guitar and Mariachi Director, Susana Diaz-Lopez!

Learn more about Susanas early journey with ACG here.

“Growing up in music classes, I had amazing educators who pushed me and inspired me to want to teach and further my education. Everyday in class I would come up with ideas on how I could help students improve if I was the teacher, so at first I wanted to start teaching middle school because that’s when we begin to learn the fundamentals of music. I would play scenarios in my head of lessons that I would start with and how I would help students succeed. I wanted to create awesome little musicians. I also wanted to give them a feel of belonging and being a part of an organization. My music classes were like my second home and my music directors were like my second parents, and I wanted to share that experience with other students.”

Susana began teaching at Akins in August of 2021, and was awarded Akins Teacher of Promise this year! We’re so proud of Susana’s journey through our programs and her coming full-circle, now teaching two different courses, guitar and mariachi! Susana shared a little bit about her experience, 

“Guitar and Mariachi are two different animals. Teaching both of these groups is very rewarding. At the moment I teach beginning guitar mostly, so I love being able to see my students go from day one to present day. They have really come so far. Once they learn the basic skills, they take it and run with it. In class I always get to hear them play popular songs they listen to and it’s such a great feeling seeing them enjoy guitar in their own way. 

In mariachi, I work with students who are in other ensembles like band, guitar, or orchestra, so it’s so cool to see these students come together who probably wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for mariachi. I absolutely love seeing them enjoy and embrace Mexican culture. Both groups have honestly surprised me so much. I have seen students become leaders, and become motivated and inspired in music.”

A beautiful part of these full-circle stories we have the opportunity to be part of, is seeing the connections that motivated former students to continue on as music teachers repeat with their new students. Susana shared,

“My favorite part of the job is having my students come to me whether it is for help or just to chit chat. I love when my students are comfortable enough to come hangout during lunch or before school starts. I enjoy the small things like my students giving me fist bumps or when they run to me with ideas of music to perform. I enjoy seeing their faces light up when something clicks or when they play something that they didn’t believe was possible.”

We love hearing stories of students progression in these programs! Susana shared some cool upcoming things happening with her students,

“My intermediate guitar group has UIL (University Interscholastic League)  coming up on April 19th. My beginner groups are working on their concert music for their May concert and some students are learning solos for the solo and ensemble competition coming soon! My mariachi group is preparing for their big Cinco de Mayo concert on April 29th. They also have a performance on April 9th to celebrate AISD's first cohort of K-12 Dual Language students at the Mexican American Culture Center and a few other gigs. Many things happening!”

We at ACG are sending tons of good energy and luck their way! 

We’re so excited to share more stories from our local music teachers and their students! 

Read a beautiful story about our Juvenile Justice program here.

Juvenile Justice: A Conversation with Hector Aguilar

ACG Juvenile Justice is a music education program creating a safe space for incarcerated youth in juvenile detention centers. Safe spaces are created through group guitar classes that provide an environment to foster a sense of personal success and accomplishment while providing an outlet for personal expression. Learn more about our Juvenile Justice programs. 


My childhood experiences, family members, friends, and challenging experiences that I have heard from students are what pushed me in the direction of Juvenile Justice. Most of my family members have been in Juvenile Justice or incarcerated in prison and have not had the support that is needed to break the cycle. - Hector Aguilar, Director of ACG Juvenile Justice Services

Education is at the heart of Austin Classical Guitar . We are deeply grateful to connect with the young people in our community and play a part in their journey toward growth. We are in awe of the grounding, connection, and healing that can be created through music, and nowhere in our work is this more important and more precious than in our programs within the Juvenile Justice System. 

This week, we had the opportunity to speak with our Director of Juvenile Justice services, Hector Aguilar. 

Hector is originally from Brownsville, Texas and has been teaching for twelve years. He opened his own private studio after graduating from UT Brownsville. He offered lessons on a variety of instruments to a large client base including students that were part of the housing authority system. During his graduate studies at Texas A&M and UT Rio Grande Valley, Hector focused on how classical guitar could positively impact the community such as how the classical guitar ensemble could be used as a space of empowerment for Latinas from lower socioeconomic communities in Brownsville. He continued to perform and present his research in cities throughout Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Portugal.

Hector became involved with ACG during his undergraduate years. He shared, 

“Every year Dr. Michael Quantz would bring us to the ACG Ensemble Festival where we would take part in the premiere of the winner of the guitar composition competition. It was in these visits that I learned about the Juvenile Justice program and became very interested in the work that ACG does as an organization. During these trips, I would ask Travis Marcum and Jeremy Osborne questions whenever I could. However, it was not until I spent time serving the people from Brownsville, and upon completing the Master of Arts in Performance Studies, that I reached out to Matt Hinsley to further understand what this great organization does overall.”

Hector became part of our Juvenile Justice program in January of this year and we are so grateful to have him as part of our team. Hector shared, 

“My childhood experiences, family members, friends, and challenging experiences that I have heard from students are what pushed me in the direction of Juvenile Justice. Most of my family members have been in Juvenile Justice or incarcerated in prison and have not had the support that is needed to break the cycle. I was going down that path in my youth but a successful audition to a fine arts high school changed my mentality. I have seen firsthand how music can have a positive impact on a person, and I completely embody that common saying ‘music saved my life.’ Wanting to offer someone the opportunity to have a tool that could potentially save their life is what has mainly pushed me in this direction.”

Hector is currently working with the students at Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center, Phoenix House, and WilCo in Williamson County. He shared this beautiful story with us: 

“I have so many stories I’d like to share, but one that stands out the most is from an experience at Gardner Betts. Before being released a student mentioned that she did not know how she could, but that she would figure out a way to get a guitar. Earlier she’d expressed how she wanted to use the tools she obtained at the center to turn her life around. I explained the details to our Education Director and he said that ACG has guitars available for these types of students, so we got one for her. 

The following day I showed up with the guitar and spoke to Kim (the counselor) about how ACG was very proud of her and that we had a guitar for her. Word spread, and the entire staff seemed overwhelmingly happy, to say the least! Kim had me visit her classroom so that I could give her the instrument. Upon walking in I told her "look what we brought," and she said, ‘Oh damn, another guitar.’ She did not know it was for her yet. I said, ‘Yes it is another guitar, but this one is for you.’ 

She couldn't believe it at first. She got off her seat and grabbed the case saying ‘No! Really?!’ Everyone had a huge smile, especially her. She said, "Damn sir, this is awesome. My mom can't even afford this, and I didn't know how I was going to get one. Now I don't need to think about it." I told her that ACG, Mr. Osborne, and myself are very proud of all the hard work and commitment she has done, and that this was a gift for her efforts. She tried playing the guitar but was too excited and kept stopping and getting off her chair to pace. 

Words can’t really describe the experience, you’d have to be there, of course, but perhaps you can get the idea from my story.”

Stories like these push us to continue growing, continue the connections, and continue the healing. We wouldn’t be able to experience these heart-warming moments and share the deep significance of music if it weren’t for the support of you, our community.  


Read a story on our Music & Healing program here.
Learn more about supporting ACG here

A Conversation with Rey Rodriguez

Education is the heart of ACG. We cherish the experiences and connections we build through our programs and our community. Learn more about ACG Education here. You can support our Education programs here

We are so incredibly grateful for the amazing young people we cross paths with in our Education journey. We have the opportunity to see students blossom into multi-talented, driven, and successful young adults. We even get to come full-circle with a lot of them! 

Rey Rodriguez is one of these inspiring students who came full-circle with our Education Program. Rey began his guitar journey with us at Bedichek Middle School. He continued on through our program at Crockett High School, graduating in 2019. He now attends the University of Texas Butler School of Music with a focus in guitar, and has recently become a teaching artist in some of our education programs, including both Bedichek Middle School and Crockett High School!

We had the exciting opportunity to speak with Rey about his experience and he shared how the program at Bedichek, directed by Phil Swasey, ignited the beginning of his career, 

“Guitar class at Bedichek was my first experience with the guitar. The program helped me understand the importance of guitar and the joy it can bring to myself and others. The comradery that Mr. Swasey helped create in the class made me feel like I had a second family. I still have friends from that class and my best friend who is like a brother to me, sat right next to me in the front row my 8th grade year. Mr. Swasey taught me how to apply myself to the guitar and helped guide me to a stronger work ethic that I used not only for music, but also for my core academic classes in school.”

Rey continued on to share where he is now, 

“I am currently in my third year at the Butler School of Music at UT. I am now the director of guitar at UT string project as well as a teaching artist with ACG! Travis Marcum, Director of Education, reached out to me at the beginning of the 2021 Fall semester and asked if I would like to teach some lessons through ACG. We eventually talked about what schools would work for me and my schedule, and I made my schedule work so I can be at Bedichek Middle School as well as Crockett High School!”

We are so inspired by the spark Rey has shown since he started in our programs. Rey shared,

“This full-circle experience has felt very surreal as well as humbling. I love the opportunities that ACG is helping provide through this program. When I was in middle school I was unable to afford private lessons and we were the first classical guitar program Bedichek ever had, so seeing how far the program has gone and being able to provide lessons for these kids is incredible. The kids I’m currently working with are smart, hard working, inspiring, and overall just great. I am very lucky to call them my students!”

We feel so fortunate to be able to build connections like these and build our family and foundation with ACG Education.

For additional full circle stories, you might enjoy this feature on three of our alumni in the November issue of Tribeza Magazine.

A Conversation with New President of ACG’s Board of Directors, Alyce Zawacki

This fall we’re thrilled to return to in-person concerts, and introduce you to KMFA’s breathtaking new Draylen Mason Music Studio. We can’t wait to share two more international virtuosos of guitar in this new jewel of the Austin music landscape. Learn more here.

There are so many astounding things coming to ACG this season and we couldn't be more grateful! One of these amazing things being our newest President of ACG’s Board of Directors, Alyce Zawacki. 

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Alyce is an Austin-based attorney for creatives and owner of Alyce Zawacki Law. Alyce shared a little bit about her work and what led her down that path,

“I work primarily with artists and creative industry businesses. I have worked with a wide range of clients, including musicians, filmmakers, visual artists, content creators, graphic design studios, interior designers, and creative-based start-up companies. 

Growing up, I participated in theatre, film production, journalism, and photography and was constantly surrounded by various music, thanks to my dad, who worked as a DJ for many years. At some point, I started exploring other ways to still be involved in working with people in creative fields. I went to university studying media communications and law and from there, I was able to find a niche passion for the law as it relates to the entertainment, media, and art industries (in particular copyright, trademark, right of publicity and contracts).”

We first connected with Alyce in 2018 when a past ACG staff member invited her to one of our UpClose events with Brazilian guitarist Marcus Tardelli. Alyce shared a little bit about this introduction, 

“I was first formally introduced to ACG while attending an LGBT Chamber of Commerce event. A past ACG staff member was also there and invited me to attend a special ACG event at a beautiful mansion with Brazilian guitarist Marcus Tardelli performing. While this performance was absolutely spectacular, as I learned about the educational programming of ACG, this was what really captured me.”

We are so grateful to be able to build deep connections through one of our greatest passions here, ACG Education. This year is our education program’s 20th anniversary! We have so many wonderful stories to share about the past year in ACG Education. Read our 2021 Education Report here.

Our mission here at ACG is to inspire individuals in the communities we serve through musical experiences of deep personal significance. As the new President of ACG’s Board of Directors, Alyce shared what this mission means to her. 

“To me, our mission means using music as a tool to communicate, celebrate and heal. Music is so incredibly powerful and is a means of catharsis for so many, including myself. I was lucky to grow up in a family that encouraged listening to music and valued its importance, but not everyone has access to music in the same way that I did. I love that ACG is able to fill a void in so many people's lives by providing musical joy.”

We are so excited to begin our 31st season in our new home in the Baker Center in Hyde Park! We also have started building a new venue space, The Rosette, in partnership with The Alamo Drafthouse. With all these new and exciting things happening at ACG we have so many future plans and goals! Alyce shared some goals she has being part of ACG Board of Directors, 

“With ACG's new home at the Baker Center, I think the biggest goal for the next two years is to ensure that we have a turn-key production plan and utilize the amazing space in creative ways that allow us to continue growing and spreading our mission. The Baker Center is such an exciting step for ACG, and I can't wait to see what Matt and the ACG staff have in store for us all!”

Fall 2021 ACG Education Report: Our 20th Anniversary

 Dear Friends,

Fall 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of ACG Education.

Two decades ago, we were given an opportunity to work with students in a guitar class at McCallum High School here in Austin. In the years since, ACG has become a driving force in the field of classroom-based guitar education, partnering with hundreds of teachers serving thousands of students in schools around the world. As we reflect on the countless stories of challenge and beauty from the past twenty years, we are reminded of the passion, purpose, and inspiration at the core of our service mission.

We’d like to begin this report with a reminder of the Five Elements we consider essential to the impact of our work in education. These elements, which we first shared publicly in our 2017 Education Report, are: 1) Safety, Trust & Belonging 2) Individual Importance 3) Adversity & Perseverance 4) Performance & Success 5) Celebration.

We promote the Five Elements in the microcosm (every class, every interaction), and the macrocosm (semester, school year, training summit). As you are reading this report, we hope it will show the degree to which our team, particularly during this pandemic, has worked to keep the Five Elements at the heart of everything we do in education.

As you’ll see in this report, despite the challenges we all faced in this past year and a half, ACG Education continues to grow in impact, sharing and connecting in new and deeper ways with more people than ever before. We hope what you find in this report will make you proud.


Travis Marcum, Director of Education and Music & Healing


ACG Education: Service during the Pandemic 

Early in the pandemic we realized our highest goal was to combat isolation, separation from friends and colleagues, by creating opportunities for safety and belonging via deep personal expression in the music we make together. Using technology, personal narrative, and multi-modal participation options, we created an array of new tools and approaches for our students and teachers. We built virtual spaces for young artists to commune, create, and describe their world. 

This included the commissioning of an astonishing (to us!) ninety new works, an array of mass-participation events, and a new level of community-based projects. 

Community-based Projects

In spring 2020 Travis Marcum wrote Everything Changes at Once. This piece included 13 multi-level repeating musical patterns, and opportunities for performers to participate through guitar, spoken voice, photo, and video. More than 750 files were submitted by students in 23 cities across the US. ECAO formed the basis for many of our projects since.

In October 2020 we invited our community to create musical offerings, called Ofrendas, in celebration of loved ones who had passed away. This is in the Latin American tradition of Día de Muertos, and we partnered with Austin’s Mexic-Arte Museum for the educational and cultural framework of the project. Here is a playlist with 68 of the moving creations: Ofrendas.

In March 2021 we had a similar community-wide call for submissions of performances and compositions created as gifts for loved ones who could use something warm and supportive in their lives. Here is a playlist with 48 such performances: GIVE.


Local Services & Campus-Specific Special Projects 

We enter the 2021-2022 school year with 51 local partner schools. Established programs need minimal day-to-day support beyond performance engagement and special opportunities, but many of our programs are new, have new teachers, or special challenges requiring significant assistance ranging from planning and consultation, to school visits, private instruction, and recruiting.

We are continually amazed by the resourcefulness and resilience displayed by our partner teachers and their students. Here is a particularly inspiring video of a collaboration between the guitar and dance programs at KIPP Academy in Austin performing Chris Lee’s arrangement of Izika Zumba from our GuitarCurriculum.com library.

While every school and community faced unprecedented challenges, we identified several campus communities where we wished to focus additional resources in an effort to use group expression and creation as a unifying and healing force for good. These were all student led projects that provided a creative space for our young musicians to generate ideas and contribute their individual voice to a larger endeavor. Students met and overcame creative challenges involving composition, performance, video and audio recording and engineering and more. And they ultimately were able to celebrate the birth of a work of art made specifically by and for their school community. 

Six Feet Together was composed by Justice Phillips and performed by Lively Middle School guitar, orchestra, and dance programs. ACG supported the production elements as well as the composition and some preparation. This project was extra special because Justice, ACG’s Director of Customer Experience, is also a graduate of the Lively Middle School guitar program. The stage recording of this project marked the first time that Lively Fine Arts students were able to be together after more than one year apart. 

Hope was created and performed by Northeast High School students and Director Dallas Shreve with guest artists-in-residence Daniel Fears and Tony Mariano. This is an excellent example of personal narrative combined with music and multimedia production. 

San Marcos High School students led this project with Travis Marcum to write, record, and engineer several pieces as a way of processing community grief. One movement is linked here. 

Individual Free Lessons and Alumni Stories

ACG has provided free lessons, primarily in Title 1 Schools, for much of the past twenty years. Many of our most remarkable stories of personal transformation, and transcendent musical success relate to this deep service that pairs expert teachers with individual students on a weekly basis. These mentor relationships often last for years. In this report we’ll focus on one current scholarship recipient and share four brief updates from alumni. 

Elijah Flores just graduated from Crockett High School. As the winner of our Javier Niño Scholarship, Elijah had weekly lessons with ACG’s Tony Mariano, was awarded a concert-quality guitar, had multiple performance opportunities, and assistance in his college application and audition process. Elijah was accepted on scholarship to UT San Antonio where he now studies with Dr. Isaac Bustos, and was given a first-ever six-year scholarship award from The D’Addario Foundation for the Performing Arts. 

Will Flores, graduated from our McCallum program in 2008 and joined the US Army Band. Now exiting the Army after 12 years in service, with a BA in Psychology, Will is planning his next stages in life, and called ACG to ask about volunteering. Will has just been confirmed as a new member of the ACG Board of Directors, becoming our first former student to serve on the board. 

Susana Diaz Lopez, a graduate of Travis High School, is now a full-time guitar and mariachi teacher at Akins High School. Susana, who was also an intern at ACG, and worked as a teacher in our juvenile justice system programs, becomes our fourth graduate to come full circle and enter AISD as a full-time teacher. 

Lennox Kolics, a long-time member of ACG Youth Orchestra, and former intern, graduated high school, is attending college for music production, and became an indispensable part of our AV team in the past year. About his experience in ACGYO with director Joe Williams, Lennox wrote: “Over the years, breathing life into the scores before us and making the pieces our own became instinctual — we didn’t just play songs anymore, we made them into stories. It wasn’t primarily about getting it right, but about creating beautiful things together; I came to see that that’s what life is about too.” 

Claire Puckett, graduated from our McCallum program and has had a prolific early career as a professional musician. After several years on our Music & Healing artist team, Claire now joins our Music & Healing administrative staff. Here she is introducing herself (video) and a song she wrote for the Music & Healing program called Oli Boy, as part of our GIVE project. 

Feature Performances

On March 27, 2021, ACG produced PLAY, an education showcase featuring 13 performances by individual students and ensembles from Austin and far beyond. This video may be the best single resource to experience the range of ACG Education pivots made during the pandemic. 

For our May 25, 2021 season finale, we partnered with guitarist collective Ex-Aqueo and the Virtual Guitar Orchestra with special support from the Augustine Foundation to assemble a statewide group of students for the premiere performance of Mason Bynes’ Broomsticks. For more insight into the project, here is an interview with Mason Bynes. This piece was commissioned and arranged in partnership with Ex-Aequo’s Changing the Canon project, highlighting 9 new works by Black American composers. 

Juvenile Justice 

We are pleased to report that the May 2020 expansion of our Juvenile Justice services to include Travis County’s Phoenix House, was successful and productive. Jim Lorenz, the Lead Teacher at Phoenix Academy, wrote: “The impact of these learning opportunities on Phoenix students have been profound. The Phoenix faculty has recognized marked growth in the self-esteem of students participating in guitar classes. Guitar students have taken ownership and pride in their new abilities, and have opened themselves up to modalities of expression few of them even knew existed. Students in guitar classes are eager to share newly learned abilities with peers, mentors, and loved ones. Moreover, students express extreme gratitude for the ACG teachers, and profess that they will be able to use their new found music skills as coping mechanisms that will support their sobriety.”

Phoenix House became our third juvenile justice center program, following our decade of service at Travis County’s Gardner Betts facility, and our four years of service at Williamson County’s Wilco facility. After months in preparation, we just opened our fourth juvenile justice service area in Dallas County’s Medlock facility in August 2021. This represents the first time we have started such a program outside of central Texas. 

In spring 2021, ACG Education received a Liberty Bell Award from the Austin Young Lawyers’  Association in recognition of more than ten years of service in the juvenile justice arena. 

While it is rare for us to be able to record our students in detention, we are particularly pleased to share this beautiful performance of John Legend’s All Of Me. One of our students in Williamson County wanted very much to learn this song. He worked hard, learned it, and carefully recorded the accompaniment track, displaying a variety of guitar skills, and remarkably steady rhythm for a lengthy single recording. The recording was then paired with ACG Music & Healing artist Claudia Chapa to make the moving video that is linked above.

Community Ensembles

We commissioned five new works for our youth and adult community ensembles. Forward by Michael Keplinger, is a four-movement work written in fall 2020 with one movement for each group: Guitar Choir, Guitar Ensemble, Youth Camerata, and Youth Orchestra. 

In the spring the ACG Guitar Choir performed Reassembled by Matthew Lyons. The ACG Youth Camerata performed Winter To Spring. The ACG Guitar Ensemble Performed Adelante by Alan Retamozo. The ACG Youth Orchestra performed Hello I Just Wanted to See How You Were Doing, by Cassie Shenkman.

This Conversation with Catalina Galvan, gives special insight into the new capability Zoom technology gave us in 2020-2021 to engage members from outside our driving distance. Catalina said: “My experience this Spring was one like no-other. I have never had the opportunity to collaborate with such a diverse group of people and work on a beautiful piece to make it our own, until I joined the ACGYO.”

This Letter from Edward Kimball: Guitar & Horses, is a beautiful testament to the impact of our adult ensembles on members of our community. 

Here is a playlist of Forward (4 movements):


GuitarCurriculum.com, Teacher Summit & National Services

During the 2020-2021 school year GuitarCurriculum.com had 681 active users. Our team continues to update and augment our teaching materials with special emphasis on increasing diverse representation in our teaching library. Recent additions include new arrangements by Mariette Stephens, a new work by Shuborno Biswas, and five arrangements of songs from Mexico by Celil Refik-Kaya. The site also now has a “Special Projects” page including processes for our new community-based projects like Everything Changes at Once, Ofrendas and GIVE. 

We frequently receive positive user feedback. One note that stood out was this one, from August 2021: “We'd like to give a big thank you to you and your team for creating such a great resource for our teachers and students. One area that we particularly appreciated is the scaffolding of performance materials in the music library and their accompanying video tutorials. As we know, the best way to learn is to do and it is often the case that one guitar class will have a wide range of skills. The various leveled pieces help maximize participation and will no doubt increase student learning and the joy for making music.”

A top goal of our July 2020 Teacher Summit was to prepare teachers for remote instruction online. Many teachers commented a year later, in our 2021 Teacher Summit, that the preparation--and specifically the direct experience building Canvas LMS course modules--gave them confidence and technical skills they needed to succeed during the 2020-2021 school year. We would like to say a special thanks to partner teacher Phil Swasey, who led in developing our Canvas LMS systems. 

Travis Marcum wrote a new piece for our teachers to study and perform during the July 2021 Teacher Summit called Open. It is beautiful, and represents another example of centering participant voices, and seeking to promote our Five Elements throughout all aspects of ACG Education. 

We’d like to end this section on national services with a special shout out to James Young of the Ferguson-Florissant School District, who was recent awarded Missouri State Teacher of the Year (article). We have been working with James for more than five years, and believe this award could not have been given to a nicer or more dedicated teacher. In response to our letter of congratulations, Mr. Young wrote: “My time spent with you and the staff at Austin Classical Guitar has certainly been an integral part of my journey and I am grateful. I look forward to the path ahead and continuing to work with you and St. Louis Classical Guitar!”

LetsPlay: Braille Lifelong Learning Resource

Our braille lifelong learning resource, LetsPlayGuitar.org, had 7,681 unique visitors in 2020 (compared to 3422 in 2019) with 1,721 downloads of our music teaching packet (1,299 in 2019). Perhaps our biggest news has been the fall 2019 launch of our sister site, Svirajmo Gitaru in a full translation for use in the Balkans. 

We continue to have wonderful conversations with users. We recently received a call from an 81 year old resident of rural Oregon who lost his sight four years ago. He does not have internet access, he does not read braille, and he lives in a remote part of the state. A friend of his was able to download the audio guides from Level 1 of LetsPlayGuitar.org, and while he had never played guitar before, he was able to learn all of the Level 1 material through the audio guides. He was calling us to ask what to do next. When we informed him that there are seven more levels, and about forty-five more pieces to learn, he became ecstatic and said, “I’m so excited right now. I wish you could see me. I’m so excited my knees are shaking.” We’ve since placed the audio guides from Levels 2 and 3 onto a flash drive for him to play using the audio player provided to him by the Braille Foundation. 

Looking Ahead

In the coming months, ACG Education is planning to fully celebrate our 20th Anniversary year with all kinds of special events and projects for students and teachers including hosting two artist residencies for students in Austin ISD with the amazing Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist Clarice Assad. As the community we serve grows, so does our talented education team. This Fall, we are thrilled to bring on Tony Mariano, ACG’s new Director of Community Education. Tony will be engaging with all of our local programs and will direct ACG’s youth and adult community ensemble programs. In addition to Claire Puckett, mentioned above, we have also hired another ACG Education alum, Rey Rodriguez, to teach in our free private lesson program for Austin ISD. Rey attended our partner programs at Bedichek Middle School and Crockett High School before attending the UT Austin Butler School of Music for guitar performance. He will be working with students at both campuses he attended in his youth. 

We are also particularly excited to announce a catalytic growth opportunity for Austin Classical Guitar in the creation and activation of our first-ever home. This fall we are renovating and opening a new venue and center for creative learning and collaboration we’re calling The Rosette in central Austin. With multiple indoor and outdoor performance and teaching spaces, along with state-of-the-art lighting, sound, recording, and broadcasting capabilities, we believe our opportunities for education, training, and community engagement will evolve to a whole new level. 

We are deeply grateful for the generosity of the many individuals and institutions whose support makes Austin Classical Guitar’s education programming possible, including: 

Augustine Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Kaman Foundation, Bill Wood Foundation, Cain Foundation, Webber Family Foundation, Still Water Foundation, Lucy & Bill Farland, Rea Charitable Trust, Texas Commission on the Arts, H-E-B Tournament of Champions Charitable Trust, Kodosky Foundation, Long Foundation, Wright Family Foundation, Shield-Ayres Foundation, the Skeel/Baldauf Family, Karrie & Tim League, Louise Epstein & John Henry McDonald, Bill Metz, MFS Foundation, University Area Rotary Club, Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, Applied Materials Foundation, Sue L. Nguyen Management Trust, Dr. Michael Froehls, Sarah & Ernest Butler, Mercedes-Benz of Austin, United Way for Greater Austin, Carl Caricari & Margaret Murray Miller, Burdine Johnson Foundation, 3M Foundation, Whole Foods Market, D’Addario Foundation, Calido Guitars, Rick & Valeri Reeder, Dan Bullock & Annette Carlozzi, Dr. Lynne Boggs & Bill Cariker, The Ben and Nancy Sander Family, The Raley Family and many, many others.

ACG Education: Six Feet Together by Justice Phillips and Lively Middle School

2021 is the 20th anniversary of ACG Education. We’ll be celebrating all year long! Here is a beautiful story about one of our spring projects at Lively Middle School! Click here to learn more about ACG Education.


ACG Education is the heart of our organization. We highly value the life long connections we build through our programs! This spring we had the opportunity to see our very own Director of Customer Experience and Composer, Justice Phillips, make a full circle and collaborate with Lively Middle School, where he attended from 2009-2011!

Travis Marcum, our Director of Education, said,

“When we initially contacted the orchestra and guitar director Meredith McAlmon at Lively, she was interested in commissioning a piece specifically for her guitar, orchestra and dance programs to perform. In comes Justice Phillips who is a relatively new staff member here at ACG. Justice has a degree in composition, he is a fabulous musician, and Justice began his guitar studies at Lively Middle School in our ACG program there years ago. It was a perfect fit.” 

The beauty held and created by the connections made in ACG Education programs are some of our most treasured experiences. Travis shared the impact of these connections made at Lively, 

“As ACG Education Director, I have been serving guitar students in Austin for 16 years. I remember meeting Justice at Lively many years ago when he was a SUPER energetic 13 year old who wanted, above all else, to play fast! To see Justice work with his former teacher along with another ACG Education alum and Lively guitar teacher Javier Saucedo... that was a truly proud moment. The composition they created was inspiring and the perfect thing for all of the students involved. The dedication and musicianship of the young artists who recorded this project was so very impressive and a reminder that inspired young people become inspiring adult artists.”

This collaboration was extra special because of the difficulties the pandemic has placed on music education in general. Despite being unable to rehearse fully together until the recording date, the students and teachers involved fully embodied beauty and grace in their performance of Six Feet Together. Travis shared, 

“The three teachers, Justice, and myself all worked together to write a piece that was both beautiful and executable by all students involved. The result is a truly gorgeous piece for strings, guitar, and dance. And when the students arrived at the AISD Performing Arts Center in late May 2021 to record, it was the first time they had truly met in person as a group since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic. They rehearsed and recorded together. There was a palpable joy in this experience. And the students decided to name the piece "Six Feet Together", a play on the social distancing rules of the day.”


ACG Education: A Letter from Lennox Kolics

One of our favorite parts of ACG's mission is building deep connections and watching the beauty of them unfold. Here is a letter from one of our dearest connections from our ACGYO program, Lennox Kolics. Learn more about Youth and Community Ensembles here. 

My name is Lennox. I’m barely an adult, but I’ve ventured out on a lot of limbs trying to figure out what will propel my life. At the heart of it all, I’m a lover of stories, and this is mine so far. 

I began playing classical guitar when I was 5, and it was the only extracurricular I was able to stick to. In 6th grade, my private instructor Matt Hinsley recommended I audition for the ACG Youth Orchestra that Joe Williams was starting up, leading to the best decision I’ve ever made: joining the ensemble. It was invigorating and new, challenging and tiring, but rewarding above all. During the first few years, I was always the youngest member yet had been there the longest, so it feels like the ACGYO and I grew up together. Our repertoire expanded and became more advanced, we performed at increasing frequencies for crowds of all sizes, and we ventured further from home to share our music. As I evolved as a human and musician, so did ACGYO. Under the guidance of the nonpareil Dr. Joe, we developed the trusting give-and-take of ensemble music-making, and I came to understand the intricacies of the relationship between fellow ensemble members, the conductor, the music, and our instruments. Over the years, breathing life into the scores before us and making the pieces our own became instinctual -- we didn’t just play songs anymore, we made them into stories. It wasn’t primarily about getting it right, but about creating beautiful things together; I came to see that that’s what life is about too. 

As I tried to translate this into my future, ACG helped me explore the possibilities as an intern. There was no coffee-fetching, just guidance and trust as I worked alongside various teams. When I expressed interest in audio engineering, they immediately got me to a studio, and now I’m in college studying Music Technology and Film, continuing to do A/V work with ACG. Without ACG, I’m not sure I’d have all the answers that they gave me through music. I wouldn’t understand what beauty is or what gives me purpose -- I wouldn’t know who I am. I couldn’t be more grateful for the wonderful people in this organization who have gone out of their way to support me for the majority of my life now, and I look forward to knowing them for the rest of it. 


Lennox Kolics

Below is "Hello, I just wanted to see how you were doing" by Cassie Shankman, performed by the ACG Youth Orchestra. Watch more Youth and Community Ensembles here.