Donor Spotlight: Carl Caricari

In this interview, we hear from one of ACG’s most ardent supporters, Carl Caricari. A long-time member of ACG's Board of Directors and current President-elect, Carl was the Education Committee's first chairperson, and from the beginning has played an integral role in making ACG Education what it is today. Find out what has kept him involved since 2008!


What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about Austin Classical Guitar?

My favorite thing about ACG is how we impact the lives of students. I am always surprised when I meet people who have come to many of our concerts and love the music, but don’t know about our education services. Our education program has been around since 2001 when it started in one school with 15 kids, and now we're in 60 schools serving 4,000 students, each week! For me, it’s all about the kids. It's about the lives we’ve impacted positively through guitar. And now, we’re partnering with schools throughout Texas and around the country to help build new programs. That’s what I want more people to know about.

"I love going to the concerts we present with the world's greatest guitarists, but hearing students perform is incredible. I love seeing young people on stage for the first time, feeling good about themselves and what they are doing. This is what keeps me coming back."

How did you get involved with ACG? And what has kept you so involved over the years?

Almost 10 years ago, John Henry McDonald, the Vice President of ACG’s board, and his wife Louise invited me to hear a concert by the Brazilian Guitar Quartet. I was blown away. About a week later, John Henry called me and asked if I would consider being on the board. I said no. I didn’t know anything about music! But I agreed to meet with Matt Hinsley for coffee. I still remember the moment Matt told me about ACG's education programs and the work they were doing with kids. That’s when I knew I wanted to get involved, and I became a board member.

I was excited to lead the Education Committee because I had a hunch that our education programs were attracting diverse students and that guitar was a positive outlet for them. That’s when we met with Dr. Calvin Streeter from U.T. Austin's School of Social Work and commissioned his team to do a social impact study. What the study found was astounding: 90% of the students in our school guitar programs hadn’t taken an arts class before. The study also revealed the positive impact our classes were having on students' self-esteem, and their ability to collaborate and work as a team. These days, I love going to the concerts we present with the world's greatest guitarists, but hearing students perform is incredible. Seeing young people onstage feeling good about themselves and what they are doing, this is what keeps me coming back.

Why did you choose to include ACG in your planned giving, and what led you to decide you wanted to support the endowment through your bequest?

ACG is an organization that puts effort into its community, and I think it’s important for someone in my position to provide support so the organization can focus on service. I’ve been able to make a comfortable life for myself, and now I feel it’s my turn to give back.

I believe in the power of musical experiences to change the lives of young people for the better. Our programs engage all kinds of kids. Some students might have gotten into trouble, but with guitar we’re able to provide an inspiring experience that can help keep them from making bad decisions. I’ve seen it happen. Students start learning to play guitar, and by practicing hard and performing, they gain confidence and self-esteem, and this sticks with them the rest of their lives. ACG Education has been doing this for 15 years, and building a healthy endowment will ensure that our work in education will continue long after I’m gone.

Donor Spotlight: Matt Oliver

Matt Oliver is a custom home builder here in Austin who has become one of ACG's most committed supporters. He joined the board in 2013, and today chairs the Endowment Committee, and works closely with ACG’s development team. We asked Matt to tell us about what drew him to the organization, and why he feels the ACG Endowment Fund is so important.


You seem to be really connected to ACG’s education and social services. What about this work moves you, and how has this kept you involved with the organization over the years?

The reason I stay involved is because when I wake up in the morning and think about how I want to make a difference in the world – or my tiny corner of it – ACG is how I want to do it. I’ve always loved the Robert F. Kennedy quote that speaks to this, something like, “each time a man acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.” The idea is that this ripple of hope, over time, combines with other ripples, and builds energy until eventually it becomes wave. No matter where you fall politically, I think we all want to make people’s lives better. Very few individuals are in a position to create a wave by themselves. But, if you get enough people to make ripples, the combined energy can be enough to make a difference in the world. I’ve realized that I’m a tiny ripple, but ACG is the way I can help create that wave.

"Music is magic. It’s an emotional experience you can see and feel. For some students, their eyes light up like a light bulb when they’re practicing or performing, and you see them grow and become more aware of themselves. It’s about showing a kid, who might have gotten into trouble, a path to success."

What are some moments or programs in which you’ve seen ACG have an impact on people’s lives?

To me, the Lullaby Project speaks to the commitment ACG has to making people’s lives better through musical experiences. In this particular endeavor, we seek to help young women who are pregnant and in a tough situation, be it financial, emotional, physical, or what have you, to write a personal lullaby for their baby. These young mothers, or mothers-to-be, are wonderful people, and if you can intervene and help them in some way, you help their child, too. With the Lullaby Project we try to take a stressful, difficult situation, and reveal the beauty in it. That beauty is already there, and through music we find a way for the mother to express it. No matter the situation, everyone deserves to cherish the experience of being pregnant and having a child. I think the Lullaby Project is a way to help people do that.

I also love our program for incarcerated youth at the Gardner-Betts Juvenile Justice Center. As an organization, ACG is committed to meeting people where they are, and to providing an enriching artistic experience. When it comes to kids who are incarcerated, we can’t give up on them. They deserve music, too. They deserve to find their passion, have a great teacher, even if they’ve made mistakes. The staff at the detention facility, judges, and counselors have all told us they see a difference in the students who learn guitar. This is what I mean when I always say that I see God in the work we do. It’s not a religious thing – it’s an energy. Music is magic. It’s an emotional experience that you can see and feel. For some students you can see their eyes light up like a light bulb when they’re practicing or performing, and you see them grow and become more aware of themselves. It’s about showing a kid, who might have gotten into trouble, a path to success. Music can light up someone’s life.

You were an early supporter of ACG starting an endowment and have been one of the lead donors. What prompted this?

The reason I pushed for the endowment was because I’m most passionate about the direct educational services we provide. We work in schools, maternity homes, jails, and medical clinics, and I love the work I see our education staff doing every day. But, having grown up in the church, I know firsthand how much energy needs to be spent on raising money. My idea for ACG is that one day there will be enough money in the endowment so that all of the organization’s energy will be able to be focused on direct service and we won’t have to worry about raising money anymore. This won't happen in my lifetime, but that is why I wanted an endowment – I’ve seen the work we do and the impact it has, and I want there to be enough money coming in from the endowment so that ACG can help any student who needs it, no matter the cost.

Thank You from the ACG Team

The Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra(ACGYO) played a beautiful concert this past weekend. Right afterwards, the younger brother of one of the members announced loudly, "That was my kind of show. Cool - and not too long!" Then he added, "Maybe some day I can play with them too."

"He just loves it," one mother said about her son's experience playing in the ensemble. "He gets so much joy out of playing with other kids."

The ACGYO has performed in the Long Center, The Paramount Theater, the AISD Performing Arts Center, but this concert was in a smaller, more intimate space. Close as we were, we could hear all of the colors and subtleties the ensemble has worked so hard to develop all semester long. The playing was elegant and refined; it was easy to forget the youthfulness of the musicians.

From Ekachai Jearakul's brilliant performance a week ago last Saturday, to an evocative night of original music and art with our Composer in Residence on Wednesday, to the laughter and tears at Thursday's tribute to Travis Marcum's ten years of leadership in education, and culminating with this weekend's ACGYO performance, it was a full week, rich with moments of authentic beauty at once ephemeral and uniquely powerful.

Moments that left us feeling grateful.

Grateful that we are able to provide free instruments and lessons for kids in need, grateful for the opportunities to develop adaptive curricula so that all students can participate meaningfully in guitar class, grateful to the teachers in our community and around the world who bring such deep dedication to changing lives with music, grateful for our board members, staff and volunteers - and grateful for our many supporters like you, who make everything we do possible.

From all of us at Austin Classical Guitar, we send our warmest wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.


A Letter from Meredith McAlmon

Meredith McAlmon is director of Guitar and Orchestra at Fulmore Middle School, one of a few schools to receive superior ratings in all categories from all judges in the 2015 District Concert and Sight reading Assessment.  She sent this letter on the occasion of our celebration of Travis Marcum’s ten years as Director of Education and Outreach for Austin Classical Guitar.

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Dear Travis -
In case I can't make it to the Cactus tonight,  (Region Orchestra sectionals) I want to congratulate you on ten years of amazing achievements.  I can't teach El Chinati without visions of you forging your way through the barren mountains of West Texas, your guitar on your back, opening up new horizons as you bring the magic of making music through the guitar curriculum to the hungry and needy masses.  Your name is very visible in my classes, and my students always want to know who Travis Marcum is.   I just tell them that you're the Red-Headed Stranger........(Jeremy has come to be known as "The Dude" - they ask "Is The Dude coming today?", and Matt is "The Famous Guy")  So - to The Red-Headed Stranger, The Dude, and The Famous Guy - you are a Mighty Threesome!  Travis - thank you for everything you've done for the guitar and music and the art of teaching,  and I wish you a spectacular evening!
your humble and grateful admirer -
Meredith McAlmon


A Testament of Impact from a Middle School Music Teacher

Dallas Shreve teaches music at Dobie Middle School in Austin.


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"As a first year teacher with a percussion background and only a few years of experience teaching guitar to individuals, I had no idea how to facilitate and manage a room of 25 highly energetic middle schoolers with guitars. Austin Classical Guitar has not only been an amazing resource for behavior management and classroom technique, but I cannot say enough about the curriculum. has methodically laid out procedures, repertoire, and technique for beginners to advanced players so that the teacher just has to facilitate. The flexibility of the curriculum takes the rigidness out of following it verbatim as well.


Jeremy Osborne, ACG Assistant Director of Education in the classroom
Austin Classical guitar has provided me with an amazing mentor as well. Jeremy Osborne has spent countless hours investing into me and my students. Whenever he visits my classroom, I always feel like I've gained another level of insight on how to inspire and motivate my students.


My students ask me everyday when they will get to attend another classical guitar concert at the PAC. Most of them are from disadvantaged backgrounds and could not afford to attend world-class performances like these. With the complimentary tickets from ACG, I'm able to introduce my students to a world they otherwise would have never known about. One of my students, feeling under-dressed and a little intimidated at the most recent concert, said to me "Mister, I don't think we belong here" to which I replied, "This place was built for you! You do belong here! And here is the man that gave you tickets!" We then got to thank Mr. Hinsley personally for the free tickets. I feel so blessed to have gained friendships and relationships with ACG. Thank you Mr. Hinsley and Austin Classical Guitar!"


A Statement from Scott Cmiel

Matt & Scott
Scott Cmiel & Matt Hinsley at and ACG national Teacher Training Session

Scott Cmiel is director of the guitar program at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts and a member of the guitar faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he served as chair of the guitar department and chair of the musicianship department for over twenty years.  His students have won awards in many local, regional and national competitions and have been featured on national radio and television including on the NPR program From the Top and the televised GRAMMY Awards.  We were honored to have Mr. Cmiel join us this past summer as a special guest lecturer for our national teacher training event in Austin.

Previous story, From St. Louis.
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The inspirational and fecund Austin Classical Guitar brings the joy of guitar music to people of all ages in myriad ways. They have created an exciting concert series of internationally acclaimed guitarists; established guitar programs in over 50 different elementary, middle and high schools, the Travis County Juvenile Justice System, and the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; inspired teachers throughout the country with the innovative training program at, and brought guitarists from throughout the Southwest together in a high quality Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra and wonderful Community Ensembles. Last season ACG brought together the Grammy-winning vocal group Conspirare with the Dublin Guitar Quartet, Texas Guitar Quartet and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet to perform a commissioned piece, based on the letters of pioneer women, portraying the hope, fear, and loneliness that defined the experience of Texas’ original settlers as they pursued the promise of a better life. What will they come up with next? The energy, enthusiasm and idealism of Executive Director Matthew Hinsley, and his team of Travis Marcum, Jeremy Osborne, Eric Pearson, Toby Rodriguez and Joseph V. Williams and are a treasure. Many thanks!

From St. Louis

Jeff SiethJeff Sieth began teaching guitar at Parkland Jr. College in Urbana Illinois and has taught guitar in private and conservatory studios. Currently he serves as Orchestra Manager and Educator for the St. Louis Classical Guitar Society, and is Co-Director of the guitar program at Adams Elementary School in St. Louis.

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"Teaching was something I did out of necessity and never really enjoyed before I encountered Austin Classical Guitar.   Now, teaching young children brings me great joy and rewards, a sense of accomplishment, and real purpose in my life.

I feel that we are doing a great service to society by introducing ACG’s program into the public schools in St. Louis.

Many Thanks to ACG’s Matthew Hinsley, SLCGS’s Bill Ash, and everyone at ACG."


A Few Words from Scott Tennant

Scott TennantOne of the most influential classical guitarists of the modern era, Scott Tennant is a founding member of the LA Guitar Quartet, Associate Professor of Classical Guitar Studies at USC, and author of Pumping Nylon, one of the most widely read classical guitar manuals ever published.

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"ACG is not your typical classical guitar society. Thanks to Matt Hinsley’s vision and tireless efforts, it not only promotes guitar performances, but spreads the joy of music to the community through supporting new compositions and educational opportunities to children, among many other things.

My recent experience with a composition they commissioned by Nico Muhly, “How Little You Are”, was not only a wonderful experience, but one of the most incredible new works I’ve heard in a long time. All of us involved were amazed how it successfully pulled together so many facets of the arts in Austin, and it was truly an honor to be a part of that.

All in all, ACG’s commitment to promoting the arts through our beloved vehicle - the guitar - continues to blow me away, and inspire me."


$5 off Blues at the Paramount!

The Paramount Theater regularly has tremendous guitar talent on their historic stages – albeit, not usually classical guitar.

Even so, many of our fans love great guitar playing of all kinds, so I was thrilled when the Paramount offered discounts on some of their exciting upcoming guitar programs!

Next Wednesday night, in the intimate Stateside Theater, blues guitarist Eric Bibb will combine his talents with versatile West African musician Habib Koité for a new sound ”both passionate and ebullient!”

And members, fans, and friends of ACGS have been offered $5 off tickets!  Just use the discount code BAMAKO.

All the info is online here.

Stay tuned - more to come!

View the calendar here!



A Night to Remember: Guitars Under the Stars in Pictures

We’ve received a flood of wonderful comments since Saturday’s Guitars Under the Stars at One World Theatre.  A guest wrote: “[We] would like to personally thank you and ALL the Staff of ACGS for one of the best (if not the best) evenings we have had last night.  The organization of the event, the venue, the food, and service was superb and top notch!”

Wow!  We at ACGS are so deeply grateful to every guest who made Saturday’s gala the special night that it was – and to every one of our supporters who makes our work in education possible.

If you did not get a chance to pledge support for our education program Saturday, and you’d like to, you can still give online – or call us at 512-300-ACGS – to get involved!

Thanks to our great staff: Julie Stoakley, April Long, Chuck Lutke and our ed team, who worked so hard to put it all together!

Here are a few pictures from Saturday.  I’d like to say a big special thank you to photographer Philip Rogers for these terrific shots.  When he sent these over he added: “Wow, What a night. Fantastic on all levels. Such a wonderfully nice group of people. Open and gracious. And very photogenic. The music was sublime.”

What it's all about!  Here our Assistant Director of Education, Jeremy Osborne,

conducts a 9-member select student ensemble from Akins, Crockett and

McCallum high schools, playing a Bach Fugue, to open our show in the theatre.


After the kids played, the amazing Bandini-Chiacchiaretta

Tango Duo took the stage and energized our sold-out audience!


Guests arrived through the beautiful One World Theatre Plaza Gate.

Pictured here are Mark Flaherty and Daria Sandburg,

who joined us all the way from Pennsylvania!


We had a great time meeting the artists in the theatre during our

Sponsor Reception before the main event!


Our table décor was planned beautifully by our event manager Julie Stoakley -

with the help of our amazing supporter and volunteer Liz Pyeatt

(from our presenting sponsor, Austin Asset).  They were put together

with an amazing team of volunteers led by Paulina Soenen.  Pictured here

is Ben Finklea, founder and CEO of Volacci – a generous sponsor of our education program!


Our Valentines Mystery Gift Boxes were a huge hit.  We sold out completely

of the 60 or so our wonderful volunteers had wrapped up!

Here are Jim and Jennifer Judkins holding a few.


AWMedia, publishers of Austin Woman and ATX Man, were media sponsors

of Guitars Under the Stars.  Here is editor Deborah Hamilton Lynn with several guests from AWMedia!


So many amazing guests!  Here I am with Diane Ingram, our patron Oscar Gomez

(who, with his wife Elsa, hosted a private concert with Jorge Caballero in their

home last summer) and Diane’s husband Hudson Ingram (right).


..and speaking of Elsa Gomez, here she is on the right, with Mexnet Alliance

President Monica Peraza (center) and Travis County District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza (left)


A highlight of our brief education presentation was Sergeant Will Flores, guitarist in the US Army Band,

and graduate of our guitar program at McCallum High School, saying a few words about how our program

has changed his life.  Sergeant Flores flew in from Georgia to be with us Saturday.


Cesare Chiacchiaretta and Giampaolo Bandini played a glorious concert for us –

and our guests leapt out of their seats for a standing ovation at the end.


Our dessert buffet after the concert was super popular, and guests stayed

to talk long after the last notes were played upstairs.


If you didn’t get to join us Saturday night – here’s a fabulous video shot by KUT’s Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon of our live appearance on John Aielli’s Eklektikos from Thursday, February 7th!  They’re playing Piazzolla’s Libertango!


One of our patrons wrote simply: “The Gala was a triumph!”  We could not have done it without the generosity of our presenting sponsor: Austin Asset, our Platinum Sponsors: Jeff & Gail Kodosky, Louise Epstein & John Henry McDonald Trust, H-E-B, Kendal & Ken Gladish, and AW Media, and our co-chairs for the evening David & Catherine Wildermuth, Ken & Kendal Gladish, and Jeff and Gail Kodosky.

Thank you!