Top 10 Moments of 2018

Grab your seats, it's time for ACG's Top 10 Moments of the Year: 2018 Edition! This one took a bit of negotiating, a little fusion and compromise, and even debate of a "Top 20" ... but our final list fills us with joy, and we think it'll put a smile on your face too.

If you have a favorite ACG moment from 2018, feel free to let us know!

 

#10 - Guitars Under the Stars, and A Student Comes Full Circle

Our annual gala for ACG Education, Guitars Under the Stars, was an evening of captivating moments and grateful testimonies, and Grisha’s passionate playing was mesmerizing. But perhaps the most poignant moment for us was the performance of the Alumni Ensemble, a group of four gifted guitarists who graduated from our programs in Austin schools.

We couldn’t be more proud of one student in particular, Javier Saucedo, who recently joined Jeremy Osborne as a guitar teacher at Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center. Together, they work with youth incarcerated there, teaching them guitar in Gardner Betts' only for-credit arts class. We first met Javier during his junior year at Akins High School, and as a student of Jeremy Osborne, ACG’s Assistant Director of Education, he became attached to the guitar and eventually earned his Bachelor of Music degree.

“The cycle continues – I had great teachers in high school who helped me get through a rough patch, and now I get to do the same for others.” - Javier

To read Javier's story, check out this blog.


#9 - Recognizing an ACG Legend

Lloyd Pond has been volunteering in our office almost every week for over ten years. No task is too large or small for Lloyd, but his specialty is repairing broken or damaged guitars used by students in ACG’s local school programs. When RecognizeGood, an Austin-based nonprofit that shines a light on members of the community, named Lloyd a 2018 RecognizeGood Legend award-winner, we were thrilled - but far from surprised.

Beyond the thousands of hours he has spent here fixing instruments, taking out the recycling, stuffing envelopes, and helping out in whatever way we need, Lloyd’s impact goes much deeper.  As April Long, ACG’s former development director, put it, Lloyd represents “what ACG is all about – joy in community. In his deep kindness and infectious joy, in his commitment to creating community, and in his willingness to help in any big or small way, Lloyd has shaped ACG and has shown all of us what it means to live with an open heart.

We couldn’t agree more. Congratulations, Lloyd!


The Courtroom as a Stage for Music

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


People streamed through the door, gathering in the front lobby and chatting excitedly. The metal detectors, unnecessary for this occasion, had been moved to the side. There was a note of celebration in the air despite the inauspicious location: Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center.

Friends, families, and members of the community had all assembled to see three young men, three adolescents incarcerated there, perform a guitar concert.

Jeremy and his former student, now colleague, Javier

For the past few months, these students had worked with Jeremy Osborne, ACG Assistant Director of Education, and Javier Saucedo, an Akins High School guitar alum, in the only for-credit arts class offered at Gardner Betts.

James German, a Residential Treatment Officer Lead, has been at Gardner Betts for almost 15 years, and witnessed the beginning of our Juvenile Justice guitar program there eight years ago. He said most students have never played guitar before taking the class.

Some of them don’t want to play at first. But once they start learning it, they want to do it all the time. They ask, ‘Can I have my guitar?’ and practice in their units. It really makes them focus on better behavior, because they want to play the guitar, they want to be part of these performances, they want their family to come and see them. ”

The musicians were already seated onstage as the audience filed in to take their seats. A courtroom is an unusual concert venue: a short wooden barrier divides the performers from the crowd. The guitarists were in a small arc near the podium, not to face charges before a judge, but to share music with a warm audience of family and friends. The podium, as they began to play, was completely forgotten.

The audience witnessed a transformation during the performance, a transformation of three somber young teens into three focused musicians striving for beautiful tone and rhythmic precision.

Enraptured with the guitarists’ poise and musicality, the audience listened thoughtfully as the students played together. After the first soloist performed and took a bow, the musician in the center of the arc broke his serious expression to share with him a wide grin.

“It’s a peaceful thing for the kids, it makes them feel better about themselves, because they’re accomplishing something, something they never thought in their wildest imagination they’d be doing. It’s so positive,” James said.

After the students finished the final piece on their program, the audience stood up by twos and threes to give them a wholehearted standing ovation. The students couldn’t help but smile humbly, looking around with surprise at their enthusiastic fans.

“Now that they see themselves play guitar, now maybe it makes them see themselves as musicians, artists.”

In the lobby, audience members had the opportunity to write letters of congratulations and encouragement to the musicians. Soon, there was a basket full of notes for them.

The guitarists, after talking with amazed friends and families, enjoyed a celebratory pizza with their proud teachers.


"Music for All" in Puerto Rico

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


Fourteen years ago, Austin Classical Guitar recognized the need for an improved system of school-based guitar education comparable to established programs in choir, orchestra, and band. Three years later, we launched GuitarCurriculum.com. Now used internationally by hundreds of teachers serving tens of thousands of students, “GC.com” is a comprehensive teacher resource that includes a searchable library of original, pedagogically-sequenced ensemble literature, sight reading, and audio and video tutorials, all espousing a powerful core educational philosophy of “expressive, beautiful music-making from the very first day.”

We’ve been talking to teachers around the country – and the world – about how they use our curriculum. The following is a spotlight on Héctor Vázquez, a guitar teacher in Puerto Rico.


Héctor Vázquez was working on his Bachelor's in Guitar Performance when he became a Teaching Assistant. Although performance had always been his focus, he began to notice that teaching was improving his own guitar skills. This led him to the realization that to be a good player, you must know how to teach.

He started his Master's in Tallahassee, where he expanded his teaching experience by doing private lessons, leading a full studio, and directing a seminar. After completing his degree at a school back in Puerto Rico, he began to work at the Fundacion Musica Y Pais, and eventually led the guitar orchestra in his local conservatory.

The Fundacion brings music to schools lacking arts education as part of its Música para Todos (Music for All) initiative. It describes itself as an organization that "advocates for the democratization of access to music education as a citizen right. As part of that vision, we offer a varied platform of programs and initiatives to provide children and youth of Puerto Rico - regardless of social class or socioeconomic status - the necessary opportunities to discover, train, develop and express their musical talent."

"We were only in two schools at the beginning, and none of the students had their own guitars - they had to borrow them," Héctor recalls. They gradually expanded their reach, and now the program supports over 1,300 students in 20 projects located throughout Puerto Rico.

"I still perform, but teaching is what keeps me on my toes." 

Héctor believes his role is to help students progress smoothly and quickly. He works with guitarists between the ages of 8-60, and is grateful they all appreciate the thought he puts into instruction.

As he began to teach in more group settings, Héctor was frustrated by a lack of resources for guitar educators. He thought that a straightforward, effective progression for classroom guitar education did not exist.

"Teachers often start students with chords, which is really hard! My thought is, why are we making this so difficult? Guitar is a polyphonic instrument. Students should start one finger at a time."

He began to research a good method for ensemble use.

"I remember it was really hard for me to play chamber music at first because the guitar is such an independent instrument. So I wanted to find a curriculum where students could play their own parts independently while also listening for other’s music. That's when I found GuitarCurriculum.com."

"I like GuitarCurriculum because it starts with melodies and open strings, meaning you don’t have to switch strings, which is one of the hardest things for a guitarist. The curriculum begins with very simple techniques and well-composed music to teach difficult concepts."

In the fall of 2017, Héctor subscribed to GuitarCurriculum.com and planned to start using it with his students.

Then Hurricane Maria hit.

As a Category 4 Hurricane, it was the worst natural disaster to affect Puerto Rico on record. Most of the island's infrastructure was destroyed, the vegetation was obliterated, and much of the population was faced with a humanitarian crisis due to flooding and lack of resources. The storm wiped out the entire island's power grid, causing millions to lose electricity. Almost 3,000 people were killed.

Luckily, Héctor's community survived largely unscathed.

"The Conservatory opened after a month, but it had no power until December."

"The foundations of our buildings and structures were ok, but we lost power.  That meant we had no internet, which meant I had limited resources, and I could only access the Curriculum from my phone. We charged phones in our cars. We did have generators - plantas - which powered fans to keep us cool, but that meant we had to fight against their noise when we played guitar."

Once the power was restored, Héctor was able to fully embrace all the resources in GuitarCurriculum.com. It was January, and his students were almost a semester behind. This fall, he began the Curriculum with his new students from the very beginning. He says it's working very well.

"As an educator, I wish to improve the culture of music and guitar from the ground up.  I take great pride in teaching in my home country. I wish to teach all musicians, despite their goals, most importantly to support the art of the guitar in the genres they like, and to create a wide-spread appreciation for the art and instrument. "

"Minor Waltz" by Travis Marcum, ACG's Director of Education
One of Héctor's guitar classes performing with a handbell choir as part of the 'Musica para Todos' initiative.


Let go and love: A Lullaby Story

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


Since 2012, our Lullaby Project has paired ACG artist-clinicians with mothers in challenging circumstances. Together, they talk about the mother’s hopes, fears, and musical inspirations, then create and record a personal song for her baby. The mother then has a lullaby entirely of her own that she and her child can listen to for years to come.


Jennifer was in her second-to-last semester of college when she found out she was pregnant. She’d had a rough time in school, and many people encouraged her to take time off during the pregnancy. She decided to complete her degree anyway, her mindset being I’ve come too far, worked too hard, and spent too much time and money. I’m finishing school.

She ended up graduating a semester later than planned, which meant she was raising her newborn, Ava, while working, interning, and taking classes. Since she and her husband had no family in town, they worked out their schedules so one of them would always be home with their baby. That meant rarely seeing each other for the first several months of their daughter’s life.

Photo Credit Jenna Christina

She sought the assistance of ‘Any Baby Can’ through the Nurse Family Partnership, and they helped her with some of the most difficult parts of her pregnancy and postpartum struggles. When she told her counselor that she felt as if she wouldn’t be able to accomplish certain goals because of having a child, the counselor recommended the Lullaby Project. Jennifer had her reservations, but eventually gave it a try.

The first time she met with our one of our lullaby specialists, she brought Ava along, and her counselor was also there for support. Jennifer was nervous because she’d never written a song before, but they started off slowly.

“He just asked me to write down phrases I associate with my daughter - adjectives, words, feelings - which really helped, because I didn’t know where to start. And from those words, it turned into a letter to her.”

After the first session, she took the letter home. She began to read it while listening to her favorite music, then started to make up lyrics to the songs.

“I didn’t expect the words to come out like that, but all of a sudden it was pouring out of me; I was on a roll. I thought, ‘Wait, I can do this! It’s not as hard as I thought,' and then 'Wow, I can actually express myself in a way that is art.'"

Jennifer now realizes a lot of what she was going through emotionally was due to Postpartum Depression. She said even getting out of bed was a struggle at the time. But when she began to write down her thoughts for the Lullaby Project, reflecting on her first few months of raising a child, and how hard it was working, interning, going to classes, not having family in town, and never seeing her husband, she was able to overcome many of the feelings associated with those struggles.

 

Being a mother and having a child made me stronger, but I think the Lullaby Project helped me process everything I was going through, and put things in perspective. It helped me put everything into words, then put those words into the action of writing and performing. That made me stronger, pretty much more so than any other experience I’ve had. The fact that I was able to do something I’d never done before, and do it myself, was empowering. It meant I could feel like a role model for Ava."

The chorus of her lullaby for Ava says 'Let go and love, and grow stronger each day,' which is as much a message for Jennifer as it is for her daughter. 'Everything falls into place.'

This is Jennifer singing her lullaby with Arnold Yzaguirre, one of our lullaby specialists, at the Nurse Family Partnership Graduation with 'Any Baby Can'. After the performance, she said to the audience, "The Lullaby Project helped me rediscover my love, my passion for writing. I never thought I'd be up here in front of you singing, but here I am."

Ava, her daughter, crawls all over her during the lullaby in an attempt to grab the mic. Apparently, she always sings along when Jennifer practices at home.

"She wanted to be a part of it, she loves to sing. I want to get her involved in music."

Jennifer would love to continue writing lullabies for her baby, and maybe for a future child someday as well. She encourages all moms considering the project to go for it, even if fears get in the way.

"The Lullaby Project is honestly one of the most beautiful things I've ever done for my daughter, and for myself. It’s a very empowering and fun experience, and it brings out strength you didn't know you had. It might reconnect you with a passion of yours. I want all moms to do this, especially those that are going through Postpartum Depression. I’m so grateful for the entire group of people involved."


Motivating Children with Music

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


Fourteen years ago, Austin Classical Guitar recognized the need for an improved system of school-based guitar education comparable to established programs in choir, orchestra, and band. Three years later, we launched GuitarCurriculum.com. Now used internationally by hundreds of teachers serving tens of thousands of students, “GC.com” is a comprehensive teacher resource that includes a searchable library of original, pedagogically-sequenced ensemble literature, sight reading, and audio and video tutorials, all espousing a core educational philosophy of “expressive, beautiful music-making from the very first day.

We’ve been talking to teachers around the country – and the world – about how they use our curriculum, and wanted to share with you the story of Sayil López, a guitarist and educator in Mexico City.


People really like guitar in Mexico, and a large number of children are starting to play. One of the easiest ways to teach all of them is by putting together ensembles. But we have to find teaching materials intended for groups, since right now, we lack the tools.

I started playing guitar as a small child of 9, and became a teacher 15 years ago. As a teacher, I believe it’s important to know many methods of education. I find yours very interesting, useful, and practical.

I conduct a children’s orchestra in the Facultad de Música in the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. We don’t have a set guitar curriculum, so GuitarCurriculum.com is our base, and the only program that actually works for us. I’ve worked with your method for the past five years.

My children's orchestra has kids between the ages of 8 to 15. They all represent a wide range of levels, which is common in ensembles, and a characteristic of guitar ensembles especially. Your curriculum is the first that solves this particular problem. The kids love to play the music, and the quality of arrangements is really well done. There are different and mixed levels for each piece, it's so inclusive.

When a little child and a more advanced student play together, it’s beautiful that they're able to share the music. It motivates the younger child.

At the Facultad de Música, the children work so hard. They have a lot of lessons during the week, and they get so tired. The children used to get disappointed with music and quit.

When you give a child something too difficult to play, it's easy to give up. When a child plays something at the right level, something enjoyable, it’s motivating. That's why students love the GuitarCurriculum.com music. When they finish one part, they move on to a more difficult one.

When I started using GuitarCurriculum.com with the children’s orchestra, they all were suddenly so motivated to work. Other teachers asked what I was doing. It was beautiful, and the parents were so thankful. They want their children to be happy, and for that, the kids have to be happy with music.

If we had the program in Spanish, that would be great. I would like to use it the right way: reading and understanding all the histories of the pieces and the full instructions. More of my colleagues would use it too. GuitarCurriculum.com should be more well known!

 


Thoughts from the Border: Eclipsing Violence with Music

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


“We’re trying to save them with music.”

Last weekend, we opened our International Series 2018-19 Season with celebrated guitarist Ana Vidovic. While audience members enjoyed an art display and refreshments in the lobby, a small group of people gathered in the Black Box Theater. They were students, teachers, and mothers from the city of Reynosa Tamaulipas, Mexico, and they had driven more than five hours from the US-Mexico border to perform for Ana Vidovic.

The students - one only six years old, his legs dangling off the chair as he held a half-size guitar - each played short solos while their mothers watched proudly. Ana listened to each one and gave thoughtful feedback, the students nodding with wide eyes at their teacher’s translation of her words into Spanish. A few years ago, the possibility of such an opportunity for these children would have been unthinkable.

According to their teacher, Mario Quintanilla Saucedo, the city of Reynosa Tamaulipas has become increasingly troubled with violence in recent years, and there's no clear end in sight.

“It’s practically unsafe to go into streets and live a normal life. Children 9 to 14 years old are enlisted in the most dangerous criminal gangs, carrying assault rifles instead of musical instruments,” Mario told us.

Mindful of the deteriorating role of culture in their city, a small group of music-lovers began searching for a guitar teacher for their children. They came upon one in the city of Monterrey Nuevo León, 140 miles from Reynosa. Mario Quintanilla Saucedo has studied with distinguished masters of international stature - including Ana Vidovic - and placed in national guitar competitions across Mexico.

“Our idea was to rescue children by occupying them in the art of classical guitar before they could be victims of organized crime," Mario explained, "the theory being that a child who learns guitar from a young age will never carry a weapon.”

After almost a year of bringing a student to study with Mario in Monterrey once a week, the plan changed: every weekend, Mario would drive the three hours to Reynosa Tamaulipas. Now, he has a whole studio of students between the ages of 4 and 53.

When Mario heard that Ana Vidovic was coming to Austin, he contacted her to ask if his students could play before the concert. He wanted to show them a world of hope, opportunity, and the possibility of life in the arts.

"Keep your strength," she told one of the students after he'd played. "Mantén tu fuerza."

“This trip to Austin showed that we are doing the right thing by helping children grow up in an environment of music instead of one concerned with terror and violence," Mario wrote to us after the concert.

“Our students and their parents were very happy with the reception and attention you gave us, it was much more than we could have imagined. The stage you set up so Ana Vidovic could hear us was spectacular and touching. ACG is a wonderful organization, and your team was very kind.”

His guitar studio would soon like to relocate to a nearby city of McAllen or Mission, Texas, since Reynosa is very dangerous. "We do not want any of our students to be accidentally injured by a stray bullet. Currently, our facilities are in a private house for our students' safety.”

"We see education as a cornerstone for changing the course of our children and our environment.”

They aspire to follow the model of ACG Education.

“Our project is small and has a limited budget, but we believe it will grow. We will hopefully see our progress reflected in disciplined young people with artistic training who someday could be in high spheres of the classical guitar world."


Music for a Little Spirit

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


Since 2012, our Lullaby Project has paired ACG artist-clinicians with mothers in challenging circumstances. Together, they talk about the mother's hopes, fears, and musical inspirations, then create and record a personal song for her baby. The mother then has a lullaby entirely of her own that she and her child can listen to for years to come. A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the recording session of one mother's lullaby: "Bright Eyes."

Photo by Bastien Jaillot

A woman sits in front of a table scattered with recording equipment, a journal, and a box of tissues. A man offers her headphones, tilts the mic closer to her face, and asks if she’s ready. She inhales deeply, gazes at the phone leaning against her water bottle, and laughs good-naturedly. “As ready as I'll ever be. Let’s do it.”

The woman is Kheira, mother of Jennings Dean. Jennings has spent the first 130 days of his life in the neonatal intensive care Unit of St. David’s Medical Center. He was born several months premature, weighing only one pound at birth.

Kheira’s phone, propped up to be the center of attention while recording, displays a recent photo of Jennings: a healthy, plump tot wearing huge, goofy glasses - it was costume day - and a Yoda onesie that says “Too Cute I Am”. This picture would have been impossible to imagine a few months ago.

Kheira is recording a lullaby she’s written with the calm guidance of Arnold Yzaguirre, one of Austin Classical Guitar's Lullaby Project clinicians. They’ve already met a few times in the past month to talk about the melody, lyrics, and message of her lullaby.

“It was magic,” she said of the process. “It was like the melody was already there, we just plucked it out of the universe.”

Photo by Aditya Romansa

Music has always been present in baby Jennings’ life. Dismayed at having to leave him alone in the NICU every night, Kheira persuaded the nurses to play Pandora in his room.

“It started with just classical, but it’s evolved to whatever we’re listening to. He loves Foster the People. We have Fleetwood Mac Saturdays.”

Some mothers in the Lullaby Project choose to have someone else record their lullaby, but Kheira wanted to sing it herself. Her voice radiates with gentle, soothing strength. She tells Jennings of the uncertainty at the beginning of his life, and the fearless resilience she saw in his bright eyes. Her words reflect his light from within during the dark time, and encourage him to Be kind. Be brave. Be unafraid. Always remember you’re a part of my soul … If you ever forget how much you are loved, just listen to your song.

“Before I started working on the lullaby,” Kheira said, “I hadn’t been thinking about what I wanted to say to him outside the hospital, because I hadn’t even thought about the future.

"I was so busy living in the now, thinking about the medical jargon, the questions of ‘Is he breathing? Is he surviving?’ It was good to take a step back and think about what the future could be, and to think of him as a little person, a little spirit.”

A few weeks later, Arnold brought the final recording of “Bright Eyes” to Kheira. She held her baby, finally home after over 140 days, in her arms while her husband and Jennings listened to the lullaby for the first time. Tears rolled down her face as she said, “It’s perfect.”


Teacher Spotlight Part III: Bringing Folklore to the Guitar

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


Fourteen years ago, Austin Classical Guitar recognized the need for an improved system of school-based guitar education comparable to established programs in choir, orchestra, and band. Three years later, we launched GuitarCurriculum.com. Now used internationally by hundreds of teachers serving tens of thousands of students, "GC.com" is a comprehensive teacher resource that includes a searchable library of original, pedagogically-sequenced ensemble literature, sight reading, and audio and video tutorials, all espousing a powerful core educational philosophy of “expressive, beautiful music-making from the very first day."

We've been talking to teachers around the country - and the world - about how they use our curriculum, and wanted to share Jane's story with you. The following is the third installment of our three-part series.


Jane's classes incorporate diverse elements of instruction. “We're a Cajun, Creole, and Country music town. We respond to that as guitar teachers.”

She’s written arrangements of many Cajun and Creole tunes, and has a rotating set of projects that emphasize cultural aspects of Louisiana heritage. Through scavenger hunts, biographies, and live performances of instruments and music genres from around the world, Jane integrates her folklore background into the classroom.

A Kora player with Jane's student

“Last year we had a Kora player come play in class, and the students did a little improv of its scale with a drone underneath.”

“This year I have a student who just moved from Haiti, and we’re going to do a Haitian folk song in class. It’ll help him with his transition, and expose classmates to his culture as well.”

She also has a “Family Jam Night” at the end of the year. She asks her students to interview a family member who plays music, and then hosts an inter-generational jam night. She’s encountered grandmas and grandpas who play everything from rock and classical to Cajun accordion.

"When you’re in the trench, you think it’s just class, but then later, you find out it’s not. I’ve had students get full music scholarships to college, students who go into music business, and kids that have CDs out, traveling bands, all kinds of stuff. It’s really cool. We live in a very creative hub here that really encourages that, and I’m glad to be making this particular contribution to the effort."

"When I find out I’ve sparked creativity and direction in some student’s life, wow. That’s just amazing."

"It took a while to come back to me, but now my students are succeeding as young adults in music. I’ve put between 1500-2000 students out into the world. When you do that, you feel like you just launch them out there. But certain students have really taken on the guitar and music as their life."

 


Teacher Spotlight Part II: Growing a Program with GuitarCurriculum.com

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


Fourteen years ago, Austin Classical Guitar recognized the need for an improved system of school-based guitar education comparable to established programs in choir, orchestra, and band. Three years later, we launched GuitarCurriculum.com. Now used internationally by hundreds of teachers serving tens of thousands of students, "GC.com" is a comprehensive teacher resource that includes a searchable library of original, pedagogically-sequenced ensemble literature, sight reading, and audio and video tutorials, all espousing a powerful core educational philosophy of “expressive, beautiful music-making from the very first day."

We've been talking to teachers around the country - and the world - about how they use our curriculum, and wanted to share Jane's story with you. The following is the second installment of our three-part series.


Over the past twenty years, Jane Vidrine has built a guitar program up from nothing at the LJ Alleman Fine Arts Magnet Academy. She now teaches about a hundred 5th-8th graders in seven classes a day. For years, she was the only classroom guitar teacher in all of Lafayette.

LJ Alleman Fine Arts Magnet Academy Guitar Class

She found GuitarCurriculum.com after searching for ensemble music, and six years ago, she attended Austin Classical Guitar’s first Summer Teacher Training Workshop.

“I was looking for ways to grow the program up into high school and down into elementary school. At that time, there was very little online. If you searched for 'guitar ensemble music,' forget it. It was almost non-existent.”

She uses the Curriculum primarily for the repertoire, finding the division of levels within music to be the most helpful.

“Even in an advanced piece, there will be some part for your student who’s more challenged. I think the thought process behind the pedagogy is just outstanding, it’s so solid."

"GuitarCurriculum.com represents for teachers what we see in front of us everyday: students from all levels, and all kinds of challenges."

She's faced a number of unique challenges in the classroom. Until last year, her school ran the hearing impaired program of her parish, and this year, it's home to students on the autism spectrum. She’s also taught several students with visual impairments.

Courtesy of KADN News

Jane has taken an innovative approach to building her program. To create a pipeline from elementary school music classes into her middle school guitar programs, she developed and wrote a grant for a ukulele program called “The Ukulele Suitcase.” She has about three dozen ukuleles which she loans  to teachers, and offers annual training workshops for elementary music educators. The idea behind starting with ukulele is that tiny fingers can negotiate the smaller instrument more easily, which builds basic skills that are then transferable to guitar.

Although high schools in Lafayette didn't have guitar years ago, so many of her students were entering the high schools that parents demanded they offer guitar classes. The Lafayette Magnet Arts Academy guitar program, a direct stem from her alumni, has enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Jane's middle school.

"It's building by itself, not because of anything I personally have done, but because students coming out of my program ask for the class, and other schools see how successful my program is. It’s more a supply and demand thing."

"Austin’s program is sort of our dream."

To be continued in Part III


Teacher Spotlight Part I: From Folklore to Music Education

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


Fourteen years ago, Austin Classical Guitar recognized the need for an improved system of school-based guitar education comparable to established programs in choir, orchestra, and band. Three years later, we launched GuitarCurriculum.com. Now used internationally by hundreds of teachers serving tens of thousands of students, "GC.com" is a comprehensive teacher resource that includes a searchable library of original, pedagogically-sequenced ensemble literature, sight reading, and audio and video tutorials, all espousing a powerful core educational philosophy of “expressive, beautiful music-making from the very first day."

We've been talking to teachers around the country - and the world - about how they use our curriculum, and wanted to share Jane's story with you. The following is the first installment of our three-part series.


Originally a museum curator and folklorist in St. Louis, Jane Vidrine is a guitar teacher and musician in Lafayette, Louisiana. A few years ago she was named the Lafayette Education Foundation's "Teacher of the Year," and she's part of a two-time Grammy-nominated, all-female Cajun and Creole band called the Magnolia Sisters.

Jane traveled to Louisiana after her friend, Nick Spitzer of NPR’s “American Routes,” enlisted her help with the Louisiana Folklife Pavilion at the New Orleans 1984 World’s Fair. She’s been in Lafayette - the "Hub City" and the state's center of Creole culture - ever since.

Jane Vidrine, far left

After moving to Louisiana, she continued to do cultural programming and museum curation for a while, but turned her attention toward education when she and her husband had two children.

“It was the beginning of the French immersion program at their school, and here we were in the heart of Cajun and Creole music, and they weren’t teaching music in French,” Jane said.

She wrote some grants to place herself in the classrooms, teaching Cajun and Creole music in French as a field work and archival project. She became “one of those classic itinerant teachers teaching seven different classes in three or four different places every day.”

“I knew the language of folklore and the language of music, but I decided at that point I needed to learn the language of education. So I went back to school and got my Master’s in Education.”

One day about twenty years ago, a girl in her middle school French immersion class said, ‘Miss Vidrine, you’re always teaching us with your guitar. Why don’t you teach us guitar?’

When Jane inquired about a guitar class, her principal said, ‘If you can recruit the students, you can do it.’

Jane only had six students the first year, but her conviction to bring students into the community for exposure to authentic performance settings enabled the word to spread quickly. During a student performance for a principals’ luncheon, one of the principals rushed up to her afterward and said, “I need you at my school.”

To be continued in Part II