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 GuitarCurriculum.com 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.

Next story, From St. Louis.
Share your story here.
Donate to our Changing Lives Fall Fund Drive today.

 
"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!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gw7YrhbDECA

 

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!


Gorbach Concert Program (and Dinner Menu!)

I’m so excited to hear Vladimir Gorbach in person Saturday night!  If you don’t have tickets – call us at 512-300-ACGS and get some!

The Program

…is phenomenal. Virtuoso works like Mauro Giuliani’s Rondoletto (Op. 4), Vicente Asencio’s “Collecti intimi”, Astor Piazzolla’s “The Four Seasons” – in tango! – and Aguado’s Andante and Rondo in A minor, will be simply dazzling.

Early in the first half he’s planning 3 Scarlatti Sonatas (K. 441, 87 and 27).  And see the bottom of this post for a taste on YouTube of what he can do!

Almost his entire program is available to be enjoyed in advance from his truly stunning new NAXOS recording, available on itunes here:

Vladimir Gorbach Guitar Recital - Vladimir Gorbach

The Dinner

Join us!  Dinner begins at 5:30PM in the private gallery at Chez Zee – just minutes from the concert.  Tickets ($50) are online here, or by phone at 512-300-ACGS.

Our pre-show dinners are pure joy.  Visit with friends, meet new people, and enjoy fabulous food and wine.  I even stand up and say a few words – or occasionally play a selection or two – to help prepare us for the concert we’re about to hear.

We’ll enjoy Chez Zee’s famous Sourdough bread with smokey olive oil at each table along side a selection of wines.  Their delicious Butternut Squash Soup (vegetarian, which is good for me) & Garden Salad precede Crab-stuffed Salmon with Lemon Beurre Blanc (Gluten Free) and Vegetarian Lasagna that will come with delicious sides.  And we’ll finish up with a dessert buffet including Orange Chiffon Cake Bites, Lemon Rosemary Cake Bites and Chocolate Decadence Cake Bites.

Thank You

Our Vladimir Gorbach Concert is generously sponsored by Volacci Internet Marketing.  Read an interview with founder/CEO Ben Finklea here.

Video

Here is Vladimir's winning performance at the GFA International Competition of Piazzolla’s Primavera Porteña.  Hold onto your hats!

V


Sponsor Spotlight: Ben Finklea & Volacci

I first met Ben Finklea, founder and CEO of Volacci Internet Marketing, at an unforgettable house concert ACGS presented in the phenomenal west Austin home of Austin Institute of Real Estate’s Lynn and Wayne Morgan with maestro Adam Holzman performing.

Ben was interested in ACGS, and from our first conversation I realized that his phenomenal energy, business savvy, and creative intellect would be a huge asset to our board of directors.  It was a great day when he agreed to serve.

Ben and Volacci have helped us in many ways, I’ve particularly appreciated their generous assistance with the complex technological issues we face in the ongoing development of our international class guitar curriculum web site – that’s in daily use by over 400 educators now!

Most recently, Volacci has generously offered to sponsor our upcoming Vladimir Gorbach concert.  I thought I’d ask Ben a few questions about Volacci and his views on his philanthropic mindset.

Matthew Hinsley: What is Volacci?

Ben Finklea: Thank you for asking! Volacci is a digital marketing agency based in Austin, TX. We are in the business of Marketing Intelligence: the insights necessary to develop impactful marketing solutions and the technologies to deliver them. We build and operate world-class online marketing platforms for our clients using open source technologies like Drupal and WordPress. We are especially excited about a new product that we are releasing soon called Automatr. As the name implies, it saves a Marketing Director many hours per week and massively increases the return on investment of an existing website.

MH: Why do you support ACGS and the arts in Austin?

BF: I support ACGS because of the impact music education is making in our community. The program at the Gardner-Betts detention center in particular is inspirational to me. I'm sure your blog readers are aware of what you're doing there - basically, using the gift of classical guitar music to bring hope and inspiration to troubled teens. These are good kids who haven't had the chance to break out of circumstance and elevate their lives. They need our support and ACGS brings it week after week. Amazing!

MH: What do you wish everyone knew about the power of music?

BF: Music is a shared experience that changes the way we perceive each other. For many, music has become an iPod - not that there is anything wrong with an iPod. There's just something special about experiencing live music in a shared community that brings us together in a fundamental way. A concert is much, much more than a playlist - it's the unique pairing of a performer and an audience that will only be experienced once - right now. Live music brings people together for that one purpose - and when the audience is ready and the musicians are one with their instruments and the music comes alive - wow! Something spiritual happens. It is difficult to describe, really, but you know it when you feel it.

MH: Beautiful Ben! Is there anything else you'd like to add?

BF: I would simply like to express my gratitude to Matt, April, Chuck, and all of the ACGS staff, Board of Directors, and supporters. You're making a huge difference in our community and in the world. On behalf of the entire Volacci team, Thank You! We are behind you 110%!


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All Changing Lives Stories in One Place

April Long

April Long, Director of Operations, joined our team almost exactly one year before our giant "Austin Goes Classical" weeklong hosting of the Guitar Foundation of America at the Long Center. She was instantly indispensable in that enormous project, while helping us manage and expand our normal operations, and has since become a member of our core team not only responsible for so much of what allows us to function from one day to the next, but also serving as a key visionary and our operational nerve center.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started working at the Austin Classical Guitar Society three and a half years ago. I am not a musician, and my education was not in arts administration. Before interviewing at ACGS, a friend told me, “The people who work there are awesome. You’re going to love it!” Indeed, the people I work with here every day are amazing, the work they do in the community is inspiring, and I do, in fact, “love it!” What I did not know about, and what I continue to be amazed by, is the broader community of people that I am lucky enough to interact with on a daily basis.

This community includes the nearly 100 volunteers who spend countless hours making our events happen and helping at our office—folks like Lloyd Pond, who has come in one full day each week for more than six years to repair guitars for our school programs and to help with any and all tasks that need doing. It includes board members who share with us their resources, a love of guitar, and belief in our community-transforming work. It includes students and their families, who tell me about how inspiring our classical guitar programs have been for their children. It includes patrons from across Austin who share pieces of their lives with me as they make a ticket purchase or a donation over the phone. It is a privilege to meet all of these people through my work at ACGS, and I feel honored when they share their stories with me.

What I have come to realize in my time at ACGS is that what we do is, of course, about classical guitar, but even more importantly, what we do is about building community through classical guitar. What happens through ACGS is something that people everywhere are seeking—connection. ACGS is a place where stories get shared, and heard, and this is, for me, one of the most important things we do.

 

Matt Hinsley's Story

Matthew Hinsley is Executive Director of ACGS. Earlier this fall after visiting our program at the Gardner Betts facility of the Travis County Juvenile Justice System, he was moved to write this story about what he experienced.

Eight high school boys in matching maroon T-shirts are focused intensely on Travis Marcum, our Director of Education. They are sitting with their left feet on footstools, holding classical guitars, playing a piece of music beautifully together. Their playing is not only synchronized, but it’s full of careful nuance with gorgeous and expressive moments that persist even in spite of the sporadic radio chatter from the guards just outside the open door in the hallway.

At the soft and slowing finish, Travis congratulates the group on their progress. This is the second performance of the piece this evening, and already they’ve refined tone, togetherness and several expressive moments. He asks if anyone has a comment and the boy to my right, Randy, raises his hand. “Sir, I didn’t think we were right together at the end of measure eight, sir.” One of the other boys nods at this observation, and Travis replies, “Excellent, let’s work on measure eight.”

It’s the kind of magic Travis Marcum, and our whole education team, help to create in thirty Austin schools each and every day. But only this school, Gardner Betts, is a full lock-down residential facility of the Travis County Juvenile Justice System.

Earlier that evening I met Travis at his car in the parking lot. “Leave your cell phone in your glove compartment so it doesn’t get scratched in the bucket” he told me. When we entered, keys and cell phones (had we kept them) had to be deposited in a bucket at the front desk before we could enter the secure part of the facility.

As Travis and I set up the chairs for class he told me the kids were excited I would be there: “They’ve been playing a few of your pieces, and so they were pretty pumped when I told them you’d be here tonight.” Four guards escorted the boys in, each of them with a guitar in one hand, and a music stand in the other with their music and footstool balanced on top.

The work began immediately after set up and tuning. “Play four Gs, then four Bs, then four Es with great tone – on my count…” Travis kept them constantly engaged in positive, pro-active self-evaluation and constructive criticism. His dedication to excellence is infectious, and each boy has caught the bug.

“Stop for sec. Rodrigo, how do you feel about our sound just now?” “I thought… on the E string, our sound was kind of thin, sir.” “What can we do to make that better, Rodrigo?” “We need to come across the string at more of an angle, sir.” “Can you show the class both ways?” Yes, Rodrigo could demonstrate both ways. And the class joined him as they refined their sound.

About a month ago I received a letter from a Chemical Dependency Counselor at Gardner Betts. He described the effects of our guitar class on one of the boys like this:

“A 17 year old male entered our program with a plethora of obstacles for success in his life. He was raised primarily in a single parent home with one of his parents being in and out of jail and/or drug rehabilitation programs. This child had made poor decisions with his own life by developing his own drug habit, committing crimes, and becoming delinquent in school. Although he is very bright and has multiple gifts and talents, these decisions limited his success in school and in society. Upon entering the program, his motivation for positive change was extremely low.

When offered an opportunity to join the guitar class, he enrolled. His motivation began to snowball and spread to other areas of programming. He went from putting forth minimal effort in school and his drug rehabilitation to becoming a leader by example for his peers. This youth is currently back on track to graduate high school on time and return to his home with a renewed commitment to his family and to himself for a more productive future.”

They have a performance coming up in the courthouse at a swearing-in ceremony for volunteer court-appointed advocates. Our guitar classes play for every such ceremony now. With the show not far away, Travis explained some of the particulars including the walk outside across the parking lot to the courthouse. “I wish we could be outside now,” one boy said aloud to himself.

“Sir, can I ask Dr. Hinsley a question?” This was repeated by James several times throughout the class. “James, we’ll be able to ask Dr. Hinsley questions at the end of class,” Travis replied. The end of class was approaching, and James sensed his opportunity: “Sir, can I ask Dr. Hinsley a question?” “Yes, James, now is a great time to ask Dr. Hinsley a question.” James looked me in the eyes and said “Dr. Hinsley, would you play something for us?” And of course I did.

At the end of class they lined up to shake my hand. Several said they couldn’t wait for me to come back. Last month we had some guest artists in town perform for them, and one boy wanted to know if I knew them. “They were so fast and so together, they were amazing, sir.”

Travis’ work at Gardner Betts, and our work in education broadly, is what we are most proud of at the Austin Classical Guitar Society. We are proud because we have the privilege to work with such diverse young people, and have an opportunity to make a positive difference in their lives. I’m sure they don’t realize, though, the profoundly positive difference they make in our lives, too.

 

Warm Wishes from Pepe Romero

One of the greatest classical guitarists of all time, Maestro Pepe Romero has given many memorable performances in Austin over the years – perhaps none so spectacular as his sold-out, radio simulcast performance at opening night of the Guitar Foundation of America festival we hosted at the Long Center in June of 2010. We were deeply touched to receive these sentiments from him for our Changing Lives Storyboard last week.

When I think of the Austin Classical Guitar Society and the extraordinary work that Matthew Hinsley is doing for the Spanish guitar, it fills my heart with happiness.

I see Austin as a wonderful center where young people have the opportunity to learn, love and experience the wonders and mysteries of my beloved Guitar.

I myself have had fantastic experiences in Austin with the guitar and truly consider Austin to be one of the most inspired places on the planet. Matthew and his team harness this natural energy and weave it with the guitar and her music, making it thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting to the beginner player as well as the seasoned professional.

I look forward to my return!

un abrazo,

Pepe Romero

 

Music & Juvenile Justice

Mr. Dean Campbell is a Senior Chemical Dependency Counselor working with youth at Gardner Betts of the Travis County Juvenile Justice System where we have a guitar class. Our Director of Education, Travis Marcum, runs our program there – and it is some of the work about which we are most proud. Mr. Campbell recently sent us this remarkable letter.

It is with great pleasure that I have the opportunity to report the positive impact that Mr. Marcum and others have had with the young people who are participating in his guitar class at the Gardner-Betts facility for the Travis County Juvenile Probation Department. There have been many cases where the guitar class has served the young people well while in our program. The guitar class bolsters self-esteem as many of these teens have never experienced the accomplishment and pride that they feel after learning to play an instrument and then successfully performing before an audience. The guitar class also injects the young people with motivation to excel at something that is positive and constructive to replace destructive behaviors and lifestyles. Additionally, the guitar class provides an opportunity for the young people to earn academic credits needed for high school. Many of the young people that are in the residential program are significantly behind in their school, and this is one way that they can make up for credits lost in the past.

Many specific examples could be given of the positive impact that this service brings to our youth, but let this following example serve as an individual example of many.

A 17-year-old male entered our program with a plethora of obstacles for success in his life. He was raised primarily in a single parent home with one of his parents being in and out of jail and/or drug rehabilitation programs. This child had made poor decisions with his own life by developing his own drug habit, committing crimes, and becoming delinquent in school. Although he is very bright and has multiple gifts and talents, these decisions limited his success in school and in society. Upon entering the program, his motivation for positive change was extremely low. When offered an opportunity to join the guitar class, he enrolled. His motivation began to snowball and spread to other areas of programming. He went from putting forth minimal effort in school and his drug rehabilitation to becoming a leader by example for his peers. This youth is currently back on track to graduate high school on time and return to his home with a renewed commitment to his family and to himself for a more productive future.

As mentioned above there are many more stories that could be shared with similar circumstances and outcomes. We at Gardner-Betts very much appreciate the Austin Classical Guitar Society and Travis Marcum for their commitment to the young people of Travis County.

 

Jeremy Daus

Jeremy Daus, a junior at Akins High School, is an outstanding member of the advanced ensemble there. He told us a bit about his history with guitar, and where he'd like to go with it.

J

 

Kitty Villa

We first met Kitty Villa through her wonderfully talented son Marco. In time she became one of our greatest volunteers, and then a dedicated member of our board of directors – serving for several years as board secretary. Thank you Kitty!

My exposure to classical guitar and ACGS began with my son’s enrollment in the classical guitar program at his high school. Inspired by the performers and teachers of guitar that ACGS brings to Austin, he became more and more interested and committed to the study of guitar. He led the rest of the family to become ardent fans and supporters of ACGS. One of the many benefits of having ACGS in our community is the opportunity it creates for families to develop appreciation for a musical genre that transcends generational boundaries and to attend concerts by the finest classical guitarists from around the world.

I firmly believe in the power of ACGS’ outreach to adolescent students in Austin. I have seen my son rise to the challenge inherent in mastering a difficult instrument and become more mature and self-disciplined in the process. I am sure that many Austin parents and students could tell similar stories of success and transformation through the study of classical guitar in middle school and high school. ACGS is a tremendous asset to our city and our school system!

 

 

Klondike Steadman

We just received this wonderful story from Dr. Klondike Steadman. A prominent Austin guitarist and educator, Dr. Steadman generously donated his time to run the Austin Classical Guitar Society just over ten years ago, and is a big part of our success – particularly in education. Thank you Klondike!

Every season I am inspired and moved beyond words by the new heights the ACGS Educational Outreach Program reaches. I can remember the first few students selected for private lessons at McCallum back in 2001, through taking my own daughter at age 5 (a guitarist herself) to see 100 guitarists perform a new commissioned work, to now reading about the work ACGS does with veterans and children in the Juvenile system. It is truly unbelievable what is being achieved by the dedicated staff and volunteers at ACGS to change lives through music.

In 2001, when a few dedicated UT guitar students including Steve Kostelnik, Kim Perlak, Matt Hinsley and myself decided to embark on this journey of bringing classical guitar to underprivileged youth we had great hopes for the program, but I don't think any of us could have foreseen the immense potential for change now being brought about through the dedication of so many volunteers and contributors. And while we tend to focus on the change that takes place in the students of these programs, I have felt for a long time that I personally owe a debt of gratitude to the students of this program. I believe that teaching in and directing the Educational Outreach Program in it's first year probably taught me more important lessons about life, education, organization and community building, than any other experience and allowed me to successfully transfer those ideals into the community at Orpheus Academy of Music.

Thank you to all the teachers, students and volunteers at ACGS who make the magic happen every day!

 

 

William Kanengiser

When Matt Hinsley arrived in Austin in 1996 and began volunteering as President of ACGS, William Kanengiser was one of the first artists he called to perform on our International Concert Series. He's been back many times both as soloist and as a member of the Grammy-winning LA Guitar Quartet. Kanengiser has seen our organization grow for over 15 years and we were delighted to receive these wonderful words from him for our Changing Lives Storyboard.

The Austin Classical Guitar Society is a model for how all guitar societies should serve their communities and our beloved instrument. ACGS is not only a world-class presenting organization, it's also developed one of the most successful guitar education programs in the country. I've had the pleasure of visiting my friends at ACGS as a solo performer, with LAGQ, and during the amazing GFA Convention they hosted in 2010. I've always come away impressed by the professionalism of the organization, the enthusiasm of their audience, and the depth of their commitment to the future of the guitar.

Keep up the great work, ACGS!

 

 

Andrew Clark

Andrew Clark directs the award-winning McCallum High School Classical Guitar Program. The program has thrived under his leadership, and our community has benefitted greatly, ever since his arrival in Austin from Canada several years ago.

In addition to the much deserved praise The Austin Classical Guitar Society has received from the countless public school students it has so positively impacted, I would like to express my gratitude for what the organization has done for me. Through its collaboration with Austin ISD schools, ACGS has made it possible for young classical guitarists and educators such as myself to choose a career in classical guitar education in ever expanding pre-college settings. Teaching at McCallum High School, seeing my students develop their technique and musicianship through the excellent online curriculum, and involving the program in community focused events - many of which are organized by ACGS - has been extremely enriching from both a professional and personal perspective.

Thank you to the team at ACGS for all of your excellent, groundbreaking work!

 

(McCallum Advanced Ensemble Performing at One World Theatre, February 2011)

 

 

Thanksgiving Wishes from Eliot Fisk

 

We have such incredible memories from Eliot Fisk’s historic visits to Austin. There’s the boy from McCallum who won a Texas Young Masters Award (and went on to Oberlin and then Florida State) who said in an interview that it was Eliot’s visit to McCallum that first inspired him to practice seriously, we recall the premiere of our newly commissioned quintet by Leonardo Balada in July 2006 with Eliot and the Miró Quartet, and Eliot’s incredible gala performance for us two years ago. Eliot just shared this Thanksgiving message for our Changing Lives Storyboard:

The ACGS is a beacon of hope! Not just because of the transformation it has wrought locally in Austin but also because its example shows that YES WE CAN! transform our beloved country through the art of music and its marvelous ambassador, the classical guitar. The success of the ACGS under the superb leadership of Matt Hinsley is a source of inspiration to all of us. I have always enjoyed my time in Austin and it has been an honor to occasionally participate in the great crusade that the Society has initiated. It is a crusade that enjoys a naturally fertile environment provided by the magnificent University of Texas, its terrific guitar department led for so many years by the wonderful Adam Holzman, and a Board of Directors second to none.

It is my fervent hope that the success of the ACGS be duplicated in hundreds of towns and cities throughout our country. Were this to be possible, our nation would become more united, more cultured and better poised to take on the challenges, both foreseen and unforeseen, awaiting us, as a people, as the 21st century progresses.

Love to all and Happy Thanksgiving! Eliot Fisk

 

Francisco de la Rosa

Francisco de la Rosa is a wonderful young artist we've known for years through our education program at Akins High School. He’ll graduate in 2013, and he stopped by the office to talk a little bit about guitar, ACGS, and his plans for the future.

F

 

From KUT's John Aielli

It’s amazing to think that we’ve been taking guitarists from around the world to perform on John Aielli’s Eklektikos at KUT for more than 15 years now. John has been an incredible supporter of ACGS, and we’ve had many memorable times on air. And it’s not unusual to see John at the concerts! John just sent this over for our Changing Lives Storyboard:

“The Austin Classical Guitar Society has really brought the guitar to center stage. The society is now one of the major performing arts groups in the area. I've always loved the guitar and the way it sounds on the air. Now many more people are attending concerts to hear the greatest guitarists in the world, right here in Austin, thanks to the Austin Classical Guitar Society.”

 

My Motivation for Playing

We received this marvelous story from one of our Community Guitarists Ensemble members, who prefers to remain anonymous.

Back in the 70's, I studied classical guitar. I even got to the point where I was performing little 20-minute recitals with pieces by Bach, Carlevaro, and selections from Frederic Noad's student books.

I got married and bought a house in the 80’s and lost touch with the guitar. We moved to Austin after the economic meltdown of 2008 and, for a variety of reasons, after a few months I descended into a severe clinical depression. A therapist, who was a folk music fan, prescribed playing guitar again for at least 20 minutes each day. "I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner," she said. She recommended I start with fun and easy things, and I felt really inclined to bring back my old classical pieces.

I got really involved with ACGS in 2010 when I volunteered for the Guitar Foundation of America festival at the Long Center. I auditioned for the ACGS Community Guitarists Ensemble the following fall. When I told the doctor at the VA about my upcoming audition, she could tell that I was "out of danger!”

It’s for this reason my motivation for playing in the ACGS ensemble is so high. I have no delusions about "going anywhere" with it. It's a mental health thing.

I'm not a combat vet per se, but I know what it's like to low-crawl to bunker during a rocket attack in Vietnam. When I read in the paper a few years ago about the horrible numbers of suicides and PTSD cases among Iraq and Afghan vets, it broke my heart. A dream of mine is to have an opportunity to give back by volunteering my time and knowledge to help motivated veterans with beginning classical guitar. From my own experience, I firmly believe that the discipline and concentration encouraged by learning guitar re-wires the brain in a healthful way that medication never can.

 

Javier Saucedo

Javier Saucedo is a wonderful young artist we've known for years through our education program. He was this year's ACGS Austin Community College full scholarship recipient, and he stopped by the office to talk a little bit about guitar, ACGS, and his plans for the future.

J


A Note of Thanks from Matt Hinsley

Classical guitar is magic.  The instrument is so beautiful, the sound so precious, the music so diverse and captivating, the art form so vibrant.  To listen to classical guitar is to step into a world of subtle nuance, color, and contrast.

The magic may course through the strings, the wood and the rosette, but it begins with students, performers, and composers, and is made manifest in our ears, in our minds, and in our imaginations.

I think of the twelve-year-old boy who wrote this year asking for a guitar program in his school, of the veteran who shared his amazing story with us last week, of the kids at Gardner Betts whose class I saw a few short weeks ago, of the young man who graduated high school and received our full scholarship to pursue guitar at ACC.

I think of changed lives, and I think: Thank You.

I think of the debut of FlamencoAustin, of the spectacular premiere of an original film score in June, of the LAGQ’s return to Austin, of Jorge Caballero and the Miró Quartet at the Long Center, of Classical Cactus and Austin Guitar Salon, of Grisha and Jerome Mouffe playing for 1,000 kids in 10 schools.

The art is thriving here, reaching thousands, and it’s all because of you.

Thank you for coming to our events, for supporting our programs, and for your commitment to music in our community.  Thank you for your belief in the Austin Classical Guitar Society.

In gratitude,

Matthew Hinsley, Executive Director

Austin Classical Guitar Society


Vieaux: Program and Matt's Insights

Jason Vieaux is such a tremendous guitarist!

I remember when he won the GFA competition.  Even then (in the early 90s) it was the most important guitar competition in the world.  And for Jason to win it at age 19 was a truly extraordinary feat.

Jason went on to become one of the youngest faculty members ever at Cleveland Institute of Music, and has since released something like a dozen recordings.

Tix here, join us for the pre-show dinner if you can (we’re taking over Gusto Italian Kitchen at 5:30 with wine and dessert included!), details on that are here.  Questions?  Call us at 512-300-2247.

Jason’s program is just awesome.  It includes a mix of some of the greatest, most venerable classics in the repertoire like John Dowland’s E Major Fantasy and Bach’s first “lute suite”, with some fantastic new and groovy selections.

Most everyone knows that JS Bach was German.  He lived 1685-1750 and is, according to many, the greatest composer of all time.  He was an organist himself, and while we don’t think he played the lute (and there were no guitars, in the modern sense, at the time), when he died we know he owned several keyboard instruments that were, believe it or not, actually designed to sound like lutes!  The action inside them included gut strings plucked by leather picks, rather than the standard metal strings plucked by quills!  They were called lautenwerks, and it’s thought that perhaps Bach wrote his so-called “lute suites” on these instruments.

Here’s Ben Beirs playing the prelude from the suite.  Incidentally, Ben was here last spring with his French duo partner Maud LaForest as part of our Community Concert Series!

John Dowland is perhaps the best-known of the English Elizabethan lute players.  He wrote 88 extant songs for lute and voice.  Some of you may know that I love to sing, and for a while I avidly pursued playing and singing all 88 of those wonderful songs!  I made it pretty far, but not all the way, since the subject matter is often super-depressing (unrequited love to the extreme)!

Dowland is a stunningly artistic and intricate composer – and he holds a special place in my heart.  The concert begins with one of his great solo fantasies (Jason’s not planning to sing) and I can’t wait.

One of the great 20th century works for guitar is by the UK’s Benjamin Britten, and it’s called The Nocturnal.  Here’s today’s cool conceptual tie-in:

The Nocturnal is a reverse theme and variations based on a song – “Come heavy Sleep” – by…. You guessed it!... John Dowland!  Why “reverse” theme and variations?  Because you don’t hear the theme until the end.  And it’s so glorious when it arrives.

The second half has an awesome piece written just for Jason , several Spanish selections from the great Isaac Albeniz, a Pat Metheny tune (!), and one of my favorites, Suite del Recuerdo, by Argentine composer Jose Luis Merlin.

We’re in for a real treat – and I can’t wait to see you there!

Oh, Guitar Players and students!  Jason’s also recently launched a phenomenal new online guitar school.  I have many friends and colleagues that have checked it out and love it.  What a great use of the internet – to be able to study with one of the guitar greats anytime, anywhere, for an affordable rate!  Check it out!


“Sir, Can I ask Dr. Hinsley a Question?”

Eight high school boys in matching maroon T-shirts are focused intensely on Travis Marcum, our Director of Education.  They are sitting with their left feet on footstools, holding classical guitars, playing a piece of music beautifully together.  Their playing is not only synchronized, but it’s full of careful nuance with gorgeous and expressive moments that persist even in spite of the sporadic radio chatter from the guards just outside the open door in the hallway.

At the soft and slowing finish, Travis congratulates the group on their progress.  This is the second performance of the piece this evening, and already they’ve refined tone, togetherness and several expressive moments.  He asks if anyone has a comment and the boy to my right, Randy, raises his hand.  “Sir, I didn’t think we were right together at the end of measure eight, sir.”  One of the other boys nods at this observation, and Travis replies, “Excellent, let’s work on measure eight.”

It’s the kind of magic Travis Marcum, and our whole education team, help to create in thirty Austin schools each and every day.  But only this school, Gardner Betts, is a full lock-down residential facility of the Travis County Juvenile Justice System.

Earlier that evening I met Travis at his car in the parking lot.  “Leave your cell phone in your glove compartment so it doesn’t get scratched in the bucket” he told me.  When we entered, keys and cell phones (had we kept them) had to be deposited in a bucket at the front desk before we could enter the secure part of the facility.

As Travis and I set up the chairs for class he told me the kids were excited I would be there: “They’ve been playing a few of your pieces, and so they were pretty pumped when I told them you’d be here tonight.”  Four guards escorted the boys in, each of them with a guitar in one hand, and a music stand in the other with their music and footstool balanced on top.

The work began immediately after set up and tuning.  “Play four Gs, then four Bs, then four Es with great tone – on my count…” Travis kept them constantly engaged in positive, pro-active self-evaluation and constructive criticism.  His dedication to excellence is infectious, and each boy has caught the bug.

“Stop for sec.  Rodrigo, how do you feel about our sound just now?”  “I thought… on the E string, our sound was kind of thin, sir.”  “What can we do to make that better, Rodrigo?”  “We need to come across the string at more of an angle, sir.”  “Can you show the class both ways?”  Yes, Rodrigo could demonstrate both ways.  And the class joined him as they refined their sound.

About a month ago I received a letter from a Chemical Dependency Counselor at Gardner Betts.  He described the effects of our guitar class on one of the boys like this:

“A 17 year old male entered our program with a plethora of obstacles for success in his life. He was raised primarily in a single parent home with one of his parents being in and out of jail and/or drug rehabilitation programs. This child had made poor decisions with his own life by developing his own drug habit, committing crimes, and becoming delinquent in school. Although he is very bright and has multiple gifts and talents, these decisions limited his success in school and in society. Upon entering the program, his motivation for positive change was extremely low.

When offered an opportunity to join the guitar class, he enrolled. His motivation began to snowball and spread to other areas of programming. He went from putting forth minimal effort in school and his drug rehabilitation to becoming a leader by example for his peers. This youth is currently back on track to graduate high school on time and return to his home with a renewed commitment to his family and to himself for a more productive future.”

They have a performance coming up in the courthouse at a swearing-in ceremony for volunteer court-appointed advocates.  Our guitar classes play for every such ceremony now.  With the show not far away, Travis explained some of the particulars including the walk outside across the parking lot to the courthouse.  “I wish we could be outside now,” one boy said aloud to himself.

“Sir, can I ask Dr. Hinsley a question?”  This was repeated by James several times throughout the class.  “James, we’ll be able to ask Dr. Hinsley questions at the end of class,” Travis replied.  The end of class was approaching, and James sensed his opportunity: “Sir, can I ask Dr. Hinsley a question?”  “Yes, James, now is a great time to ask Dr. Hinsley a question.”  James looked me in the eyes and said “Dr. Hinsley, would you play something for us?”  And of course I did.

At the end of class they lined up to shake my hand.  Several said they couldn’t wait for me to come back.  Last month we had some guest artists in town perform for them, and one boy wanted to know if I knew them.  “They were so fast and so together, they were amazing, sir.”

Travis’ work at Gardner Betts, and our work in education broadly, is what we are most proud of at the Austin Classical Guitar Society.  We are proud because we have the privilege to work with such diverse young people, and have an opportunity to make a positive difference in their lives.  I’m sure they don’t realize, though, the profoundly positive difference they make in our lives, too.

Dr. Matthew Hinsley, Executive Director

Austin Classical Guitar Society

Information is available online about ACGS Educational Outreach and the global curriculum project developed by ACGS for classroom classical guitar instruction.  A December 2011 KUT radio story on the program at Gardner Betts is available for online streaming, as is Dr. Hinsley’s recent editorial in the Austin American Statesman on the importance of arts in education.  Donate here.