At ACG, we dream of a world where music is here for everyone, connecting us, inspiring us, and bringing joy and meaning wherever it goes. We share with deep gratitude that it is through the generosity of our community that we have been able to obtain this dream in many ways. Learn more about supporting ACG here


Owning your first guitar is an incredibly special moment for an aspiring musician. 

Over the years we have had the opportunity to share this moment with many young musicians in our programs through the generosity of our community. 

This year, we received a very special donation from luthier and guitarist, Michael Fontenot. 

Michael donated one of his very own creations in support of ACG Education and we’re giving it away this Friday at our Student Spotlight concert in The Rosette!

We had the pleasure of connecting with Michael recently about his history and journey into becoming a luthier. 

In the world of music, the journey of an artist is often marked by pivotal moments of inspiration and dedication. For Michael Fontenot, his love affair with music began at a young age, sparked by the timeless melodies of the Beatles and nurtured through years of exploration and dedication to the guitar. Michael shares, 

“I believe I was 10 or 11 years old when I first heard the Beatles song I want to hold your hand. I remember being drawn, not only to the song, but I was also compelled to learn how to play it, and even to write music like that. It was a very consuming experience for me and launched my love for music. Some of the most formative influences for me in my middle school in high school years were James Taylor and Paul Simon. It is from listening to their music and emulating their style of playing that I developed a good portion of my early technique. 

This period of my life was also a crash course in “ear training” and that I didn’t work from sheet music, but rather figured pieces out by listening to them over and over again. I played in a band with my older brother and would figure out chord patterns and parts for the other members of the band.”

It wasn’t until late into his undergraduate studies that he discovered his interest in classical guitar! During Michael’s senior year at the University of Texas, a friend introduced him to the classical style.

“I was amazed and intrigued with the control over different lines of music. I sold my steel string guitar and bought a Ramirez student model guitar, went into the Peace Corps with the Carcassi method, book, and the studies by Fernando Sor, and began practicing several hours a day in West Africa,” Micheal shares. 

After returning to the U.S a year later, Michael began studying classical guitar at the University of North Texas with Tom Johnson. Though he was pursuing a Masters degree ultimately, he needed undergraduate hours in Music in order to do so. During his two years at UNT, he studied in Aspen with Oscar Ghiglia, Eliot Fisk, and Bob Guthrie over the summers. Michael then went on to study with Eliot at Yale University for his Masters.

At the age of 28, Michael went on to Medical school!

“Always interested in composition, I wrote humorous songs about the materials we were studying in medical school (50 ways to lose your liver, the Bipolar Blues.) Over the following 40 years, I continually played music in one form or another, composing songs and recording them,” says Michael. 

Towards the end of 2020, as retirement loomed on the horizon, Michael found himself seeking a new project to fuel his creative spirit. 

In all honesty, making guitars was not something that anyone would’ve predicted for me five years ago. So to some extent, the whole project was fabricated out of whole cloth. I have obviously always loved the sound of the guitar and truthfully have marveled at its construction and beauty since I can remember. But I had no woodworking skills, and no woodworking tools. I don’t remember the moment that the idea popped in my head but as soon as I thought of building guitars, I was completely drawn in.”

Michael embarked on a journey of self-discovery, turning to online resources and mentors like luthier Pablo Requeña for guidance. 

“I started watching videos on YouTube and ran across a Luthier in Malaga, Spain named Pablo Requeña who is a phenomenal teacher and builds traditional Spanish style guitars. I purchased a course and followed his instructions, and after a year built my first guitar. It took me one year to build that first guitar, largely because I was still working, and I had to build all of the jigs necessary to make a guitar. I built 12 guitars over the next two years and I’m currently working on my 15th. This year I am exploring more modern styles of guitar making including lattice, bracing, and double top construction,” Michael shares. 

As he delves deeper into the intricacies of guitar construction, Michael finds himself captivated by the process of transforming raw materials into instruments that sing with life. 

“For me, what inspires me about building is the process of starting off with several flat pieces of wood and ending up with something that makes such a beautiful sound, and is transformed into a piece of art by talented players. Especially this year, as I dive more deeply into the mechanisms of sound production of the instrument, I am amazed at how small changes in the design of the guitar can result in different sonic pallets.”

We are so grateful for Michael’s generous donation of one of his beautifully crafted instruments. He goes on to share more about this specific guitar, 

“The guitar I donated to Austin Classical Guitar is my second guitar. It is built with Engelmann Spruce on the top, East Indian Rosewood, on the back and sides, and Spanish cedar for the neck. The Rosette is a classical Spanish style Rosette, which I purchased, and inlaid. I must give credit to Pablo Requena for these early guitars. They are all made with traditional fan bracing in the Hauser style. Pablo had made some modifications to the braces, and I followed his recipe. The guitars are extraordinarily light, especially compared to some modern guitars.” 

Michael goes on to share more about this donation, 

“I was motivated to donate the guitar because of the work that ACG is doing in the community. As I have gone to guitar concerts over the past couple of years and heard the level of performance of students coming out of ACG Education programs, I have been very inspired to somehow be a part of that. 

There is no reason for guitars of this quality to be sitting around not being played. And while it is always wonderful to sell guitars, my personal mission is not to sell guitars, but to make guitars. I suspect that over the next year I will continue to have surplus and hope to continue to give young players in Austin a guitar that is worthy of their dedication.”

We are incredibly grateful to Michael for his generosity and are so excited to aid in the rehoming of this gorgeous instrument this Friday. 

Learn more about Michael Fontenot and Fontenot guitars here.