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!

Mak Grgić

Mak Grgić is a dynamic and versatile artist. On July 7th at Bates Recital Hall, he'll be pairing his unique approach to guitar in a duo performance with violinist Martin Chalifour, concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. We are thrilled to present this concert with Austin Chamber Music Center as part of their Summer Festival. This will be Mak's third Austin performance in five years, and we spoke with him recently about his musical background, and why he's excited for his return to Austin.

Q: What was your first experience with music?

A: I didn’t want to play the guitar; that was my father’s choice. Piano was too big, violin too squeaky. I took lessons, learned about theory, and got excited about guitar in a very normal, ambitious-child way: I just wanted to be good. My music studies took me from Slovenia to Zagreb, then to Vienna and finally Los Angeles, where the enjoyment of playing music really kicked in. Here I saw many wonderful musicians and new styles of music, which felt almost liberating to me. In Europe, you have to play a certain way, fit in a mold, and I find that very unpleasant. I prefer the more open space of L.A.

Q: You perform a wide variety of music. What do you consider your signature style?

A: I’m most comfortable with classical music because I grew up with it, but dabbling in other styles informs my approach to classical. I have more a sense of enjoyment than I did before. It’s fun to play styles like flamenco and rock, but I’m without a doubt a classical musician.

Q: Why do you view art as important to a community?

A: Art is the language all can understand, it’s a way of communicating that doesn’t ever perish. You don’t necessarily have to study art to have an aesthetic appreciation or emotional connection to it. It’s particularly important because it gives kids an extracurricular activity and keeps them off the streets, gives them a distraction. Art is an escape from the technology that’s overwhelming us and making us socially isolated. There are so many benefits.

Q: What do you love about Austin?

I’ve played here twice before, and I’ve seen how culture is alive in a very special way, how Austin is an innovative oasis of the arts.  It’s a privilege to come play for an audience that’s so appreciative.

An Tran: Playing from the heart

An Tran, a rising virtuoso from Vietnam, will perform for ACG's final Library Series concert this Sunday, May 27th at 2pm. We had the chance to sit down and ask him some questions about the role of music in his home life, his move to the U.S., and his desire to bridge two worlds through music.

 How did music play a part of  your life growing up?

My parents were music lovers. I was lucky to be raised in an environment where music was always there - my dad used to put the radio next to my mom when she was pregnant with me, so it was there from the beginning. My parents let me try out all different instruments, but when I tried guitar, it made a lot of sense. It was challenging, but also motivating to me as a kid.

When did you move to the U.S. from Vietnam?

I left Hanoi when I was 15 to study as a foreign exchange student in Nebraska. A while after moving there, I quit guitar - I got tired of playing the same things, and wanted a change. I’d been in the Vietnam National Academy of Music for a number of years, but I lost motivation when I moved to the States. Then, I visited a friend studying guitar with Anne Waller in Chicago, and when I had the chance to play for her, she told me I should continue. I realized I enjoyed performing, and that people liked hearing me play. I'm now a doctoral candidate studying with Anne at Northwestern University.

"The guitar is universal, which makes it easy to communicate and connect with people. I believe it can function as a bridge between Vietnamese music and Western classical music."

How does music of your homeland play a part in your performances?

I like to incorporate pieces close to my heart in all concerts, so about half of the music I perform is Vietnamese. I try to bring traditional Vietnamese music to as many audiences as possible, which I think gives them a small part of who I am. The final piece I’ll play next Sunday is an arrangement of a traditional lullaby my mom used to sing to me.

How do you view the guitar as a way to portray traditional Vietnamese music?

The guitar is universal, which makes it easy to communicate and connect with people. I believe it can function as a bridge between Vietnamese music and Western classical music, and I view myself as that bridge. The guitar is part of my personality, my identity.

Greg Davis, National Geographic

©Amber Vickery Photography

“The purpose of my work is to serve as a reminder to us that we are all part of something greater than ourselves. At a faster rate than ever before, our world is shrinking and traditional cultures are at risk. It is imperative that we be aware of and respect the diversity of our planet as well as our unprecedented need to preserve it.” - Greg Davis

Greg Davis is a National Geographic Creative Photographer and an Ambassador for the Austin non-profit Well Aware, which provides innovative and sustainable solutions to the problems of water scarcity and contamination in Africa. His collectible works hang in private and institutional collections worldwide. We are thrilled to have Greg as our very first International Series visual art collaborator! He'll be on hand at the AISD Performing Arts Center during this Saturday night's concert with Ioana Gandrabur, exhibiting some of his stunning photographs from all over the world. Join us for an international celebration of music, art, and human connection.

Here is a preview of Greg's incredible work:

The Blanket Weaver, Vietnam

© Greg Davis Photography

Nine months into a transcontinental soul-searching expedition, a twist of fate put Greg on a dirt road in northern Vietnam—one that converged with that of Black Hmong blanket weaver. Without a word of common language between them, Greg gestured towards her hands. She held them out: deep blue and green, worn from years of labor, an intricate map of the lines of fate. With only a $400 point-and-shoot, Davis captured something larger than himself. Though he did not know it yet, in this fleeting moment, his life was woven with that of the blanket weaver.

Circle of Gratitude Too, Kenya

© Greg Davis Photography

They had walked hours, risking exposure to heat, animal and even man. A perilous journey, each day, every day. A journey of need. A journey of water. Education wasn’t the priority anymore, the intent was to fetch a basic human need...clean drinking water. Young girls are normally tasked with this job. School becomes secondary. In this arid region of Northern Kenya, at a young age, this becomes an obvious reality to life here. But but even then, its not always guaranteed that the water gathered isn’t tainted and may possibly cause more harm than good. This is where Well Aware delivers. Well Aware, an Austin based non-profit, provides innovative and sustainable solutions to the problems of water scarcity and contamination in Africa. This image was captured in the village of Daaba, where I worked with the children in a creative way to represent the well that was built there in 2011. 20% of the profits from the sale of Well Aware fine art photographs go back to help serve those in need.

Mohan's Offering, India

© Greg Davis Photography

He sat quietly on the banks of the Sangam, the confluence of the three holiest rivers in India, his gentle spirit shined. Mohan was quick to smile and the type of man that when you first met him, you’d swear that you had met before. I first met Mohan in 2013 at Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest pilgrimage in Allahabad, India. I sat with him one day and at one point asked where he lived. He smiled graciously and replied, “The sky is my roof and the land is my room.” Mohan spent his time near the birthplace of Lord Krishna, four hours upriver but had no home. He came from a wealthy family but chose the life of a sadhu, an ascetic who is solely dedicated to the contemplation of God. It was his eyes that drew you initially, but it was Mohan’s heart that ultimately captured you. Mohan welcomes others into his realm and leaves them all the better for it, for he believes, as he stated many times in our encounters, that “We are all one.” In July 2017, we embarked on a quest to find Mohan, somewhere between the heavens and the earth, not just for the man, but for the wisdom that resides within. To learn more, visit