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.