Donor Spotlight: John Henry McDonald

John Henry McDonald has led a remarkable life. After serving in Vietnam during the war, he spent time as a traveling musician, a ranch manager, and eventually founded Austin’s premiere asset management company. For over a decade, he has been a mentor to ACG’s Executive Director, Matt Hinsley, and currently serves as Vice-President of ACG’s Board of Directors. We asked John Henry to tell us why he believes music education can make a difference in the lives of children.


One of ACG’s primary goals is to positively impact the lives of young people through the guitar. This aspect of our mission seems to resonate with you quite a bit. Can you tell us why?

The story of ACG and the work it does with kids is the story of my life.

When I was a kid, and my home was shattered, and my family life was confusing, guitar was there. After Vietnam, when I was shattered, and everything was confusing, guitar was there. Music is what got me through those tough years. When I finally got back on my feet after the war, I grabbed my guitar, found a harmonica player, and pretty soon we were opening for Waylon Jennings, Johnny Hammond Jr., and Sonny Terry. Through guitar, I learned how to perform, how to communicate with an audience, and most importantly, how to tell a story.

When I came to Austin, I was determined to keep my life together. I was told by a mentor to put the guitar away, and that was seminal. At the time it was what needed to happen for me to transition to the next phase of my life. And that’s when I founded Austin Asset Management.

When I got involved with ACG, I was in another transition. This time, I was selling Austin Asset Management, the company I had built and been running for decades. Once I learned about ACG’s education programs, I was drawn to the organization. I know that for some kids, guitar won’t mean anything. But for some it will be extremely important, and for others – like myself – it will be everything. I remember being 13 years old, lying in bed with a guitar on my chest, and I would play it until I fell asleep. Guitar was central to my life and has been my companion ever since. I give to this organization because music changed my life, and I’ve seen it change the lives of the kids we work with.

“With ACG, I can see my money doing good things, and that makes me want to keep on giving. I trust that when I pass on, the money I have left to this organization will continue to make an impact.”

How did you decide to include the organization in your planned giving?

 An old friend once told me that the hardest part about making money isn’t earning it — the hardest part is giving it away. It’s not that I don’t want to give, I’m happy to. But it was hard for me to find an organization I trusted. With ACG, I know I’ve found an organization where I can see my money at work – see the funds actually getting to the beneficiaries, the people the organization says it’s helping. When I met Matt Hinsley, ACG’s Executive Director, I realized immediately that he had a vision for nonprofit arts organizations, and for changing lives through music. I trusted him because it was never about this organization. It was always about giving to the community, and helping young people. Giving to ACG is easy. With ACG, I can see my money doing good things, and that makes me want to keep giving. I trust that when I pass on, the money I have left to ACG will continue to make an impact.

Could you talk a little bit about your involvement with Austin Community College, and the connection it has to ACG?

I’m on the board of ACC as well, and I love the connection we have with them. Dr. Tom Echols is teaching guitar there, and we send kids to him from our high school programs at Travis High School, Akins High School, and others. I know they’re going to get a great education. I love blending my giving – kids in ACG’s high school programs earn college credit by studying guitar at ACC while they’re still in high school, and that keeps their education moving forward. It’s huge for kids who don’t come from a context that would be able to financially support a college education. For some, college may never have seemed like an option. Guitar can provide a pathway to a higher education, and ACG helps make that happen.

 

Donor Spotlight: April Long

April’s connection with Austin Classical Guitar began when she was hired as an administrative assistant in 2009. A few years later, she became the Director of Development and was an integral part of the fundraising initiatives that allowed ACG to expand its education programs. We caught up with April to see what she’s been up to since leaving ACG in 2015 to go back to school, and to ask her why she is still such an enthusiastic supporter of the organization.


Was there a particular moment or experience that connected you to ACG and its work?

My connection to ACG is the result of seeing the good it does in the community. This organization puts deep goodness out into the world, and I say that with no reservations. ACG uses guitar as a way to meet certain people who aren’t being met in other ways. For some people, classical guitar speaks to them when other things might not. I’ve heard so many stories from the education team about students using music as a way to express difficult emotions that they hadn’t found any other way to express.

ACG provides an opportunity for people to find beauty in their lives, or to define for themselves what they think is beautiful. Music can be a way to express or grapple with grief, trauma, and other difficult experiences. It’s not going to magically make everything better, but giving voice to that kind of emotion is very powerful. I love that beauty in music can be a complicated beauty. In the Lullaby Project, ACG works with young mothers who are facing extraordinary challenges to help them write a lullaby for their baby. In one sense there is a mother having a child, and there is all this joy around it, and yet these women might be incarcerated, or facing severe economic challenges. Music can express that joy and that complication at the same time.

“Beyond teaching guitar, ACG uses music to foster a community. ACG listens to people’s stories, and provides a safe space where people can share their feelings. It creates a space for everyone to feel comfortable being themselves, and that is something we should seek to do in all walks of life.”

Could you tell us about your history with ACG, and what have you been up to lately?

I actually worked at ACG for about 6 years, even though I didn’t have a background in music. I started off working in operations, and ended up as the Director of Development. It was an incredible place to work and an incredible service to be a part of.

I’m now a student at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and I hope to eventually serve as a church pastor or a chaplain, maybe in a hospital or a prison. I haven’t decided on the specifics, but that’s the general direction.

In some ways this new direction is a big shift from my work at ACG, but at the same time it’s not a shift at all. What I saw ACG doing, and the way the organization went about doing it, I remember thinking that I want to take those principles with me for the rest of my life. I first thought about becoming a pastor when I was in middle school, and then I put it away for a while. In a way, working at ACG reignited that passion for me. It’s not a religious organization, but there is a spirit in the work that is also present in my new path. ACG uses music to bring people together, and create meaningful connections, and that is what the best churches and the best organizations of any kind do, and so the transition has felt very natural for me.

Why did you decide to name ACG as a beneficiary in your will?

Beyond teaching guitar, ACG uses music to foster a community. ACG listens to people’s stories, and provides a safe space where people can share their feelings. It creates a space for everyone to feel comfortable being themselves, and that is something we should seek to do in all walks of life. Naming ACG as a beneficiary was all about how much I love what happens here. I still contribute to ACG every year, but as a student, it’s not as much as I would like. I believe in what this organization does and is, so this is a way I can still say “yes” to ACG.

Donor Spotlight: Carl Caricari

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donor Spotlight: Matt Oliver

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beijing Guitar Duo Program


Beauty. Virtuosity. Clarity.

Two years ago, the Beijing Guitar Duo made their Austin debut and left us all speechless. When these two young artists return on April 29th, we’ll all be reminded why they are one of the world’s most acclaimed guitar duos.

On their program, we’ll hear works by composers we have come to know and love, like Scarlatti, Isaac Albéniz, and Enrique Granados. We’ll also hear something completely new: the world premiere of a piece by the Chinese composer Chen Yi, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2006. She wrote this piece specifically for the Beijing Guitar Duo and on April 29th, Austin will be the first audience to hear it performed live!

Please join us for ACG’s Season Finale Concert. Come hear beautiful music played by two brilliant young artists and be a part of history as a new work is added to the guitar’s repertoire.

Join us for ACG’s Season Finale Concert!

 


Beijing Guitar Duo Concert Program 4/29/2017, Austin, Texas

Sonata K.173, L.447Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), arr. Alexandre Lagoya

Valses PoéticosEnríque Granados (1867-1916)

Meng Su & Yameng Wang, guitars

 

Five BagatellesWilliam Walton (1902-1983)
Allegro
Lento
Alla cubana
Sempre espressivo
Con Slancio

Meng Su, solo guitar

 

— INTERMISSION —

 

Sonata “Omaggio a Boccherini” Op. 77Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968)
Allegro con spirito
Andantino, quasi canzone
Tempo di Minuetto Vivo energico

Meng Su, solo guitar

 

Nian Hua (Chinese New Year’s Paintings)*Chen Yi (b.1953)

Bajo la PalmeraIsaac Albéniz (1860-1909), arr. Grubler-Maklar Duo
Castilla

Meng Su & Yameng Wang, guitars

 

*World-Premiere, written for the Beijing Guitar Duo

Top 10 Moments of 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, we find ourselves thinking back to some of the unforgettable experiences we’ve had over these past 12 months at Austin Classical Guitar. There were so many, but ’tis the season for Top 10 lists – so we took a shot at narrowing them down to our favorites. We hope you enjoy reminiscing with us.

Have we left anything out? Let us know your most memorable ACG moments of 2016!

#10 – Guitars Under The Stars Gala

We loved this year’s gala for a bunch of reasons: Our staff and volunteers were shining, the setting was beautiful, our student speakers and performers were inspiring, and we got to share this magical evening with our amazing and supportive community. It was a night that showed ACG at our very best.


#9 – State Department Delegation Visits ACG


We were surprised and thrilled in September when the US State Department asked us to meet and share our work with a delegation from Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Bahrain. It was our first experience with simul-translation! The visitors were artists and civil servants interested in our approach to community service and cultural exchange through the arts. They were especially interested in GuitarCurriculum.com, our online curriculum that forms the basis for all our educational work. So far, we’ve had follow up conversations about assisting with a new guitar program in Lebanon – we’ll see where it all leads!


#8 – ACG Youth Orchestra performs Fugata y Danza

We love this performance, not only because ACGYO is in peak form and director Joseph V. Williams II brings so much refinement and elegance to their work; we also love the music they’re playing! Fugata y Danza by Carlos Rios was the winning entry in our 2016 Composition Competition. You may not have known this, but for more than 10 years ACG has encouraged Texas-based composers to write music for guitar ensembles through this statewide contest. What a great piece Carlos Rios gave us this time around.


#7 – Narratives Summer Series

Thomas Echols blew our minds this summer as our first-ever Guest Artistic Director, bringing to life his unique vision for a literature-inspired series of three concerts called Narratives. It was a magical ride, and one of the most daring and deep excursions we’ve ever taken at ACG. The centerpiece of the first concert was the premiere of “Persona,” a song-cycle written by our Composer in Residence Joseph V. Williams II. Here’s the fifth movement.


#6 – Teacher Training Sessions in St. Louis & Austin

We had two marvelous teacher training sessions this summer. The first was in St. Louis where our affiliates have established over a dozen high quality classroom guitar programs, including the one we visited at Adams Elementary School (pictured above). The second was here in Austin, where we were joined by music teachers from all over the US and beyond. Here’s a video featuring them in a finale performance.


#5 – Video project about Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

We’re so grateful to Woody Harrison and his team at UPG Video for creating this remarkable piece about the guitar program at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We have big dreams for this program, and some are already coming true!


#4 – Pepe Romero plays Vivaldi with 80 Students

During his October visit, Maestro Pepe Romero graciously agreed to rehearse and perform Vivaldi’s beloved Concerto in D Major with 80 kids from six local middle and high schools. The kids were so excited, so prepared, and had an experience they – and we – will never forget.


#3 – Sing Me a Lullaby, An ACG Documentary by KLRU’s Arts in Context

Watch now: Arts in Context | Sing Me A Lullaby | KLRU-TV, Austin PBS Video

We are so grateful to director Mario Troncoso and his whole award-winning team at KLRU for shining their bright lights on ACG and creating this lovely 27-minute documentary about our education and social services. The cameras follow us to St. Louis and New York City, with The Lullaby Project as the narrative through-line.


#2 – Trimonisha’s Lullaby

We’re incredibly thankful to Dr. Ted Held of People’s Community Clinic for helping us bring the Lullaby Project to PCC and Travis County Jail this year. This beautiful lullaby was written over the summer by Joey Delahoussaye and Trimonisha, and is one of the most touching songs we’ve ever heard.


#1 – The Paper Guitar

Now in its sixth year, our guitar program at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Detention Center provides the only for-credit fine arts course available to the young people incarcerated there. These daily classes, taught by Jeremy Osborne from our education team, have had a profound impact on the lives of the participants – so much so that Travis County has just asked us for a major expansion of the program. But that’s another story.

Last year, we met a young man who, like many of his fellow residents, was struggling to keep up with his academic work and his rehabilitation plan. Then he joined the guitar class and something clicked. He had found his passion.

Our schedule at Gardner Betts slows over the summer. When daily classes resumed this fall, this young student presented Jeremy with a full size replica of a classical guitar – made entirely out of rolled strips of copy paper and tape, with yarn for strings. The level of care and craftsmanship he had invested in this work of art was astonishing (click on the image to enlarge).

For us, the paper guitar is a remarkable example of how perseverance, passion, and the power of art and mentorship can bring light to dark places. It represents everything our mission at Austin Classical Guitar is about, and motivates us to work harder than ever in the coming year to inspire our community with musical experiences of deep personal significance.

Thank you so much for supporting us in this effort. We couldn’t do it without you.

Happy New Year!

 

A Tribute from Matt

Lona Burwell first approached us at Austin Classical Guitar 17 years ago. My very first impressions of Lona were of her strength, clarity, and persistence: Lona had a big idea, and she was keen for us to hear it!

Her big idea? Adults making music together. She explained – persistently – that while kids have lots of opportunities to play music together, music stops being a participatory experience for most adults.

Lona did not think this was right, and wanted to change it.

So in 1999, led by Lona, we launched our Community Guitar Ensembles program. Lona directed the program as a volunteer until 2005. And here we are, 17 years later, with a thriving adult ensemble program that still includes some of the original members!

Lona Burwell passed away at her home in Bastrop this past summer. As I sat with her friends and family at her funeral I found myself thinking back to memories of our years together.

And I realized something that surprised me.

Lona changed me, and she changed Austin Classical Guitar. Over the years, ACG’s identity has emerged as an agent of community service through music. Education, Outreach, Community Ensembles, Lullabies: all of these services are driven by the belief our community has in the power of music to make life richer and more fulfilling – for everyone.

Sitting at her memorial service this past summer, I realized that Lona, in her tireless way, helped shape and encourage that belief in me. The reason persistence was one of the qualities that struck me most about Lona was that she needed it! She needed it to get through to me, and others I’m sure, that guitar was a more powerful agent for community service than we had realized.

Thank you, Lona. Thank you for helping to show us a better way. This coming Sunday at 5pm at St. Luke’s on the Lake (5600 RR 620 N; map link) our Community Guitar Ensembles will perform their fall recital. We are dedicating the performance to Lona Burwell. I hope you will join us to celebrate her legacy and her passion for community-based music-making.

lona_burwell_rick_perry

Holiday Magic

Some photos from of our “Holiday Magic” Salon Concert at the lovely and festive home of Edwina Carrington, which featured our Performance Engagement Artist Joseph Palmer, along with homemade egg nog, great friends, and lots of good cheer.


The team at Gusto Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar provided an array of delectable – and beautifully arranged – culinary delights.
 


The talented Garet Gomez from Akins High School takes a bow after opening the concert.
 


Joseph Palmer deepened the audience’s listening experience by introducing key elements of the pieces he was about to play.
 


To close the concert, Matt Hinsley joined Joseph to lead guests in singing a couple of holiday classics.
 


At the end of the night, ACG’s crack team of staff and volunteers swooped in to restore Edwina’s home to its pre-concert condition. Careful…that rug looks heavy!

A Thanksgiving Message from Matt Hinsley

Something magical happens when we come together to celebrate beauty.

I felt it last night at our Youth Orchestra concert. I felt it on Friday at our “Staff Cactus” show at the Cactus Cafe, where the room was crackling with the warmth of appreciation and friendship in spite of the chilly air outside.

On one unforgettable evening last month, 80 students from Austin came together to play Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Major with Pepe Romero.

A video from that special event is online here.

Watching the concentration and anticipation in each performer’s face, and hearing the extraordinary music they are creating, I am transported. And I feel so incredibly grateful.

On behalf of all of us at Austin Classical Guitar, I would like to say how grateful we are to you for sharing these special moments of togetherness with us throughout the year.

Your belief in music, your belief in us, your belief in the beauty of artistic expression, make it all possible.

Happy Thanksgiving,

mattsignaturefirst

 

 

Matt Hinsley

Central Concert Series

austin-guitar-ensembleHoliday Classical Guitar

Austin Classical Guitar and Austin Public Library invite you to attend the Central Concerts Series bringing musicians and the community together for free live performances at the Faulk Central Library 800 Guadalupe St.

Sunday, December 4, 2016
2:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Enjoy the holiday classical guitars of the Austin Classical Guitar Ensemble featuring adult players of all levels and led by ACG Director of Community Ensembles, Eric Pearson.

Sunday, December 11, 2016
2:00 PM
to 3:00 PM

Enjoy a holiday classical guitar performance by Steve Kostelnik.

Praised by Soundboard magazine for his “lyrical playing” and “remarkable counterpoint,” Steve Kostelnik tours extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has won top honors at several important competitions.

His highly acclaimed debut recording Steve Kostelnik: Guitar Recital was released on the Naxos label in 1999. Dr. Kostelnik maintains a thriving private studio in central Austin.

Sunday, December 18, 2016
2:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Enjoy the holiday classical guitar and voice duo of Kevin and Rachel McCormick.

“There are no production gimmicks or studio tricks here, just sensitive playing and beautiful singing that capture the warmth, mystery, hope, and joy of Advent and Christmas. Kevin and his daughter, Rachel, bring a quiet confidence and remarkable sense of intimacy that make this a truly enchanting collection of hymns and carols.” – Carl E. Olson, editor, Catholic World Report