Top 10 Moments of 2017

 
Back by popular demand, it’s our list of the Top 10 ACG Moments of the Year! It was an epic struggle to narrow this one down. We argued, we pleaded, we cajoled, and for a while even thought about making it a Top 11 list – but when the dust finally settled, we chose the 10 unforgettable moments listed below.

Was there something we left out? Let us know your most memorable ACG moments of 2017!

 


#10 – “Coco”
We couldn’t resist. As soon as we heard that Disney/Pixar would be releasing “Coco,” an animated musical about a young boy and his magical guitar, we called our friends at the Alamo Drafthouse and made plans for a kid-friendly, first-time guitar experience as part of the movie’s opening weekend in late November. We secured permission from Disney to create a simple arrangement of one of the songs from the film, came up with a fun lesson plan designed to get a roomful of kids from zero to performance-ready in less than an hour, gathered up 50 guitars, and headed to the theater hoping it would all work! Somehow, it did! And everyone had a blast. BONUS: Lots of adorable kiddos with guitars!


 


#9 – “The Fifolet”
What will happen to little Jolie when she encounters Percival, the mysterious pirate ghost, standing guard over his precious treasure? Find out in The Fifolet!

In August, ACG’s Performance Engagement Artist, Joseph Palmer, teamed up with storytellers from Austin Public Library for our first-ever musical puppet show collaboration! So much drama – so much fun! They gave six free shows in six different neighborhood libraries around the city.

Joseph recently shared some thoughts about connecting with audiences in this blog post.


 


#8 – Guitars Under the Stars
Guitars Under the Stars, our annual gala for ACG Education, is always a highlight of the season, and the 2017 edition was no exception. So many memorable moments – the heartfelt testimonial by Judge Darlene Byrne about ACG’s work with youth in juvenile detention… words of gratitude from ACG Scholarship recipient Santiago Esquivel… the Paper Guitar… Joseph Palmer’s “Bold Fashioned” custom cocktail… the Akins High School guitar ensemble… and capping it all off, a performance by Grisha that led to long standing ovations (and swooning guitarists). But the part we loved the most? That we got to spend a magical night with so many friends and raised nearly $90,000 for ACG Education programs.


 


#7 – ACG Juvenile Justice Program featured in Teen Vogue
ACG’s work with youth in the juvenile justice system has attracted a lot of attention over the years – but we never expected to make it into Teen Vogue! Click here to read the article they published on their website in October.

We are so proud of the positive impact our guitar classes at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center have had on the young people we have the privilege of working with there. Check out this recent blog from Jeremy Osborne for a story about one of his students. BONUS: At the end of Jeremy’s post you can watch the PBS NewsHour segment that led to the Teen Vogue story, which features an interview with the NewsHour reporter. Meta!


 


#6 – Matt gets an award!

We always knew our boss was pretty special. Matt Hinsley’s leadership and vision have transformed Austin Classical Guitar from a humble guitar society into one of the most innovative and effective arts service organizations in the United States, so we were thrilled when the National Association of Social Workers named him as the 2017 “Public Citizen of the Year” for the state of Texas. Congratulations, Matt!


 

#5 – GuitarCurriculum.com: Changing lives from Austin to Kathmandu

The not-so-secret engine that powers ACG Education is GuitarCurriculum.com, our online instructional resource for classroom-based guitar that allows us to support hundreds of teachers and thousands of their students across the U.S. and beyond. We didn’t truly appreciate how “beyond” our reach extended until we heard from Daniel Linden, who uses our curriculum with his students in Kathmandu, Nepal! Behind the scenes, the big news happened this August with the long-awaited relaunch of GC.com on a new software platform. This upgrade has dramatically improved the usability of the site and will allow us to introduce some new features that we’ve been dreaming about for a while.


 

#4 – The Lullaby Project, and a Transformational Gift

The Lullaby Project brings us together with mothers in extremely challenging circumstances to help them write personal songs for their children. It’s incredibly challenging and rewarding work, and the songs and stories that have emerged since we began in 2014 have touched us deeply. The lullaby above, “I Will Protect You,” was created just a couple of weeks ago at Travis County Jail.

In October, an anonymous donor handed us a check for $75,000 to start a Lullaby Project fund within ACG’s Endowment. We were blown away by this incredible gift, which will help sustain this special program for years to come.


 

#3 – A trial run for our newest and coolest project

One of our most exciting projects at the moment is a web-based learning resource designed to empower lifelong learning on the classical guitar for people with visual impairments. Nothing like it exists, and with help from Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, we’re on track to launch in March, 2018! Back in August, though, we were just getting started and needed assurance it would all work. Seven members from the Austin chapter of the National Association for the Blind agreed to meet with us at TSBVI to try out the first few lessons. None of them played guitar, and as soon as we handed them instruments they had lots of questions! We told them they could only use the audio guides and braille scores we provided – because that’s how people using the resource would do it. Not only did everyone sail through the lessons, they had so much fun they asked to keep going!


 

#2 – “Hope After Harvey”

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast on Friday, August 25th. The devastation it left in its wake was unimaginable, and we were eager to do something – anything – to help those affected. Together with Austin Chamber Music Center, Conspirare, and the Miro Quartet, we formulated plans for a benefit concert to raise money for the relief effort. St. John’s United Methodist Church generously stepped in and offered to host, and with five days to prepare, we got busy!

As soon as “Hope After Harvey” was announced, the contributions began pouring in – and not just from local folks planning to attend the concert. There were contributions from all over Texas, as well as Florida, California – even Singapore and Switzerland!

And on the day of the concert, hundreds of you came. Every single seat in St. John’s large sanctuary was filled, with more people lining the aisles, and even more watching a video simulcast of the concert from two overflow rooms. We also collected two carloads of donated goods, and signed up volunteers for two trips to assist nearby affected communities.

In the end, the concert raised over $35,000, all of which went to Austin- and Houston-based disaster relief organizations. “Hope After Harvey” was a remarkable demonstration of what our community can accomplish when we come together to help our neighbors – and a powerful affirmation that music is a mysterious and gentle force that brings people together, and inspires and lifts us all.


 

#1 – i/we

i/we changed us.

For two evenings in late July, i/we invited us to gather, to contemplate, and to search for ourselves in the faces and stories of others. It was also one of the most unique, ambitious, and challenging projects we’ve ever attempted at ACG. Highlighted by Joe Williams’s stunning score and Travis Marcum’s interviews with refugees recently settled in central Texas, i/we drew upon the combined efforts and talents of the entire staff, a small army volunteers, and an international ensemble of world-class musicians. Everyone poured their hearts into it. i/we also drew upon the willingness of our community to open themselves up to an experience that asked a lot from them. The result was a truly extraordinary night of music, art, and stories we will never forget. The video above captures some of the magic.

 

 

From every one of us at Austin Classical Guitar, thank you for your incredible support and friendship. We are so grateful for the generous spirit of this community. You inspire us every day. We can’t wait to share more great moments together in 2018!