Irina Kulikova: An Exchange of Energy

Our first International Series concert of 2019 features the fabulous Russian guitarist, Irina Kulikova, whose musical elegance, beauty, and power have captivated audiences around the world. We can't wait for her Austin debut on January 26th!


Irina Kulikova, a daughter and granddaughter of musicians, grew up listening to her mother play cello. She taught private lessons and played in a quartet, and Irina remembers often accompanying her mother to the “Wedding Palace” to hear her perform for ceremonies and receptions.

“I was always there, and always naughty,” Irina recalls fondly.

Her mother had a profound influence on her, musically and otherwise. When Irina was five, she wanted to play either the violin or cello, but her mother insisted she start on guitar because it was “easier to play in tune at first.” To this day, Irina strives for a cello-like sound in her guitar playing, and says she has a strong cello technique.

Her parents in Chelyabinsk, Russia

Irina believes her mother was the anchor of her family when she was little. When Irina’s father lost his factory job during the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was her mother who supported the family, balancing three jobs with caring for Irina and her younger brother. Irina's father pursued his passion of photography, and today has made a career of it.

“When the Soviet Union fell, the women found new ways of survival even as the men were losing jobs.”

Just as Irina's mother introduced her to cello, so too is Irina exposing her daughter to the world of music. Mariëlle is six and a half, and already plays piano, acts, and sings. She's strong-willed and free-spirited: Irina considers it a success if she can choose her daughter's clothes even one or two days a week.

She also sees a lot of herself in her daughter.

“She has a very sharp mind, very bright and very supportive. If she wants something a certain way and I disagree, I make her prove why she’s right.”

Mariëlle is always close by when Irina gives lessons, listening quietly while occupying herself with something tactile and creative, such as drawing or playing with clay.

“She once asked me how many students I had, and after I told her, she said, ‘No Mommy, that’s not right. You have one more - I’m your student.’ Even though she doesn’t really play guitar! She’ll pick it up for a while and learn something, then leave it for two months or so, and come back remembering exactly what I taught her. Sometimes, she corrects the hands of my students - and she’s right! The students become very embarrassed.”

Mariëlle doesn’t travel with Irina during her concert tours, as Irina believes the traveling life of a performer is too hectic. Irina never worries about her while she's gone though, because, "I feel confident that when I’m away, she knows exactly what she wants, and will do fine."

“My main goal in life is to make people happy: I make my daughter happy, I love cooking for my family and friends, and when I play in a concert, I bring a message with my music. People with sparkling eyes come up to me after a concert and say 'Thank you.'  When you see people so happy because of your playing, it’s an incredible exchange of energy, it’s so meaningful and so important."

Though touring can be arduous and lonely at times, Irina admits she’s grown accustomed to life on the road, and at this point, it’s just a fact of life.

“I’ve traveled since I was eight, so now if I’m home for more than two weeks or a month at a time, it feels like a disaster. I want to perform!”

Irina also loves meeting new people, and finds performing greatly rewarding.

“Giving an audience the right food for the mind, the right feelings, is incredible.”

She loves US audiences in particular, since they enjoy contemporary music and always give her amazing feedback after concerts. She did have to get used to speaking from the stage, as that is not customary in Russia, but now finds it easy to break the ice with even the most non-responsive audiences.

Helping a student in an Italian masterclass

Irina, who has never been to Austin, is especially excited for her visits to four local schools, and for the masterclass she’ll be teaching at the University of Texas.

“I had a difficult path - working many jobs, practicing a lot - to pursue my dream, so I understand the struggle of young musicians. I’m grateful for my experiences, because I can share them with passionate people who can learn from me.”


Strait Music Ticket for Kids: A Passion for Helping Young Music-Makers

Last fall, we began a program with Strait Music Company. Thanks to their generous support, we now offer all middle and high school students free tickets to our entire International Series 2018-19 season at the AISD Performing Arts Center. We’d love to share with you the story of this beloved community business, along with some words from Clint Strait, the family’s third-generation to lead the music store.


In 1963, Dan Strait opened “Strait Piano and Organ” on the corner of 9th and Lamar. His motto, which remains true today, was “Where customers become friends.”

After quadrupling in size, moving three times, opening a second location, and enduring two major floods, Strait Music Company now rests in the hands of Dan’s grandson, Clint Strait.

The full-line music store has expanded from only pianos and organs to almost all musical needs, including guitars, band and orchestra instruments, Pro Audio equipment, amps, and keyboards. They also provide service to all items on sale, employing twelve repair technicians, three guitar luthiers, and one orchestral luthier.

“We’re very proud of the rich history. This store is all we know, it’s our extended family. A lot of people have been working here as long as I’ve been alive, some longer. They’re why we’re successful.
– Clint Strait

“The funny thing about my family is that there are no serious musicians – I don’t play an instrument. That being said, I’m extremely passionate about music: I’ve grown up around it, I love seeing live music, and I have a pretty awesome record collection. Music is an enormous part of my life, it fulfills me. I think there’s nothing better than sitting around a campfire and jamming some tunes.”

“There’s a community service aspect to what we do: being helpful in making music-makers.”

Clint’s enthusiasm for music translated into a collaboration with ACG: “Strait Music Tickets for Kids“, a program offering free tickets to all middle and high school students in the Austin area for our International Series Concerts at the AISD Performing Arts Center. Attached to every ticket is a 10% discount to Strait Music.

“We think playing music is really important for a child’s development. My four-year-old son just started piano lessons, which is certainly a ‘to-be-determined’ experiment.”

“We’re excited to be able to provide this, and the bottom line is that we’re really passionate about kids playing music, and we think this program will inspire them. They’ll see the shows, get revved up, hopefully want to start playing, and when they do, they’ll have a discount at Strait Music. I’m really lucky to be part of such an awesome business and fun industry. Nothing makes me happier than seeing kids in my store. “


Top 10 Moments of 2018

Grab your seats, it's time for ACG's Top 10 Moments of 2018! The original list had over 20 contenders, and it took some serious negotiating and compromising to pare it down to the ten you see below. But every one of these fills us with joy, and we hope they'll put a smile on your face too.

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


#10 - The Cycle Continues

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

One of them was Javier Saucedo, who we first met during his junior year at Akins High School. Javier went on to earn a music degree from Texas State, and this fall we asked him to lead our program for youth incarcerated at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center. He agreed, and working closely with his former teacher and Assistant Director of Education Jeremy Osborne, we've been thrilled to watch Javier emerge into a capable and inspiring teacher himself.   

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

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


#9 - Recognizing an ACG Legend

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

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

We couldn’t agree more. Congratulations, Lloyd!


#8 - A Week of Student Achievement

Our education services began in 2001 in one school as part of an initiative to improve the quality of classroom-based guitar instruction. Today, ACG Education is supporting programs in 60 central Texas schools that reach over 4,000 students every day. There was a week in November that really encapsulated how far we have come in 17 years. On Monday afternoon the Travis High School Advanced Guitar Ensemble performed at the National Association for Music Education Conference in Dallas - they were the only guitar ensemble invited to play! Then on Wednesday night at the AISD Performing Arts Center, we got to see some of the most talented middle and high school students in the city perform together as part of All-City and All-Region Guitar Ensembles. We were just blown away by the quality of the performances, the diversity of the students and schools represented, and the joy that was so evident on the faces of the players and audience members alike.

To see the Travis HS guitar ensemble performance in Dallas, click here.


#7 - Helping Other Communities

We can get so focused on our own work at ACG that we forget other people are watching us, too. So when individuals or organizations from communities outside of Austin seek us out for guidance it is both gratifying and humbling. Two instances of this happened recently - in September Matt was asked to speak about nonprofit leadership in front of dozens of executive directors at the 6th annual Guitar Society Summit in Baltimore, and then in November a U.S. State Department-sponsored delegation of 18 NGO leaders from Africa visited ACG to learn about our approach to community service.

BONUS: Classical Guitar Magazine featured a story about Matt's presentation in Baltimore! Check it out here.


#6 - ACGYO in 360°

The ACG Youth Orchestra just keeps getting better and better. This select group of talented young guitarists from across the region has already played on some of the biggest stages in Austin, but nothing prepared us for the ACGYO's performance this past spring on the downtown rooftop of the Contemporary Austin Jones Center. The 360° video speaks for itself - check out how awesome it is to be in the center of such cool music-making!


#5 - Joe Williams named Artistic Director!

A major milestone for ACG took place in September when Dr. Joseph V. Williams II signed on as ACG’s first full-time Artistic Director. Joe is no stranger to ACG, of course. He's led our youth orchestra since it was founded in 2013, and as Composer in Residence for the past five years, Joe's been the creative force behind some of the most ambitious projects we’ve ever produced. We’re not the only ones who think Joe’s great - in June, the Austin Critics Table selected the original score he wrote for last summer’s i/we as Best Original Composition for 2017-18.

As Artistic Director, Joe will be curating our concert series and dreaming up new and exciting directions for ACG. He’ll also continue creating deep and beautiful music, and leading the ACGYO to even greater heights. With his passion for great art and a commitment to serving our diverse and growing community, the future of ACG is looking brighter than ever.


#4 - Eclipsing Violence with Music

On a Saturday night in late September, a group of young guitar students traveled with their teacher and parents five hours from Reynosa Tamaulipas, Mexico to the AISD Performing Arts Center to see Ana Vidovic perform for the opening night of our International Series. They had brought along their guitars, in hopes that they might be able to meet and play for Ana before her concert. She graciously agreed, and they all gathered in the black box theater for an impromptu master class! The students – one only six years old, his legs dangling off the chair as he held a half-size guitar – each played short solos while their mothers watched proudly. Ana listened to each one, giving thoughtful feedback while the students nodded, wide-eyed, at their teacher’s translation of her words into Spanish.

The story didn’t end there. Since that night, we've been working closely with the teacher, Mario Quintanilla Saucedo, along with his partners in Reynosa and other Mexican communities to help them build their own guitar education nonprofit. They've discovered that engaging kids with guitar is a way to keep them safe from the crime and violence that increasingly surrounds their lives.

You can read more about their efforts here.


#3 - "Miles to Go"

https://soundcloud.com/austinclassicalguitar/miles-to-go

Over the past year, ACG Director of Education Travis Marcum has been working with a team from UT’s Dell Medical School to help establish a music-wellness program for the Livestrong Cancer Institutes CALM Clinic. One of the program's components will be collaborative songwriting, and to explore how it might work Travis met over several months with a Christina, a volunteer who serves on the Young Adult Advisory Council for the CALM Clinic.

Christina is a loving mother, wife, biologist, computer programmer, and athlete living in Austin. She’s also a seamstress extraordinaire, with a lifetime of experience knitting and quilting beautiful textiles for her friends and family. She received her cancer diagnosis 3 years ago, and has been undergoing treatment at MD Anderson in Houston ever since.

Working together with Travis, Christina wrote “Miles to Go.” The poetry and music paints a picture of her frequent drives from Austin to Houston to see her doctors. She describes the experience of waiting for answers and treatment while bearing the weight of the situation, using the language of sewing, quilting, and knitting to convey her message of strength.

The result is a profound and personal expression of Christina’s experience and her spirit. It’s also a beautiful song. Hearing it touched us deeply, and we’re incredibly grateful that she was willing to share it with the world.


#2 - dream

dream, a multimedia concert presented over three days in August at the Blanton Auditorium, was one of the most ambitious projects we’ve ever produced at ACG. It was a concert devoted to the truth and experience of young people, and their desire to be heard, to be listened to, to be taken seriously. Over several months we sat with young people in our community, and asked them to share their thoughts and stories with us. Their voices inspired every part of dream, including a new three-movement work composed by Joseph V. Williams II. Surrounding Williams’ composition were songs and chamber pieces re-imagined by the performers.

This video features the breathtaking interpretation of an Angel Olsen song by Travis Marcum and recent McCallum High School graduate, Ta’tyana Jammer.


#1 - Let's Play!

In June, after years of dreaming and planning, we finally launched Let’s Play!, a web-based resource designed to provide guitarists with visual impairments everything they need to learn to play classical guitar. Created in partnership with Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, Let’s Play! includes a progressive series of classical guitar solos, downloadable scores in both braille and traditional music notation, and audio guides focusing on technique and braille music literacy.

We’re blown away by the response. In just six months, Let’s Play! was accessed over 5,000 times by users from almost 100 countries. It was featured in stories in both Austin Monthly (link) and the Texas Standard (link). But what really touched us most deeply was this long-distance email we received two weeks after it launched:

"I am a blind adult with an interest in playing classical guitar. In South Africa, there are not many teachers willing to take on the challenge of such a task. I am writing to thank you from the bottom of my heart for creating this resource and making it available to people like me." - Hendrik S., Potchefstroom, South Africa

 


Happy Holidays from all of us at ACG!


From Our Artistic Director: Kazuhito Yamashita

From our Artistic Director, Joe Williams:

Kazuhito Yamashita is out of this world, and he’s back in Austin.

Our next International Series Concert brings together Yamashita’s incomparable virtuosity with the masterful etchings of Francisco Goya.

Matt Hinsley and I couldn’t contain our excitement, so we sat down to chat about why this concert is a once in a lifetime experience.

Check out the conversation below.  Find tickets for Nov. 10 & 11 and more info here.

 

 

Full Transcript:

Matt: How can you be ready? It's impossible.

Joe: Right, exactly. Are you ready, Matt?

Matt: I have been so excited about this concert for so long. We have this spectacular talent in Kazuhito Yamashita coming to Austin to do something that only he can do, in only the way that he can do it, and bring to life in a moment this extraordinary interpretation, this extraordinary art. We are gonna experience something totally unique, transcendent, superhuman, it’s gonna be an event in Austin. And in a hall that seats 300 people.

I was first talking to Kazuhito about coming back - this will be his third time coming to Austin and right out of the gate, this was his suggestion: to play the 24 Caprichos de Goya [J: the Tedesco Caprichos de Goya in total, which I think no one does.]

Matt: Tedesco was the teacher of some of the great film composers of our time.

Joe: John Williams, Henry Mancini, basically the people that taught us how to experience digital media through music. Mr. Star Wars himself learned how to do this from Tedesco.

Matt: His language evokes ideas in music, it paints pictures with music, it takes ideas and themes, and in this case images, and brings them to life in music in such a demonstrative and expressive way.

And the subject matter is the 24 etchings of Francisco Goya, and these etchings are so deep, and the deep social commentary that’s timeless...

Joe: So what we get to hear in this concert is Tedesco interpreting Goya’s masterful etchings, with a language that is already part of our vernacular. We have Goya who is making etchings, pointing at the aristocrats, the religious figures, and the public, and showing our foibles, our problems, with this amazing wit. It’s very sharp critique of society. We actually get to hear and experience and see this artwork the way it’s supposed to be. Cause we’re going to look up and see these amazing projections of Goya’s etchings while Yamashita is playing them, and stay in that space of imagining the composer looking at that etching, how we feel about that beautiful piece of art, and then hear this amazing landscape of music.

Matt: And in a way, what Tedesco brings to us in 24 Caprichos de Goya is an elongation of experience in sound of an image which you can see instantaneously. You see the image in a moment, we experience the music over 4 minutes or 7 minutes with all these peaks and valleys in that experience.

You could crawl into this experience from so many angles - from social criticism, from art, art history, from music, music history, just guitar awesomeness. It’s gonna be one of those events you wanna crawl into multiple times, you’re gonna wanna come back, and actually you can! Because it’s gonna be happening twice, once on the 10th, and once on the 11th at the Blanton Museum Auditorium. So this opportunity to experience something this deep, this powerful, I’m looking forward to both times. Can’t wait.

Joe: Can’t wait.


Ana Vidovic Program Notes

We’re so excited for our Season Opener with Ana Vidovic on September 22nd! Here’s a sneak peak of just a few of the amazing pieces you’ll hear on Saturday.

Ana’s program is delightful. It ranges from Bach to Piazzolla, and has some of the greatest music ever written for guitar. Listen and watch here, and feel free to follow along with notes about a few of the works below.

Recuerdos de la Alhambra, Francisco Tárrega

Flute Partita in A Minor, BWV. 1013: II. Corrente, J.S. Bach

Sonata in A Major, Domenico Scarlatti

La Catedral, Agustín Barrios Mangoré

Verano PorteñoAstor Piazzolla

Feste LarianeLuigi Mozzani

Recuerdos de la Alhambra

More than any other composer, Francisco Tarrega evokes the spirit of Spain. In the iconic Recuerdos de la Alhambra, he pays tribute to the greatest surviving remnant of the Islamic presence in Iberia and the rich shared history of Spain and the Arab world.

 

Sonata K. 322

Some of the most charming music played on the guitar was originally composed for the keyboard by Domenico Scarlatti. His Sonata K.322, one of the 550 he created, exhibits his simple but masterfully inventive style. Here is the great Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli performing K. 322 with its characteristic Italian tunefulness and early Classical style.

 

Verano Porteño

Astor Piazzolla is the Argentinian master of Nuevo Tango, and his music blends jazz, classical and traditional tango styles. We can’t wait to hear Ana’s interpretations of his work, and here is Piazzolla himself performing Verano Porteño.

 

Feste Lariane

This isn’t on the program, but we couldn’t help including a short video of Ana from her childhood. In it, she shares that she’s playing her brother’s guitar - it was double the size of her, but her parents couldn't afford a smaller one. Necessity, in this case, was the mother of a determined and promising young lady who grew into a brilliant concert artist.

 

Join us for our spectacular season opener on September 22 with the one and only Ana Vidovic! Tickets and more information available here.


Artist Robin Emmerich: Overcoming Fear

We had so much fun partnering with local visual artists this past season as part of our International Series concerts at the AISD Performing Arts Center, and look forward to showcasing more talented artists in the coming year! For our opening night concert with the fabulous Ana Vidovic on September 22nd, we're thrilled to feature Austin-based artist Robin Emmerich. We recently got the chance to speak with her about how she dove into art after grappling with personal struggles.

What led to your present career?

I was working my way up the corporate ladder, but found myself unfulfilled. I thought, 'Wow, I went to college and everything for this?'

Then the perfect storm happened: a car accident, someone attempting to break into my home, someone attempting to break into my car. These random events led me to deeper work, deeper healing work. I started a personal journey of transformation.

Those events created a lot of fear. I found a doctor who brought me into a deep meditative state to work through those experiences. Through my personal development, I tapped into the creative force, the artist, within me.

How did you begin painting?

One day years ago, I wanted to open my heart more to love, and an artist friend said, “Come paint with me. Just try it.” I turned on music, set my intention like I would in any of my other work, and four hours later had created this amazing, gorgeous painting. I was in awe.

In a sense, I became addicted to that fear of facing a blank canvas, setting my intention, going inward, and painting.

My art comes from intention. I overcome the fear: I set an intention, feel the fear, and do it anyway. It’s like going on stage. Because art comes from such a higher place within us, sometimes it’s not for us to know how it’s going to be created. I set my intention, and trust in it.

What do you hope people get from your artwork?

A lot of people that view my artwork feel peace, hope, positivity. My hope is that no matter what a person has experienced, my art brings to them what their heart most desires.

I’ve already painted one piece while listening to her performance of Asturias by Isaac Albéniz, and I’m working on another.


Our Partners for "dream": CASA of Travis County

We're honored to partner with CASA of Travis County for our upcoming presentation of dream. This isn't our first collaboration - for the past several years, students from our guitar classes at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center have performed at CASA's swearing-in ceremonies for new volunteers. We talked with Callie Langford, their Director of Communications, to learn more about the services CASA provides for children in the welfare system.

I’ve worked with CASA of Travis County for the past ten years. CASA is a national organization that started over 40 years ago in Seattle, and the Travis County organization began in 1985. Last year we had over 700 volunteers helping almost 1,800 children.

We speak up for kids in the child welfare and foster care system. We recruit, screen, and train volunteers to work directly with kids in child protection services. Our volunteers don’t need a special education or background to become children’s advocates in the courtroom, in schools, and in the community.

The volunteers spend time building a trusting relationship with the child. If something goes wrong, or if the child is scared, the child knows to call the CASA volunteer.

To help build a well-rounded picture of the child's experience, the volunteer gets to know the parents, foster home parents, shelter workers, therapists, doctors, attorneys, and case workers. The advocate will see the child more often than most parties on the case, and will go to the courtroom and defend the interests of the child or sibling group about four times a year. Unlike an attorney with multiple cases at a time, our CASA volunteers are focused on only one child or sibling group.

CASA volunteers keep children in protection services from falling through the cracks of the system.

It's really a big commitment. About half of our volunteers have full-time jobs, and they range in age from 21 to 83. They have families, careers, and travel obligations. We ask our volunteers to commit to the lifetime of a case, which on average is around seventeen months. Volunteers typically give about fifteen hours per month.

It’s a really empowering and very engaging volunteer job, and probably the most professional volunteer role out there. I’m always amazed at how many people are able to do their end, and how much time they’re able to give. Our volunteers are incredible people.

A volunteer once told me that “It doesn’t take up time, it creates a space. It makes your life bigger.” 

I interviewed someone who was aging out of the CASA system a few years ago. We try to help the children make healthy adult connections and go in a successful direction after leaving our program. This young woman told me that she couldn’t decide between going to school to be an attorney or an engineer.

I asked where she would be without her Court Appointed Special Advocate, and she said with zero hesitation, “I’d be in jail.” She really attributed the success and direction in her life to her CASA volunteer.


Our Partners for "dream": Seedling Mentor Program

We're so proud to partner for the first time with Seedling Mentor Program for our upcoming presentation of dream. We spoke with Molly McIntosh, their Recruitment Coordinator, about what Seedling is doing to help Austin youth.

I've been the Recruitment Coordinator at Seedling for three years, meaning I encourage people in the community to volunteer with us.

We're a school-based mentoring program for children who have a parent either currently incarcerated, in and out of jail, or recently released, deported, or detained. Through partnerships with local school districts, we find children who would benefit from the program. We’re always recruiting mentors, but now is the height of our recruitment season because the school year is about to begin.

We pair a mentor with a mentee, and then somewhere along the way, the magic happens.

There are three unique stressors for these children. One is the stigma and shame which follows them through every stage of their parent's incarceration. The second is the “Conspiracy of Silence,” meaning the children are either not told the truth of the parent’s location, or they’re told they can't reveal it or express any feelings about the situation. The third is that there's no systematic support for children who have an incarcerated parent. There’s no government response; no one is asking about their needs.

A mentor can alleviate stress in each of these categories. Our mentors are as young as 20 and as old as 80, and they do all kinds of activities with their mentees: arts and crafts, playing games, reading books, or just talking about their lives. The children share their hopes, dreams, and stories - most of the time, the mentor is just listening. We don’t expect our mentors to be tutors, counselors, or parents.

We only ask our mentors to be a friend, to be someone who will listen to the child in a non-judgmental way.

One of the recipients of our recent scholarship competition for eighth-graders has been with her mentor since she was in second grade. She had been absorbed into the foster care system at different points in her life, and her mentor was the one consistent person she had through all the changes, ups and downs, and challenges. It’s rare to see relationships last that long. Our kids move, or decide at a certain point they’ve “grown out” of the program and want to move on. This relationship has lasted, and continues to last. Below is an excerpt from her application essay:

“My mentor has watched me grow from a little ladybug who wanted to be Beyoncé into a teenager who wants to be a business owner, cosmetologist, and a graduate of my dream college, Louisiana State University . I would never have made it without the short, beautiful lady who entered my life all those years ago. My mentor encouraged me, strengthened me, believed in me, influenced me, and helped guide me through the path of life. Through the seven years we have been together, she influenced me in ways that made me better both inside and out.”

The thing we really stress is the invisibility of children who have an incarcerated parent. There’s such a lack of knowledge about the population, and because of that, there’s a lack of resources available to them. Seedling is the only program of its kind in the country. To get engaged with us, to support our program, is truly to support a just cause.


Our Partners for "dream": American Gateways

For ACG, one of the most rewarding aspects of being in a big, diverse community like Austin is the opportunity to build relationships with other local organizations. We first partnered with American Gateways last summer for i/we, and are thrilled to be collaborating with them again for our upcoming presentation of dream. We recently spoke with Lora Petty, their Development Coordinator, who told us about some of the work American Gateways is doing in central Texas.

I’ve been employed with American Gateways for about twelve years. I first did direct client services, and recently I transferred into a development role.

American Gateways has been providing services for over 30 years to the central Texas immigrant community. We started out providing asylum - we used to be called the “Political Asylum Project of Austin.” Now we provide a lot more immigration services, some of which have been brought to light in recent weeks. We assist parents who have been separated from their children at the border, offering legal representation to adults trying to reunite with their children, and work within family detention centers. We also assist Dreamers through DACA - one of our DACA clients is a participant in dream.

There are special applications available to immigrants who have been victims of crime and violence in the United States. The job I had previously was to help file immigration petitions related to being the survivor of a crime.

It’s great to be able to see lives change, to see some positive outcome. Good news is few and far between, but when it comes, we rejoice in it.

Many years ago, one of my clients was a victim of a domestic violence incident. She called the police, made a report, and was helpful during the investigation. Some time later, she found out about American Gateways, and we were able to help her file the application for a U Non-immigrant Status, or "U Visa".

The purpose of the U visa is to enhance community policing and to have a safer community for all. A U visa encourages immigrants who have been victims of crime to file reports, because immigrants are often too afraid to contact police out of fear of deportation. This individual was brave enough to make that report and help the prosecution with the case, and the individual who perpetrated the crime served jail time.

When she was eventually found eligible for the U visa, she had a lovely husband whom she was able to petition as well. Now, as a family, they own a home, contribute to their community, and have work permits. It’s really a lovely story about an unfortunate victim of a crime who was then able to receive the benefits of a U visa.  Unfortunately, it all comes down to being the survivor of a traumatic event, but it is so rewarding to see the clients gain work permits, gain permanent residency, and gain citizenship.


Austin Flamenco Festival

Flamenco dancer Genevieve Guinn is a world-renowed performer and teacher of flamenco, as well as the founder and artistic director of the Austin Flamenco Academy. On July 6-8, Genevieve will be hosting the  Austin Flamenco Festival where there will be music, theatre, dance, and even free community classes! We recently had a chance to sit down with Genevieve to talk about the festival, as well as her history with the flamenco art form.


What would you like people to know about the Austin Flamenco Festival?

This is the inaugural year of the Austin Flamenco Festival, and it’s something this city has never had before. There will be dance workshops, theater performances, a free community rhythm and dance class, and a big closing party. My plan is to expand every year and continue bringing the top names in flamenco dance and music to Austin. This first year focuses on building a base and introducing Austin to some of the incredible flamenco performers from around the world. We'll also be presenting Fosteros, a Flamenco Suite created by myself and the festival's Musical Director Gonzalo Grau.

Could you tell us a little bit about the artists that are coming in for the festival, as well as some of the educational opportunities for the community?

Along with local talent, the festival will feature an international cast of artists from Spain, Cuba, Venezuela, and France. Edwin Aparicio will be teaching both beginning and professional workshops at Austin Flamenco Academy and I will also host a free rhythm and rumba workshop on July 8th on the H-E-B Terrace at the Long Center. These workshops are unique to the festival, but flamenco classes for children and adults are offered year-round at Austin Flamenco Academy.

Could you talk about how you got involved with flamenco and what makes you so passionate about it?

I’ve always loved flamenco. As a kid, I started dancing flamenco at a studio on South Congress, where the future Soho House would be. My mom took me to my first class and I was instantly hooked. I remember asking my parents if I could go to Spain to study flamenco instead of going to high school. That didn’t fly. So I saved up until I graduated and immediately jumped on the plane to Madrid. After years of performing in Spain, I moved back to the U.S. and taught on the east coast. I moved back to Austin in 2011 and founded what is now Austin Flamenco Academy. All my classes are bilingual and I start my little ones at three-years-old. We work on technique, posture, music, singing, and memory. We even get special guest musicians to come play and sing for us!

www.AustinFlamencoFestival.com