Hopeful Things: Lullaby Artist Spotlight on Daniel Fears

Since 2014, Austin Classical Guitar has worked with young parents in challenging circumstances to help them write personal songs for their children. The Lullaby Project has brought us some of our most challenging and rewarding experiences. We’ve partnered with Any Baby Can, Annunciation Maternity Home, Austin Center for Women and Children, LifeWorks, Livestrong Cancer Clinics, People’s Community Clinic, Dell Children’s Hospital, and Travis County Jail.

Daniel Fears, a local Austin singer and songwriter, began working as a Lullaby Artist last spring. We recently had the chance to hear about his work and why he enjoys creating lullabies, and we’d love to share his interview with you.


The Lullaby Project

Daniel is intrigued by the moments we create through sharing music together. He’s inspired by the Lullaby Project because it allows him to build real connections with people he might otherwise have never met, and to collaborate on music with people who don’t consider themselves ‘musicians’ in the traditional sense.

Through Any Baby Can, Daniel connected with a couple who wanted to write a lullaby for their new baby. He and Claire Puckett, another one of our Lullaby and Healing Artists, met with them over the course of several weeks.

The mother hoped that the father would be able to open up about his feelings for his son, because according to her, he was “a man of action and few words.” Daniel and Claire asked about his musical tastes to find out what could influence the lullaby they’d help the couple to create. Although the father was initially reserved, gradually he was able to vocalize some emotions that had been concealed. As the two Lullaby Artists continued to meet with the couple, Daniel describes a transformation that took place when he began to experiment with some stylistic elements in the music the father shared.

“He showed us some 80s crooner rock and some Indian music with piano, guitars, traditional drums, strings, sitar, some interesting chord progressions – it was really cool music I’d never heard before. I was trying to figure out what the music was doing. I had an idea and tried to pluck it out on piano, and from that point, the father started to open up a bit more.”

“I think music is able to help people express whatever is on their minds, especially when it’s being made right there. We were giving him space to express that.”

After a few weeks of meeting with Claire and Daniel, the father had written a sweet and beautiful poem to his son. Daniel told us his favorite part of the Lullaby Project is the opportunity to make real connections, and to work with others who are trying to figure out their voice.

“Musicians tend to emphasize, ‘I’m a genius, I’m the best,’ and it becomes about the individual. We think vertically, moving toward a goal as if the only thing you can get from music is fame. What really excites me about the Lullaby Project is that you have an opportunity to get outside your comfort zone and meet someone you’d never run into in real life, an opportunity to create and learn together.”

“It’s great to use music as a tool for connection, as a tool to serve other people.”

This experience with the Lullaby Project speaks to Daniel’s philosophy that music holds inherent value for both the performer and the audience. Working with the couple allowed the lines between recipient and producer of music to blur, causing a mutual exchange of ideas not possible in a traditional concert setting. For Daniel, the value lies in the moments we share while listening to or creating music together, the moments “of capturing lightning in a bottle.” The Lullaby Project allows us to remember the roots of music: a method for communicating complex human emotions.

“I find that with folk music, it’s about the moment, the people there listening, as opposed to the people who are going to hear it out of popularity. I enjoy music that invites real connection and real understanding. This lullaby broadened my worldview, and I hope it broadened the worldview of those who listened to it as well.”

“It’s all interconnected. In America, we emphasize the individual; cause and effect are this isolated thing, but in reality all the things we’re doing are extremely connected. As soon as coronavirus hit, we found out how closely connected everything is.”

Daniel just released first single, ‘No Substitutions,’ in April, as his solo artist debut. It was recognized by KUTX as the Song of the Day. “Canopy,” his first EP, is set to launch this fall.

He’s been working on Canopy with a friend. “It feels like a dream project, I’m able to make things in the way I’ve always wanted to. He’s an awesome musician and friend and I think he just gets me, I’m excited to put that out into the world.”

Personal Work

Although Daniel holds two degrees in Trombone Performance and spent much of his music education playing others’ music, after moving to Austin he began to explore his own musical ideas and to figure out his own voice. Although music is all about connections to Daniel, he also views it as an intensely personal experience that is informed by, reflects, and responds to larger truths of existence.

“I think self-exploration and reflecting have been my inspiration these past few years. Most music is romantic – you write about love and heartbreak. But for me, it’s about getting to know myself, it’s about figuring out how what I’m going through is reflected in the world, and what my own place is in it.”

Hey Jay

What’s your smile trying to say
You’re up and about every day
Let’s get ready to play

Hey Jay
Seeing you brings us joy
As parents we evolve
As a family, grow in love

Learn and grow together

Hey Jay
Share the world every day
On the path that you find
There’s a million ways to be kind

Learn and grow together
It’s time for bed now, tomorrow will come more quickly.
Good night good night Mr.Reddy
close your eyes and sweetly dream

Ommmmmm Ommmmm

Goodnight  Goodnight, sweetheart, well it’s time to sleep,
My dear sleep well tonight
Sleep baby sleep all throught the night

Ommmmmm Ommmmm


An Interview with Composer and Guitarist Thomas Flippin

Our Artistic Director, Dr. Joseph V. Williams II, recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Thomas Flippin, the inventive composer and guitarist from the East Coast who will be performing a live-streamed concert with us Saturday, August 1st. We loved hearing about his first experience playing music, how he listens to a new piece, and the theme of unity in curating his program for Saturday.


In my program, I’m trying to imagine a concert for classical guitar that is really representative of everybody. There’s a unifying theme that we can all work together, and if we all work together, we can have an amazing sonic journey. That’s the underlying premise: to unite us all sonically.

Full Transcript:

ACG Artistic Director Joe Williams (JW): Well hello everyone, my name is Joe and I’m the Artistic Director for Austin Classical Guitar. I’m thrilled to be here with Thomas Flippin, a composer and guitarist who will be playing a concert for us on August 1st, Saturday night, for our Summer Series. Thank you for being with us Thomas, this is awesome!

Thomas Flippin (TF): Thank you very much for having me, Joe.

JW: So tell me – where are you coming from, and how are you doing?

TF: Well I’m doing alright, all things considered with the state of the world. I’m in Milford, Connecticut right now, close to the beach. My wife and I are here without our six-year-old daughter because the grandparents are taking care of her, so this is the first time in 130 days we’ve not been responsible for another human being 24 hours a day. So if you see me glowing a little bit ….

JW: (Laughs) Wow. Well, thanks for sitting down with us and sharing some ideas and thoughts about your work and what you’ve been doing. We’re excited to introduce you to our audience, and excited that this is a way to get to know you. Austin Classical Guitar spends a lot of time and energy using music as a medium to create good. We try very hard with our energy to make positive effects on our community and our environment. And I want to ask you a question we ask ourselves all the time: What good can music do? I know your work as a composer, and your work with Duo Noire … I’m curious if there’s anything in your world, or a story you’d like to share about what good music can do.

TF: Absolutely, there are so many obvious things that music does to better the world. At the most basic level, there’s teaching dexterity with the hands, the correlation between studying music and motor skills and doing better in school, thinking abstractly. But I think on a more fundamental level for me, just seeing some of the students I taught and schools I visited – the way it helps to develop a well-rounded human being who has to struggle with solving the problems with music, dealing with technical challenges, and being forced to see progress over time through hard work. I think it’s a good character-builder.

When you study music, you’re forced to think about beauty, and truth of the sound – which is such an abstract thing you don’t really get in other academic spaces. You just sit in a room with your teacher and think about – how can I make this sound wave the most beautiful thing, how can I use that to express myself and to move someone else who might be in a bad place, and that’s just incredible.

One story that comes to mind: When I was first starting out as a teacher, I had a student whose parent died. It was a really hard time in their life, they were only nine years old, and they dropped out of school. They started living with their grandparents and after that summer, they came back and kept studying music because it was such an important part of their life. And I’ve had several students like that – students whose parents separated, or were sent to jail – some really remarkable stories. And it’s the music that is the most profoundly important thing in their lives as adolescents, and I think that’s something to cherish.

And I’m really proud to be able to instill that music education through them and support organizations like yours that have such a profound impact on the communities they serve through music.

JW: Wow Thomas, I’m so curious: is there a moment for you, an early memory, when you got to participate in creating beauty? Was there something that you remember from your childhood that was like Woah that is a thing – and I want to be part of that thing.

TF: Absolutely, I think we all have these stories as professional musicians. Mine was one of my earliest music memories.

I was in second grade at school in New Jersey and a class visitor came in. We had this old ridiculous upright piano that was out of tune and neglected. So she came in and talked to us about piano and played something, explained how a piano worked, showed us the inside of it so we all got to take a peek and see it in action. Then she taught us how to play that famous Minuet in G that used to be attributed to Bach but is now recognized as being by Christian Petzold. She taught me how to play the first five notes of it. To see that I could manipulate the sound and do this thing with a little bit of practice, with a little bit of work at it over the course of a minute, was remarkable to me. I still remember that moment very vividly thinking Wow what is this thing in the world that I can participate in and do these awesome things?

JW: That’s a beautiful story, and I love that you said participate. I often think about people who are listening, who are part of the audience, the best experiences they might have in a concert is when they’re totally participating. I was wondering, is there something, some advice you can give an audience member who is maybe listening to a piece for the very first time, like we often do in classical guitar concerts.

TF: Ok I would go toward three things. The first thing I would say is don’t be afraid, when you hear a piece of music that is new, when you find out it’s new music, approach it with an open mind. On a more serious note, my mother told me when I was growing up that music should make you picture a story, it should make you see some sort of images, it should put you in a place. When I hear something, I’m imagining what it feels like. Where would I be if I were listening to this? If I were dreaming this, where would I be? What situation would I hear this music in? Would it be a wedding, a funeral, a war …

For example, I’m going to play a piece at the concert about being a commuter on the New York City subway system. It’s a very specific thing, but I want people to be able to feel a space and imagine something.

When I go to a concert these days, when I hear a piece of music, I’m trying to hear the performer’s essence or soul. What is their personality, what is their life experience, what are they trying to convey through their face and body movements, why are they playing the note that way?

That’s my favorite part of concerts: seeing a human being in their totality representing themselves and their life experience in a way no one else can, and trying to relate to them on a human level in an almost conversation. When I hear a piece of music for the first time, I want to be part of the conversation – the performer’s telling me something, and it’s up to me to see all the subtleties in that message they’re sending.

JW: How beautifully said, I couldn’t agree more. That’s wonderful. Is there anything else we should keep in mind, maybe a theme or ideas, a larger story, something that we should look forward to participating in?

TF: Well I’ll give the light answer and the heavier answer. The light answer – I think the thing that’s going to be the most fun is that I have this giant instrument behind me called the theorbo from the 1600s, but I’m going to be playing it with modern electronics and just doing some far-out, fun stuff. I’ll be playing in a way that’s not commonly done. I think that’ll be a fun moment to look forward to.

JW: Thomas, so people can imagine – how tall is it?

TF: It is taller than me, and I’m 6 ft 2 1/2″ …. this thing is 6 ft 4″. This thing is ridiculously tall, and that makes traveling with it a complete nightmare. And I’m looking forward to playing this and all its monstrous 14 strings. But more than that – the theme of this concert.

A few weeks ago the Guitar Foundation of America had its convention, and we had a discussion on the state of society in this country. There’s a lot of music organizations trying to figure out how to respond to the dearth of African-American composers and performers represented, and how we can re-imagine society. I feel like for me, when thinking of the concert and this program, I’m trying to imagine a world of a concert for classical guitar that is really inclusive of everyone.

There’s pieces by European composers, there’s pieces by people in Latin America, there’s a piece that I arranged by an African-American woman from the 50s named Lawrence Price, there’s my own music, there’s music by this gay American composer named Lou Harrison who wrote so much far-out music drawing from influences from the East.

It’s such a unifying theme. We can all work together, and if we all work together, we can make some amazing sounds, we can have this amazing sonic journey. That’s the underlying premise for some of the choices I made: to unite us all sonically.

JW: What a privilege, I’m so excited for this concert, thank you. I can’t wait to hear your music, and all the music that you’re going to present. It’s going to be beautiful. We’re recording this a couple days before, and we’ll air it a few minutes before –

TF: Hello future us!

JW: That’s wonderful! August 1st, Thomas Flippin presented by Austin Classical Guitar. Thank you so much, Thomas.

TF: Thank you for having me.


Hopeful Things: Red Oak Hope

A few years ago, we began an initiative called Music and Healing to partner with area organizations that help community members facing significant challenges or trauma.

As part of this initiative, we recently started to work with Red Oak Hope, an organization that provides housing, holistic healing methods, and life skills education to women recovering from human exploitation. We spoke with Haley Patterson, their US Director, about our work with the women in their Restore program.


Red Oak Hope began as a collaborative effort to help survivors of sexual exploitation across borders to return home safely and connect with organizations offering immediate help. It started in 2013 as a single response to one individual’s need, and has grown into an international organization for female empowerment, community development, and social justice.

The Red Oak Hope home in Austin offers a safe space for women to live and heal for up to 18 months. They help women who have experienced exploitation to establish a specific intervention plan with goals such as obtaining a GED, writing a resume, learning budget skills and computer literacy, and preparing to live on their own. These programs are based on partnerships with organizations offering an array of resources to provide the women a holistic experience of healing and restoration.

As part of their healing process, the women can participate in Restore, a program through these partnerships that offers creative opportunities for participants to discover new methods of self-expression. Haley Patterson explained the benefits of artistic outlets for individuals experiencing complex trauma.

“There’s a lot of heartache in mental health crises and trauma. Creative programs engage a different part of the brain, giving unstructured creative space for the women to get to see who they are, and what they’re like. Anytime the women we work with are able to express themselves in a way that feels different, it’s one step in their journey of building trust and rapport.”

We connected with Red Oak Hope last fall through our Music and Healing program at Dell Children’s Hospital. As part of Restore, one of our Healing Artists will meet with an individual in the program several times over the eight-week period. During their meetings, they get to know each other, talk about music tastes and styles, and craft unique lyrics that hold special meaning to that individual.

Arnold Yzaguirre, one of our Healing Artists, talked about the joy in sharing music with the woman he worked with recently at Red Oak Hope. “She was bouncy and ready to connect with someone. It turns out we have a lot of the same likes, so we started really vibing. I can’t wait to see where the song goes.”

Haley described the first woman we had the opportunity to work with as a person of few words. She explained that as the woman began to write her song with our Healing Artist, what emerged was “the most vulnerable thoughts outside her head that I’ve seen.” The woman created a poignant depiction of her feelings in a song she was excited to share with friends and family. It is a beautiful articulation of pride and strength, of embracing who she has become, of looking forward to the future.

Claire Puckett, one of our Healing Artists, told us, “Those themes of pride, of taking back your own narrative – often times we work with people who have had things happen to them, so this gives them a chance to take their voice back.”

We are so glad that the woman absolutely loved her song, “Angels All Around Me,” and we’d love to share it with you as part of our Hopeful Things Series.

No more waiting, it’s time to go.

I wanna live my life.

I am proud of the things I’ve done. I am proud.

I wanna go somewhere far away, no one can stop me, no I won’t stay.

I look out across the sea to clear my mind, it’s just me, proud and waiting.

With the past behind, I am free, I am free.

Angels all around me. Angels all around me protect me from the cold … 

Never know what tomorrow is.

Some people wanna kill your joy,

but keep on pushing, the time is yours.

Travis Marcum, our Director of Education and our Music and Healing program, said, “You can hear in the lyrics the pride in what she’s done and what she’s become, and how she’s creating a new world for herself.”

Haley Patterson hopes that Restore, and our work with the individuals in that program, will grow and morph over the coming months and years to reach more women who could benefit from creative opportunities. We’re so fortunate to know and work with such inspiring individuals in our community, and we look forward to our continued partnership with Red Oak Hope and the music we’ll share with the women there in the future.


Hopeful Things: Music Always on My Mind

A few months ago, we began a partnership with Resilient Me, a Georgetown nonprofit offering creative programming for veterans. During one of their Equestrian Therapy sessions, we were fortunate to meet William Childress, a veteran who has found solace in composing music. Notes and phrases constantly flow from his brain to the piano, but he had never seen his compositions on paper.

William recently told us that working with ACG to write out his music has been “a dream come true. I couldn’t express it any better.”

We’re delighted to share his story with you as part of our “Hopeful Things” series.


I was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, 1940. On the main street, vendors would park their trucks and sell merchandise. They would line up the street. My pop was a doctor, a pharmacist. Whenever he gave me an injection, he would pay me 50 cents. And for 50 cents I would go to two movies, five cents each, then go to the restaurant and buy a hamburger and french fries for 35 cents. What a life.

My mother was a concert pianist. She attended conservatory in the northeast. She was very strict when it came to teaching me piano. All my brothers were artists, musical. I started playing when I was three and a half, but my mother was so strict as a teacher that I eventually quit. But she didn’t mind me listening to jazz, rock and roll, rhythm and blues. She just let me do my thing. Because my mother also taught voice, the students would come by and sing in German, Italian, French, and Spanish. That’s where I picked up my desire to learn languages. At 11 years of age, I met one of my favorite French opera singers.

I joined the army in November, 1960. After basic training, I attended the school for medics and later was selected for the U.S. Army Medical Service School at Fort Sam Houston. Upon graduation, immediately we took off for Vietnam with the 12th Evacuation Hospital. I specialized in treating combat casualties. After Vietnam I got stationed in Germany and spent time with people from all over Europe.

Because of my experience in Vietnam, today I suffer from PTSD. I take equestrian therapy to help me deal with it. And I think to some degree, my music helps me.

Even though I know what I went through in Vietnam, if I could do it all over again, even now at my age, I would do it.

After spending over 13 years in the medical field, there were no wars going on. I did work with the flight surgeons taking care of pilots, but it got boring, and I thought, “It’s time for me to leave the army and go study art.” 

So it was at art school (CCSU in Corpus Christi, Texas) where I met my wife, and received my bachelor’s degree in studio arts, specializing in sculpturing.

No matter what I’m doing, music is in my mind, compositions come to my mind. How that music comes, I have no idea. It can just be a few notes at a time. I love sitting at the piano and bringing it to life.

For some reason, I know that every time I play the guitar or trumpet, compositions are going to come from it, and then I go to the piano and put it together. I can hear something, and if it catches my ear as I listen to intonations of a voice, it turns to music.

I start figuring out notes. What I love about my playing is the natural and unrestricted manner I approach the instrument. I feel that my compositions at times are inexhaustible, one right after the other. It boggles my mind how this happens.

I get emotional. Sometimes, as I listen to the chord changes, my eyes get teary. And I would love to convey this feeling to whoever is listening, though I do have moments when I get a little embarrassed that my eyes get teary. But I just feel that music so deep down. I can’t imagine my life without it, and I am thankful to God that my wife doesn’t mind when I’m trying to figure out changes and chords. I’m forever grateful to ACG’s Travis Marcum and John Churchill for spending time with me, encouraging me, and helping me gain the confidence as a piano player, because I used to think that my style of playing was pretty elementary.

At 79, this is a dream I’ve had all my life that’s finally coming true. I found two great musicians that have actually invested their precious time with me, and helped me to visualize what my compositions look like with notes. Written. It’s amazing to see that. These two have helped me realize that there’s nothing elementary about my playing. It’s just my style.

Sunrise

When I see the sun going up from the horizon in my backyard, I see the beautiful dark orange as it starts going above and lightens. I watch it rise, and then at noon it reaches the high point. In the evening, the sun is not as bright, and gradually loses its intensity as it goes below the horizon. It produces some radiant patterns in the clouds. Then nighttime falls.

I remember I was sitting at the piano, playing. I don’t even think I sat down immediately after seeing the sunrise. I just started playing, and as it developed, it reminded me of the dark orange sunrise and the sunset with its beautiful hues. What I wanted to replicate in that music was the colors. That’s where the art comes in.

I want to tell anyone who performs Sunrise to internalize it. Improvise. Play it with the feeling you’d feel as you would see a sunrise like this. Don’t play it identically each time. Improvise notes and expressions to suit the day. I would use the first few bars from the melody, then let it go off into a different path.


Hopeful Things: A Great Accident

We’ve been thinking a lot about togetherness, about how finding spaces of belonging and shared purpose allow us to make positive change. We believe music has a lot to teach us – in its gentle way – about coming together with intention. So we’re beginning a new series of Hopeful Things: stories and music centered around belonging and transformation. 


One of our summer interns, Cindy De Blas, began guitar as a freshman at KIPP Austin Collegiate. We’re so grateful to her for sharing the story of serendipitous circumstances surrounding her introduction to classical guitar, and the way in which it grew to be a significant part of her life.


When I moved into KIPP Austin Collegiate, my middle school mind interpreted this as the end of a perfect life. I had carefully planned my high school years with best friends and classes. However, what I didn’t know was that acceptance into KIPP would introduce me to my love of guitar and to the ACG program.

I suffered many emotional tolls my first year of high school: I was taken away from close friends, and I suffered an accident that left me in crutches. Then I was introduced to Mr. Klenzendorf’s classical guitar class, where I found a wonderful instrument that would eventually turn into my passion. I had always told myself that one day I would sit down and learn guitar – apparently, I just needed to injure my leg for that to happen.

To this day I believe that my foot injury was the greatest accident of my life, as it allowed me to sit down, reflect, and find my true happiness.

When starting to play the guitar, I was learning not only about the instrument, but also a lot more about myself. I saw that I was capable of creating beautiful things through an instrument, that though I may have been soft spoken, I was still able to let my feelings be heard through the strings of my guitar. Days where I would be frustrated from school, I would play music and wash my worries away.

By portraying my emotions through music, I was able to learn new techniques: I would show my anger with strong fortes and my sadness with light plucks of the string.

These strategies allowed me to give my all in every performance with my high school guitar ensemble. With every passing day, and year after year of playing, I fell in love with the instrument and began envisioning myself in a career with music. 

Mr. K would treat my class with field trips to concerts by famous guitarists at the AISD Performing Arts Center. I was given the opportunity to experience many performances of guitarists from different countries, and every single one of them left me in awe.

Ana Vidovic

One concert that will forever be engraved in my heart is the first female guitarist I ever saw, Ana Vidovic. I remember how excited I got when Mr. K showed us a video of her playing Asturias by Issac Albeniz – I could not get enough of it. That day I went home and listened to the song on repeat and tried to perform her technique. I tried and tried, and I got a glimpse of victory. I learned that day that too much practice really does tire you out, and while I may not be a phenomenal guitarist like her, I wanted to show others my love for guitar.

I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and placed myself as section leader to help a small section of younger students improve their performance and technique. Through this opportunity, I learned that I thoroughly enjoyed helping others in their performance, and I felt so much joy when seeing their improvement. That is when I knew I wanted to pursue a career in music education.

 

Every year since I began playing guitar, I have attended ACG concerts hosted at the AISD Performing Arts Center. During every concert I always learn something new about the guitar’s history or technique. Something that has always stuck with me is how guitarists use various parts of the guitar to mimic other instruments, such as how flamenco guitarists use “el golpeador” as percussion. Flamenco songs on guitar really do bring out the sensitivity and strength of the guitar. The speed and agility of these flamenco artists is impeccable.

After concerts I always listen to the musician’s songs nonstop, visualizing their special techniques, and learning the history of their work. It’s always a fun adventure to listen and learn from these guitarists, how they were introduced to the guitar and their culture’s specialty in guitar. There is so much more to the guitar than what I thought, and thanks to ACG I am learning more and more! Thanks to the many concerts I have attended, I’ve fallen in love with flamenco music – which is why I now own a flamenco guitar. 

I will forever be grateful to Mr. Klenzendorf and Austin Classical Guitar for allowing me to listen to the different sounds of the world, for expanding my knowledge of the guitar, and for allowing me to fall in love time and time again with the most wonderful instrument.


Hopeful Things: Everything Changes at Once

We’ve been thinking a lot about togetherness, about how finding spaces of belonging and shared purpose allow us to make positive change. We believe music has a lot to teach us – in its gentle way – about coming together with intention. So we’re beginning a new series of Hopeful Things: stories and music centered around belonging and transformation. 


In early April we didn’t yet know if schools would be closed for the remainder of the spring semester, but it was looking that way. So our Education Team hosted regular nationwide discussions with partner teachers, creating and sharing and reimagining resources, and trading stories of challenges and successes.

Out of this grew a vision for a project that would give teachers and students something concrete to work toward, something students could work on at home, something including ways to participate even for those who did not own guitars, and above all something that would allow people to express in words, images, and music their real feelings about the world changing around them.

Our Director of Education, Travis Marcum, created Everything Changes at Once. The piece had thirteen levels of entry for musicians of all abilities, and countless variations of expression. Hundreds of kids from about fifty schools submitted over 600 files, and our audiovisual and education teams put it all together.

We invite you to experience this magical, hopeful work: Everything Changes at Once.


ACG Watch Party: Austin Pictures Part 2

Matt Hinsley introduces us to the one and only Jorge Caballero, one of our favorite artists at ACG. We’ve had many adventures with Caballero. Perhaps none of our adventures have been more spectacular than Austin Pictures on October 1st, 2011 when Jorge performed the nearly-impossible Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky on solo guitar.

Jorge’s performance inspired a range of other programming that evening with more than 125 collaborators – and we talked about most of that already with Maestro Peter Bay and the Miro Quartet’s Daniel Ching (watch Austin Pictures Part 1, online here).

For this Watch Party: Austin Pictures Part 2, we focus on Jorge’s extraordinary solo performance, and share some of the beautiful visual created by students for that special evening.

https://youtu.be/04fmbEw_FPs

If you enjoyed this video, you might also like our other Watch Party video and our Let’s Listen guided listening series:
ACG Watch Party: Sing me a Lullaby
ACG Watch Party: Flamenco India
Let’s Listen: Lullaby Project
Let’s Listen: Friendship
Let’s Listen: Guitar+Dance=Joy
Let’s Listen: Grisha


Let’s Listen: Lullaby Project

Travis Marcum is ACG Education Director and Director of Music & Healing. Since 2015 he has run ACG’s Lullaby Project, a collaboration with Carnegie Hall through which our teaching artists are paired with a mom (mostly), in a shelter, hospital, prison, or with a social service partner, to write a personal song for her child or children.

The artist and mom spend hours together, usually over the course of about a month, talking and writing about hopes, dreams, and fears. The resulting ideas are distilled into lyrics, and the song is made.

In this very special edition of Let’s Listen, Travis introduces us to some of his favorite lullabies from the past five years.

If you love this project and these beautiful songs, check out ACG Watch Party: Sing me a Lullaby. Travis is joined by ACG Executive Director Matt Hinsley, and two of our Lullaby artists Arnold Yzaguirre and Claudia Chapa to watch and discuss the 2015 KLRU TV special Sing Me A Lullaby, made about ACG Education and our Lullaby Project. The watch party will even include a new performance by Arnold and Claudia together.

And if you enjoyed this Let’s Listen experience, here are a few more in the series:

Let’s Listen: Friendship
Let’s Listen: Guitar+Dance=Joy
Let’s Listen: Grisha


Braille Score

We are Expanding Let’s Play! Braille curriculum!

Braille Score

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- by Benjamin Beane, ACG communications