ACG and Me: The Last Ten Years (part 3 of 3)

It’s Matt Hinsley’s tenth year as Executive Director of Austin Classical Guitar.  But his relationship with ACG actually began in the fall of 1996, 17 years ago.  We thought we’d kick off this year’s Changing Lives Fall Fund Drive with a few of Matt’s reflections.

Has ACGS or classical guitar changed your life?  Email your story to us today.

You can help!  Donate to our Changing Lives fall fund drive today.

(Read part 2 of this series: The First Years)

The Last Ten Years 

2003 to 2013 has been like an incredible dream come true.  With growth has come many struggles, and there will be many more, but struggling is part of dreaming big – and trying to turn those dreams into realities.

Somewhere along the way I learned what I believe to be my most important lesson.  The lesson?  That the primary role of a great classical guitar nonprofit organization is not to play concerts, teach classes, bring guest artists, or compose new pieces.  The primary role of a great classical guitar nonprofit organization is to serve the community.

Community service through music may involve things like concerts and classes, but those are the vehicles through which the primary mission is accomplished.  And in order to serve a community well, one must be open not to discovering what one’s personal artistic aspirations are, but rather learning what needs there are in the community that might be met through artistic service.

In our September meeting – the first of this, my tenth, year as ED – my Board of Directors presented me with this poster.  It’s a fun chart that shows just over 10 years of revenue growth at an average annual rate of 29%!  

(That’s our board president, Kendal Gladish, on the left, and our board treasurer David Lastrapes on the right).


To be sure, I’m incredibly proud of this chart and what it represents, but not because of the money.  I’m proud of it because of the amount of service it represents.

Here are a few of the things over the past ten years that make me most proud of my team’s work here at Austin Classical Guitar:

There has been amazing growth, from 1 to 40 programs, in development and direct support of Austin school guitar programs.  Our programs serve thousands of diverse students in daily for-credit courses, including programs at Travis County Juvenile Justice System and Texas School for the Blind and Visually impaired.  The backbone of our education program, I’m incredibly proud of the development and 2008 launch of, the basis of all AISD class guitar programs and in growing use in more than 400 locations worldwide.  If you haven’t been to the site – I encourage you to visit today – there’s even a video tour!

We’ve had amazing guest artists including John Williams, Christopher Parkening, LA Guitar Quartet, Miró Quartet, Assad Duo, Eliot Fisk, Pepe Romero, Los Romeros, Austin Symphony and so many more – not to mention all the rising stars!  Some of our most exciting moments in presentation have been through extensive collaborations with amazing groups including: Alamo Drafthouse, AMOA, ACMC, ASO, ALO, KLRU, KUT, Cactus Cafe, Conspirare and Texas Performing Arts.

We’ve had six major commissions including: Film Score for “The Unknown” (Avers/Albert 2012), Austin Pictures (Williams 2011), Powerman (Reynolds 2010) and Caprichos for Eliot Fisk and The Miró Quartet (Balada 2006) – and those don’t include the incredible piece Joe Williams will write for us this year as our first Composer in Residence.

We hosted the largest-ever Guitar Foundation of America International Convention & Competition (2010)!  We’ve had two KLRU TV Specials: Austin Goes Classical (2010) & Austin Pictures (2011), and fourteen Austin Critics Table Award Nominations since 2003, with one Special Award for Excellence in Education (2011)!

And so as I begin my tenth year as Executive Director of Austin Classical Guitar, I am more excited than ever about art on the classical guitar and the potential we have to lift spirits and change lives with our magical, beautiful instrument.

I feel incredibly lucky to have our core staff team, our amazing artistic and educational collaborators, our volunteers who epitomize dedication, and a community of supporters who have unwaveringly shared in our vision of community service through music. All of this has helped us build the largest, most robust classical guitar organization ever in the United States.

From the determination and pride in the faces of Travis Marcum’s students at Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center performing beautifully in the campus courthouse, to the countless stories I hear at our events of our patrons’ vast and emotional connections with music on the guitar, to the hundreds of educators from around the world who reach out to us all the time, and are trying to build similar programs in their communities, I am awash in both gratitude for the opportunities we’ve had to brighten lives, and in hope for so many hands joining with us across Austin and across the world.