It’s Amplify Austin week. Our Amplify campaign is supporting pandemic innovations in ACG Education, and three very special projects designed to engage young people during this challenging time. In honor of ACG Education, we’re sharing a few personal insights this week. We hope you enjoy them! You can support our Amplify Austin campaign online here.


The past year has brought us many challenges, new opportunities for growth, a broader community, and new inspirations. The world of music education had to drastically shift methods and focus to adapt to the life this past year brought us. Luckily, we have an incredible community of music educators who were able to take on this challenge and create beautiful experiences, connections, and opportunities with their students. This week we spoke with Teaching Artist Tony Mariano about his experience this past year. 

Tony works directly with students in our local guitar programs and works with teachers to build creative and engaging projects for their classes. Tony shared, 

“The pandemic has changed almost every facet of my teaching, from how I engage and communicate with my students to the things that we do day to day in classes and lessons. My focus has shifted from emphasizing things like technique and musicianship to fostering creativity and engagement in my students. The pandemic has drawn everyone apart from each other, and I want my lessons and classes to be a place where the students and teachers can come together and create beautiful and meaningful relationships.”

Tony continued to share the underlying beauty brought by remote learning,

“Nothing is going to be as effective as in-person learning. But, what remote learning has given me is the opportunity to be more flexible in my approach to teaching. Remote learning forces me to find new and creative ways to keep students engaged by doing things that inspire them to contribute in beautiful ways. And as a result, I find that I am learning a lot more about my student’s interests and what inspires them. Personally, I’m finding a lot of joy in catering my teaching towards ways that keep the students pumped up to play music. I’ve learned so much more about who my students are as people during this process, and it has made for some fun and meaningful lessons throughout the year.”

In the midst of all the chaos of the past year there have been incredible things too from projects like Forward to Solace to Everything Changes at Once. We are grateful to witness the power of community through music. Tony is involved in something extra special happening this semester at one of our local programs: Northeast High School. 

“We set out to guide the students in Dallas Shreve’s guitar and orchestra classes to compose and record their own music inspired by the idea of Hope and Renewal as we enter into the final stages of the pandemic,”  Tony shared. 

“Daniel Fears, an incredibly special songwriter here in Austin, has been working directly with the classes to walk them through his process of songwriting in order to inspire the students to do the same. The kids have written some beautiful and powerful music that they are currently recording remotely at home with their cell phones.”

Tony also shared with us that part of the intention of this project is to help students not only dig into their own creative side but to connect and collaborate with their peers.

“Our goal is to coordinate with English, Choir, and AV teachers at Northeast to identify other students at NE High to contribute video, singing, and poetry to create a beautiful digital project that will live on in these student’s memories forever. This project is entirely student led and student driven, and I am inspired to see the magic that they are creating each and every day!”

We are so grateful for our teachers and our students for inspiring us each and every day. Beauty, connection, creativity, and community is endless. 

If you would like to support ACG Education please visit Amplify Austin. 

If you would like to dive into another personal insight, please meet Justice Phillips.