UpClose Online: Andrea González Caballero

Saturday, November 14th, we will experience the beauty and transcendence of one of the most remarkable young talents in the guitar world, Andrea González Caballero. Andrea will take us into the depths of spanish classical guitar in the intimate setting of our UpClose Online series. RSVP Online Here. Free, donations accepted. 


We had the pleasure of speaking recently with Andrea, and getting to know more about her as an artist. She talked about her upbringing as a young musician:

“I was 7 years old when I began playing the guitar, I found it very challenging but at the same time enjoyable. I started doing competitions after my first year learning how to play; I think being a determined child helped me develop the idea of becoming a professional musician. I started travelling to Germany to have private lessons with Prof. Joaquín Clerch at the age of 12 and then ended up doing my Bachelors, Masters and Konzertexam Diploma at the Robert Schumann Musikhochschule in Düsseldorf. All these experiences, good and bad, helped me develop as an artist and as a person. I have lived in four different countries and that in itself has taught me a lot. Two years ago, I moved to Baltimore to study with Prof. Manuel Barrueco.” 

Music and art contain a deep and powerful meaning for everyone, but the connection differs from person to person. Andrea shared a few words about what music means to her: 

“Music is something that is always by your side when you need it. I focus most of my energy on being a better musician, knowing more about music, or trying to be a finer guitarist. But, to be able to achieve it, one has to see the music as something so powerful that it will always be above us. The best thing we can do is to enjoy it and respect it.”

Andrea also wished to share her intentions in the performance with her audience: 

“First of all, I hope they will enjoy the program that I have prepared and I hope they can feel the music and enjoy it as much as I do. All I try is to do is be honest with my performance and make the music stand, because that is the most important thing a performer can do.”

Veterans Day

ACG Music & Healing, including Songwriting with Veterans, utilizes a trauma-informed, strength-based approach to facilitate a medium for meaningful expression and personal narrative through music making for Austin community members facing significant challenge or trauma. Directed by Dr. Travis Marcum, and in collaboration with organizations, hospitals, clinics, shelters, and residential facilities we provide individualized music experiences for Central Texans navigating such challenges as poverty, homelessness, physical and mental health diagnoses, and trauma from past experiences.


In honor of Veterans Day we would like to share two special songs created with two inspiring veterans through ACG Music & Healing, in partnership with The Georgetown Arts and Culture Program, Resilient Me Military Expressive Arts Programs, and country music artist Wynn Williams.

Through this special songwriting program, veterans John Hill and Bobby Withrow spent the last two months working alongside Travis Marcum (ACG Director of Education and Music & Healing) and Wynn Williams to create personal songs to honor the military community and acknowledge their own experiences in service. The videos we’re sharing today are excerpts from their last zoom songwriting sessions with Wynn and Travis where John and Bobby heard the complete songs for the very first time.

The first song is called A Prayer for the Living, and was written by John Hill with Travis Marcum and Wynn Williams. John was an Army medic in Afghanistan, and wanted to write a song for fellow service members struggling with the pain they hold onto after the experience of war.

The second song is called When Blue Stars Turn Gold, written by Bobby Withrow with Wynn Williams and Travis Marcum. Bobby served in the Navy and now runs the Texas Fallen Project where he supports families all over the state who have lost loved ones in battle. A Gold Star Family is one that has lost a member in service. Bobby wanted to write a song that helps people understand the need to honor our fallen soldiers and to support their loved ones who are fighting their own battle every day.

You can learn more about Bobby’s Texas Fallen Project on the nonprofit organization's Facebook Page. Contributions can be sent to: Texas Fallen Project, Inc, 1150 S. Bell Blvd, Cedar Park Texas 78613.



Songwriting with Veterans: Field of Honor

ACG Music & Healing, including Songwriting with Veterans, utilizes a trauma-informed, strength-based approach to facilitate a medium for meaningful expression and personal narrative through music making for Austin community members facing significant challenge or trauma. Directed by Dr. Travis Marcum, and in collaboration with organizations, hospitals, clinics, shelters, and residential facilities we provide individualized music experiences for Central Texans navigating such challenges as poverty, homelessness, physical and mental health diagnoses, and trauma from past experiences.


We are honored to partner with The Georgetown Arts and Culture Program, Resilient Me Community Based Resiliency Programs, and country music artist Wynn Williams to provide a very special musical component to the Rotary Club of Georgetown’s 2020 Field of Honor celebration on Saturday, November 7 between 2 and 4:30pm CST.

The event will be streamed live on FaceBook, and you can attend online here

Music and Healing Director Dr. Travis Marcum, and ACG Music & Healing Artist John Churchill have worked with three extraordinary veterans, William Childress, Bobby Withrow, and John Hill. The afternoon’s program, beginning at 3pm, will include performances by country music artist Wynn Williams, John Churchill on piano, vocalist Hilary Still, and Williamson County Symphony Orchestra violinist Anne Hamman. 

Travis Marcum will also share insights into ACG’s songwriting program, which is designed to help veterans process trauma from their service in the military.

Here’s a special video from John Churchill about his experience with the project, and one of the veterans he’s been able to work with.


Looking Up: Austin Guitar Quartet

This concert occurred on November 19th. Austin Now events are conceived to be unique, moments of creation and togetherness

We are thrilled to present Looking Up in partnership with The Contemporary.

Moving among the sculptures on view at The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria’s fourteen wooded acres, the Austin Guitar Quartet will perform solos, duos, and quartets bringing the works of art to life. Part live stream, part curated tour, this experience will transport us.


Looking Up is an opportunity to notice and connect with beauty. We often ask ourselves, “What good can music and art do in the world today?” In exploring this question with our partners at The Contemporary Austin we considered the times we’re in, our “today.” Our “today” can seem filled with fear and anxiety as humanity wrestles with some of its greatest challenges. But still, if we can look up, look up from our individual paths, look up from our screens, look up from our fears, there is beauty.

“We’re excited to make beautiful music during these challenging times.”

The Austin Guitar Quartet’s Chad Ibison and Janet Grohovac shared.

“We’re looking forward, looking up and having a feeling of synergistic connection of all of these creative forces coming together to share this music with the world. These thought provoking sculptures implore us to explore conversations, and in turn, have inspired a very exciting program of repertoire to reflect on the outside beauty at the grounds of Laguna Gloria.”

At the heart of Looking Up is also the beauty of collaboration. It’s collaboration of four musicians, It’s collaboration between Austin Classical Guitar and The Contemporary Austin, it brings together music and sculpture, and it brings together artists and audiences. 

The AGQ’s Tom Clippinger commented,

“Playing alongside these beautiful sculptures will be an incredibly unique and engaging experience, and one that will likely bring out another dimension of the music we haven’t experienced yet ourselves.”

The quartet’s Stephen Krishnan added,

“Combining the quartet’s sound with visuals from beautiful Laguna Gloria is such an exciting concept, and the possibilities of sound and image pairings are endless. We had a lot of fun thinking about which pieces from our solo, duo, and quartet repertory would bring our favorite sculptures to life.”

We are indeed in extraordinary and often disorienting times. Finding ways to celebrate humanity and nature has been challenging but not impossible. Chad and Janet added,

“So many people are working behind the scenes between the film crew, the ACG, and Laguna Gloria. This is our first concert back after many months, and we can’t wait to bring bundles of energy and excitement to you all!”

Andrea Mellard, Director of Public Programs & Community Engagement for The Contemporary Austin shares,

“The strength of artists is how they reflect the contemporary world back to us and envision new futures. That is why I am so pleased to co-present Looking Up with Austin Classical Guitar and hear how the musicians respond to iconic sculptures like artist Tom Friedman’s 33-foot-tall shiny figure "Looking Up" and many of the more than two dozen outdoor works of art in the natural landscape of Laguna Gloria. Thanks to the Austin Guitar Quartet’s perspectives, I hope we experience the arts, the park, and the larger world with new sensitivity.” 

Learn how to visit The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria here.


Ofrendas: Carl Theil

In collaboration with Mexic-Arte Museum, ACG has asked our beloved community to join us in a creative celebration of loved ones for Día de Muertos through our Ofrendas project. You can experience the works of our community through this playlist. RSVP for the finale event on Thursday, October 29th, at 7pm CDT here


In celebration of Día de Muertos, and in collaboration with mexic-Arte Museum, we created the Ofrendas project. Through the project we commissioned twenty Austin-based artists, and invited our staff, community members, and students to create musical tributes to their loved ones. Receiving these beautiful works has been heartwarming, especially during a time when it can be difficult to connect with others. 

This project was inspired by the tradition of ofrendas, or offerings: altars containing photos, gifts, food, and personal items of our loved ones as a way of inviting their spirits to join us in the celebration of their life, created as part of Día de Muertos.

Austin musician and celebrated film composer Carl Theil contributed a beautiful ofrenda. He shared a little about himself and his heritage which has influenced the artist he is today. 

I was born and raised in Mexico City. My dad was Swedish and my mom is half-Austrian and half-German. Music has always been a part of my life. I started playing piano at age 6 and started writing short compositions at age 11. I've also always loved film, so writing music for film is a perfect combination of the two things I love most.”

Carl’s ofrenda is for his grandmother, Herta Bauer. He also shared a bit about what this process has meant to him and his family.

“It was a great honor to be asked to participate, and it also gave me the opportunity to pay tribute to my grandmother, who always looked after us with love and care. I loved revisiting her life as I discussed it with my sister, who helped me gather the information and photographs.

I inherited my grandmother's upright piano, and I think of her every time I play it, so I thought it’d be fitting to write and play a piece on it. It is a symbol of joy that she continues to bring me and my son, as we both enjoy playing on it. I felt it appropriate to write a piece that starts with a simple melody then evolves into a more complex and rich chordal section and finally subsides back into simplicity, kinda like life.”


Ofrendas: Nakia Reynoso

Nakia Reynoso is a versatile and beloved Austin musician with a magical voice. He was a Top 8 Semifinalist on CeeLo's team during the first season of 'The Voice' on NBC. Nakia’s ofrenda is packed with intensity and meaning, and we asked him to share some of his thoughts about the piece, the process, and his dad who passed away on this date, October 25th, 2009. Join us live for the finale of our ofrendas project on Thursday, October 29th at 7PM CDT, RSVP Online here. Free, donations accepted.


My dad’s parents were indigenous people from Mexico with roots from before there was a Mexico. Dad kept his heritage separate from our lives for his own reasons. So there’s been a real disconnect between me and that heritage and culture. That’s had some pretty negative effects on me long-term. I’ve done a lot of work through therapy and other approaches, but I don’t think it has fully resolved itself. I don’t think it ever will, until I’m able to find some connection on my own.

Exploring these connections has been something I’ve wanted to do. So it was really good timing for me to make this ofrenda. It was an honor for me to be asked, and a real pleasure to take part in the project.

Through the work I’ve done, I became friends with a Lakota Indian. He invited me to do a Vision Quest a few years ago, after several experiences together in a sweat lodge. I had no idea how musical sweat lodge ceremonies are, with all the chanting and drumming. After our first sweat lodge experience he pulled me aside and said “I don’t know you that well, but I want you to know I’ve been doing this for a very long time, and you have some connection to this process that I don’t think even you understand.” So in my ofrenda I knew I wanted to include chanting, and that’s one of the first things you hear, and one of the last things you hear, too.

I have my own altar with pictures of my family, my husband, some friends, Prince, John Aielli, all these people that I look up to and respect. A friend’s mother gave me a prayer cloth, it’s up there too next to some items from my Vision Quest. My dad is there, along with all these elephants because dad was a huge University of Alabama football fan, and their mascot is an elephant.

Originally my ofrenda was going to be mostly chanting and drumming, but once I sat down in this space, I knew I wanted to include an elephant in some way. The first elephant trumpet sound is right after the first drum fill, and it signals my birth. And you’ll see right after that is a picture of me. The last one is shortly before he died. We’re at a restaurant, there’s a picture of him looking away, and then another with him looking right at the camera with his Alabama hat, and you can see on his face he looks a little confused. I wanted the elephant to herald his exit as well.

I started going through photos of dad on my computer. My memories seem to revolve around music, like watching him thumping the steering wheel in time with the radio. He really loved the groove of music. So I wanted to add some groove to it, and that’s where the drums on top of the congas came in.

Dad wasn’t really into synth music, but I added synth anyway. I felt I was not only paying tribute to him, but also to the way that he inspired me. I wanted to put the things I was feeling into the piece. There is this darkness around our relationship. I don’t know that it will ever go away, and I’m okay with that. But that’s the low synth moaning you hear throughout.

The actual melody follows a clear timeline through 2009, of my dad looking really healthy, and then quickly declining, especially after he got his cancer diagnosis in July. Even though the piece is short, I wanted to have his beginning, his middle, and his end. So that’s why the melody switches as soon as you get into the cancer diagnosis, it gets confusing, and kind of scary, and I wanted to throw the listener off balance, because that’s how my life was.

There’s a photo of dad lighting a cigarette right in front of the “no smoking” sign in the cancer ward at the VA. He smoked all the way until the day he died. And it is, of course, the reason for his death.

There were moments in my childhood when dad was not a pleasant person to be around. One of the things I discovered through my work, was distinct memories of wanting to connect with my father, but feeling like he cared more about his cigarettes than he cared about me. I can now recall an intense feeling of jealousy at watching him light a cigarette. They were almost a way of getting out of talking to me. I would be trying to get his attention, and he’d light a cigarette. In his worst moments, those cigarettes turned into weapons.

I’ve come to terms with that. Dad and I had really long talks before he died. The forgiveness part is done. But it was really important to me to let those things live in the music. You hear them in the rumbling, and the pitch-bending. The level of imbalance and confusion of those last few months was so high. That was the only thing I could think to do to represent it.

I truly believe the inspiration that drives us to create, can’t be held. You can’t really touch and hold music, especially live music, and I think that makes it even more sacred. It is spiritual energy from within being amplified and transferred to the audience. That to me is not only fascinating, but it’s also powerful, because everybody receives it in a different way. You know it’s happened when somebody comes up to you after a show, or writes to you, and says you moved them to tears. One of my favorite things that happened when I was on The Voice, was a lot of young gay folks would reach out to me on social media and tell me that seeing my husband and I on television in a completely normalized way helped them to come out to their family. One of the most powerful letters was from a soldier, who was actively deployed in Afghanistan, who came out to the rest of his platoon. These things resulted from seeing our relationship normalized, but also because I was given that platform because of my talent. So I think that as artists we can never discount, nor fully understand, just how powerful an impact we have on people, even people that we’ll never meet.

I think in our nation we’ve let our ego run the show. So many people have fallen under this spell that by taking just the right selfie, or having the perfect life on social media, that’s going to move them forward in life. And while there can be some benefits, what it steals is the real connection. There’s a misconception that all of our power is in the keyboard or in the phone. And none of that is true. My hope is that soon we’ll move away from vanity, and move more toward talking to each other, to being together.

The process of making this ofrenda was very powerful for me. Even talking about it, sharing it with friends, there are many times I find myself crying, and grieving again. And I think as a society, especially in America, we’re taught that grieving happens for a short period of time and then you’re supposed to move on. Other societies don’t do that, especially in Mexican culture, where the tradition is to continually honor and revisit that grief, so that you can change it into forgiveness and celebration and love.


Ofrendas: Page Stephens

In collaboration with Mexic-Arte Museum, ACG has asked our beloved community to join us in a creative celebration of loved ones for Dia de Muertos through our Ofrendas project. Over the course of October we will be sharing the works of our community through this playlist. RSVP for the finale event on October 29th, here

Dia de Muertos celebrates the lives of our loved ones who have passed. Ofrendas are altars containing photos, gifts, food, offerings, and personal items of our loved ones as a way of inviting their spirits to join us in the celebration of their life. 

We have commissioned twenty Austin-based artists and have invited our staff, community members, and students to create ofrendas of their own and share their beautiful, touching, and inspirational work with us.

We had the privilege of speaking with one of our commissioned artists, Page Stephens, in greater depth about her connection to the project and the loved ones she is celebrating. 

“My first submission is a recording of "Here" from Mark Kilstofte's song cycle The White Album with pianist Chuck Dillard. Chuck and I recorded the whole cycle at Furman University, where Kilstofte teaches, about a year ago. Kilstofte wrote the cycle after his father died; every song has to do with some stage of grief. "Here" is set to a poem by Erica Funkhouser and it's about cleaning out a space after a loved one has died and moving to the next stage of life without them. 

The second piece is a recording of "Dormi, o fulmine di guerra," a lullaby aria from Alessandro Scarlatti's oratorio La Giuditta. Rick Rowley (harpsichord) and Ben Powell (violin) were kind enough to mask up and play with me.”

Page shared what this project meant to her and the people her work is celebrating.

“During this pandemic, I have felt so isolated from my friends and family. We couldn't grieve together, or adequately celebrate anyone's life the way they deserved. This project is a tiny opportunity to make up for the distance and honor the folks I lost this year.

‘Dormi’ is an ofrenda to celebrate three family friends and neighbors back home in Charlotte, NC: Doris Castevens, Mark Bloom and Scott Craig. They were part of my village and each one of them had an important hand in raising me. Doris and Mark had battled cancer for years, and Scott had battled addiction for most of his adult life. I chose a lullaby because after so many years of fighting, they deserve a rest. They were all exceptional humans.

"Here" is an offering to the families of these folks: the Castevens, the Blooms, and the Craigs. I want them to know they aren't alone, and that they are loved. Sharing this recording also felt right because Chuck Dillard, who performed the piece with me, lost his husband, Doug, to cancer this summer, and I wanted to honor them, too.”

Sunday, October 11th, Page informed us of the loss of her godfather, Cliff Hammond. Our hearts at ACG go out to Page Stephens and her family. Page shared: 

Cliff was a ray of sunshine in a room. He meant the world to my parents, my sister and I. He was brilliant, caring, goofy as all get out, and loved ardently. I will miss him beyond belief. Since I can't be near my godmother, Mary Anne, and my family to grieve together, I'm grateful that I can honor him with this project.” 


ACG Originals: Ofrendas

This concert occurred on October 29th. ACG Originals  are conceived to be unique, moments of creation and togetherness.


In collaboration with Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin Classical Guitar is celebrating Día de Muertos with Ofrendas, an event centered around the creative spark of our incredible community and the celebration of  loved ones who have passed.

Ofrendas, altars containing photographs, personal objects, and gifts, encourage the spirit of the departed to return and join the celebration. Inspired by this idea, we have invited our community to create ofrendas of their own.

Over the course of October, we’ll be sharing 20 commissioned works from Austin-based Artists along with videos from our staff, community ensembles, and young guitar students in AISD. You can find these on our facebook and instagram pages, on the video playlist, and on this blog. They will be part of Mexic-Arte Museum’s virtual exhibition as well. 

You can visit the ACG altar, featuring personal remembrances from the ACG community, and other beautiful community altars at Mexic-Arte Exhibit.  Soon you’ll be able to find these on the virtual altar created at Mexic-Arte Museum.

Finally on Oct 29, we’ll present our ACG Originals finale event Ofrendas featuring these incredible works. RSVP for the finale event here

For this special project, we are honored and inspired to include ofrendas by:

Brent Baldwin, Mark Cruz, Mela Sarajane Dailey, Thomas Echols, Erica Flores, Matt Gilchrest, Elizabeth Herrera , Javier Jara, Yuliya Lanina with Joe Williams, Carla McElhaney, Alan Retamozo, Graham Reynolds, Nakia Reynoso, Michael Robles, Carrie Rodriguez, Cassie Shankman, Page Stephens, Carl Thiel, Mad Whitaker, Claudia Chappa & Arnold Yzaguirre.

Guitar students from AISD Programs, Participants from Refugee Services of Texas, ACG members Matthew Hinsley, Travis Marcum, Ciyadh Wells, Justice Phillips, Angelica Campbell, Joe Williams, ACG Youth Camerata, Youth Orchestra, Choir and Chamber Ensemble, as well as community members near and far.

If you would like to get involved, learn more here

I/WE 2020

Inspired by interviews with Syrian & Iraqi refugees during their first 90 days in Austin, the original i/we was a multimedia concert we made in 2017. We wanted to explore empathy and listening in an age of polarization. The concert had an amazing cast of international musicians and artists, and won Best New Composition at the Austin Critics Table.

For I/WE 2020, ARCOS, with choreographer Erica Gionfriddo, dancers Bonnie Cox, Ginnifer Joe, Kaitlyn Jones & Oddalys Salcido, along with filmmaker Eliot Gray Fisher, recontextualize the original stories and music through movement filmed in natural spaces around the State of Texas. 

“There is a great responsibility in sharing someone else’s story.”

Says ARCOS choreographer Erica Gionfriddo.

“It requires us to listen deeply to the nuance of what we hear while acknowledging the complexity of our own experience. It requires an ability to respond, or as Donna Haraway calls it, a “response-ability.” When Joe Williams approached ARCOS to collaborate on this reimagining of I/We, we shared this value of response-ability which has allowed us to honor, not re-tell, the stories of Mai, Munel, and the Alaama family. As a white-led organization, ARCOS considers our role in this project as similar to how Joe defined his original approach in 2017; “to facilitate space.” This is not what we, as white, educated, employed and documented United States citizens approximate the refugee experience to be, but a container in which those lived experiences can be honored and shared.”

Bonnie Cox, ARCOS Dancer, on location © Paulo Rocha-Tavares LiaisonfortheArts@gmail.com

Dancer Bonnie Cox who is working with a movement called Waiting In No Place.

“The idea of waiting for six years before you’re able to make any sort of move. It’s deep. It’s heavy. The first Spanish word you hear is esperamos. And that means we waited, but it also means we hoped. There’s no distinction between waiting and hoping in Spanish. And so, I’m trying to feel what it might be like to be waiting and hoping for six years in one place, not knowing when a shift is going to occur.”

Gionfriddo has worked with each dancer through a process of improvisations, inviting personal responses to the stories and music.

“These dance artists found their way to the project because of their personal proximity to the experiences of migration, displacement, loss of home or culture, and the erasure of lineage and history. I have asked them to look closely at the obvious and less visible ways they have been shaped by those experiences.This is a method of body-processing; an often pre-verbal, sometimes ancient state of un-knowing or remembering through movement. What comes out of them is what is needed in any given moment, not a predetermined series of steps or even an improvisation as we might understand it in dance or musical terms. For those unfamiliar with dance practices, this is an intentional abandonment of traditional choreographer-dancer or director-performer relations.”

Oddalys Salcido, ARCOS Dancer, on location
© Paulo Rocha-Tavares 

Dancer Oddalys Salcido, who is working with the opening movement, gave us insight into body-processing.

“I kept feeling a sensation of heat in the back of my throat. Like when you’re physically trying to hold back tears, and you’re trying to be strong, that’s where I felt the heat. The property of fire looks very similar to a wave, kind of unexpected and at a constant flow. I feel like a lot of communication is done with the body. It is constantly communicating with us. When it’s hungry you can hear vibrations deep inside. I think when there’s something to be said, and me bringing my stories and history and thoughts, and opinions--my truth--it’s going to blend in, come together with what we’re creating, and provide a different perspective, another truth.”

Dancer Ginnifer Joe is working with the final movement, I miss the soil.

“I don’t know the word for angry and sad. It’s so pointed and it’s so direct, and it really does hit you right in the heart, where nostalgia does. You can hear the experience in the tone of Mai’s voice. My first thought was: listen. Just be present and listen. I know that any interpretation will be colored by any person’s own experience. Me, imagining what I think it will look like, watching me go through this: I guess I have a desire, for myself, to see a warrior, someone resilient, with strength, in the midst of so much pain and grief, with the will and drive to continue on.”

Ginnifer Joe, ARCOS Dancer, on location
© Paulo Rocha-Tavares 

At its heart, I/WE 2020 is meeting in the middle. Each dancer brings her own life experience to the story and music with which she is paired. ARCOS and choreographer Erica Gionfriddo meet ACG and composer Joseph Williams and interviewer/co-artistic director Travis Marcum in the middle. Dance meets music. Artwork meets audience.

Each individual can experience this work as both a window and a mirror as themes of home, loss of home, cruelty and violence, waiting and uncertainty, and nostalgia are received in story, music, and movement.

Dancer Kaitlyn Jones is working with the second movement, I am not afraid.

“My personal connection with the phrase ‘I am not afraid,’ has a lot to do with the Black American experience. What does it mean to say that you’re not afraid? Right now in another practice that I’m a part of I’m asking myself ‘What happens if, as a Black woman, I don’t have anything to be afraid of? What if there was nothing I had to be afraid of in the world?’ And that’s a hard question. Something that came up in practice with Erica and I was that it’s hard to be unafraid. That is hard work. And when you’re unafraid does that mean that you’ve accepted that the world is full of scary things, and that’s how you move forward? Or is it that the scary things don’t affect you any more? Or are you numb to the fear? What does it mean when your very existence is a threat?”

Kaitlyn Jones, ARCOS Dancer, on location
© Paulo Rocha-Tavares 

“I ask a lot of questions and I think that’s my strength. And I ask questions that I don’t necessarily need to have answers to. The question I ask the most is why. Why am I ‘not afraid?’ I bring the ability to investigate questions, knowing that I may not receive answers. And I think that’s where the real work is: in the middle between the question and the answer.”

We asked Joseph Williams, ACG Artistic Director and composer of the music of I/WE, to share why he feels it is important to recreate I/WE now:

“I/WE is a response to “othering.” It’s a response to the dehumanization of vulnerable people, and a call to remember that there is no significant difference between those who are suffering and those who are secure beyond circumstance.

When we made I/WE in 2017, it was in the wake of the refugee crisis and a prevalent surge of division in our country. The space between us seemed to swell and our common ground seemed to shrink. We decided to pour our energy into a project devoted to understanding, to empathy, and to start by listening.

So why I/WE 2020? Because this invitation, this warming of the frozen parts of our compassion, this call to see ourselves in others is a continuous effort. The context is different, but the process is unending.  We never finish this work and, I believe, it is desperately needed now.”

We are profoundly grateful to the amazing musicians who brought to life Joseph Williams’ score in the 2017 debut performance that was recorded live, and is now featured in I/WE 2020: guitarists Alejandro Montiel and Isaac Bustos, violinist Jennifer Choi, cellist Louis-Marie Fardet, and clarinetist Håkan Rosengren. We also wish to thank our audio engineer, Todd Waldron, who captured the live sound, and then edited, mixed, and mastered the audio for this special feature.


Austin Now: The Space In Between conversation with Oliver Rajamani

We are thrilled to co-present this extraordinary concert with One World Theatre on Saturday, November 7th at 8pm CST as part of our Austin Now Series. RSVP Online Here

The Space In Between brings together three of our most-beloved partners: Multi-instrumentalist-global-citizen-artist Oliver Rajamani, KUT/KUTX voice of Austin for more than fifty years John Aielli, and Hartt Stearns with the breathtaking One World Theatre.

We asked Oliver his thoughts about performing with John Aielli, and he told us this fun uniquely Austin story:

“Believe it or not, the very first time I played music in public in Austin was on John Aielli’s radio show. It would have been in 1995. I did a show with Arthur Brown [famous English rock-n-roll star]. Austin was a small town, it was around SXSW time, and I randomly ran into famed British rock legend Arthur Brown at Whole Foods. We got talking, and he was really fascinated that I played Indian Tabla. So he invited me to play on this radio show the very next day—we didn’t even practice! I just went with him, and found myself performing in Studio 1A with John Aielli.” 

But the beautiful and deep connections don’t stop there! Hartt Stearns, Executive Director and Co-Founder of One World Theater had this to say about presenting Oliver Rajamani at this time:

“Nada and I met Oliver after we moved to Austin more than 25 years ago.  We played music together, along with nurturing many talented young musicians along the way, and One World has sponsored Oliver for over 20 years. Our collaborations and friendship for so many years has made him feel like family, spiritually and artistically, which should help to make this concert extra special, especially when patrons are thirsty for performances of depth. I don’t know of a better musician in Austin than Oliver that encompasses the concept of One World which from our perspective is so important at this point in time. When you add John Aielli’s participation, who has interviewed so many One World Theatre artists since we opened, all of this feels like a family homecoming for One World.”

Oliver also shared some deep insights about the performance itself, The Space In Between, which will combine John Aielli reading poetry, with Oliver’s music, played live and broadcast from the One World Theatre stage:

“The space in between two musical notes gives way for emotion to be expressed. 

The space in and between words and letters gives life to a poem or a story. 

The space inside a house creates the warmth of a home.

The space in the emptiness of a cooking pot gives food and nourishment.

The hollowness of a guitar offers the opportunity for sound and music."

“Space is crucial in life.  It is the place of pure potential, inspiration and creativity. It is the stage where all the elusive magical drama of life and death takes place. Space holds all things physical and psychological. Without space nothing can manifest, yet space is only the gateway to awareness (for lack of a word). It has no form, description, time, beginning or end. It was never created, and thus will not die."

“During this time of covid, the whole of humanity is living in a state of fear and anxiety, life and death. But all this drama needs a stage on which to take place.  And it takes place in the Space that gave birth to life and death. So during these challenging times in our physical and psychological worlds, the Space is present in between our thoughts, emotions and our physical beings. When we can become more present in that reality of our oneness with it, rather than only seeing the drama of life that makes us go crazy, we are able to approach our fears and anxieties, and the realities of life-responsibility, with awareness. It may be difficult and challenging, but it is not impossible."

“As friends, professionals and human beings—working together with Hartt, John, Matt, Joe and others—to bring this program to the general public, I believe we are all connecting to this Space In Between. We work to bring that realization and experience to others through the medium of art. Art is created and drawn and inspired from that well of The Space In Between and thus serves as the gateway. An elusive hint at what we are truly made of: space and awareness.”

Rounding out this beautiful conversation, Hartt talked about what it means to be making art at One World Theatre now, despite the pandemic:

“The concept of being ‘one’ is what the space of One World Theatre is all about. Music and the arts are among the best mediums for connecting the world, and allowing us to lose ourselves, transcending our daily challenges into a higher place of oneness. The pandemic has definitely created greater challenges for us all to overcome, but evolution is facilitated through difficult times, not necessarily when things go the way we want them to. To me, all of this translates into the importance of having patrons witness a concert like this at One World Theatre.”

For insight into Rajamani’s extraordinary artistry, we invite you to watch the video below.

We at ACG are so excited to experience and share the collaboration of two incredibly talented Austin artists with you in The Space In Between