Season Finale: Behind The Scenes

It’s our May Fund Drive, and during this time we love to share inspiring things friends like you have helped make possible. Here is a special behind the scenes look at our 30th Season Finale. If you’d like to support our May Fund Drive, you can Donate Online Here

May 22, 2021 was a beautiful day at Austin Classical Guitar. It was our 30th Season Finale with the Texas Guitar Quartet, and our 2021 ACG Ensemble Festival. Between the two events we premiered five newly commissioned pieces of music, and featured performances by more than one hundred guitarists.

If you watched our Season Finale, then the picture at right will look familiar to you! It’s the Texas Guitar Quartet dazzling us from the stage of the Austin ISD Performing Arts Center. What you didn’t see in the video, however, were Todd and Keith behind the cameras that were capturing all the magic. But you can see them in this photo. If you didn’t see the show and you’d like to we have attached the video below. And while we’re at it, if you like to see our 2021 ACG Ensemble Festival too, click here

Here’s a look even further behind the scenes. From nearest to farthest we’ve got Vern, who was acting as Technical Director, Joe Williams who is Artistic Director and was calling the camera shots in real time, and Jordan Walsh who was making the changes and layering in the videos and slides throughout the show. These three have been working alongside other remote team members, and our virtual concert wizard Eric Pearson, all season long!




Here’s a close up look at Jordan’s console where you can see what he’s seeing as the show progresses. Over the past fifteen months our team at ACG has basically had to evolve into a television production crew. And for our new faraway friends we’ve made this year, we’re thrilled to announce that the streaming format will continue even as we head back to in-person events. In fact, we’ve got some big exciting news to share soon in that regard…but just not quite yet!




No post about ACG technological innovations would be complete with the master himself, Eric Pearson. Eric has a very rare set of incredibly deep skills and knowledge from music to recording to acoustics to technology all combined with a uniquely powerful combination of will and caring that enabled him to develop what is, in our opinion, one of the best live-stream music rigs in the United States. Read a feature about Eric and his technical innovations online here

Our remote team and AV teams are not pictured here! Jen, Jess, Lennox, Kevin, Ciyadh, and others were directing key components of our event production all year long.

The bottom line is that we are grateful. We’re grateful to our staff, to all the artists, to our partners near and far, and to all the experts who swooped in with their knowledge and goodwill. We are grateful to you, dear reader, for your support, for telling your friends, for your presence and supportive comments along this strange journey, and for your donations. 

Speaking of which, if you were inspired by our concerts and services this year, and you haven’t yet made a contribution, and you’d like to. We promise you this: we’ll work as hard as we know how to do the most good with your contributions. Thank you for your support, and thank you for your belief in the power of music to do good in the world. 

Donate online here

Related story: 30th Season Finale, A Conversation with Mason Bynes

30th Season Finale: A Conversation with Mason Bynes

Our 30th season finale was an energetic celebration of Spring. An orchestra of young guitarists from all over Texas premiered Broomsticks by Mason Bynes, and the Texas Guitar Quartet dazzled us live from the AISD Performing Arts Center on Saturday May 22nd.

We were so thrilled to present the season finale in our thirtieth year at ACG with the support and collaboration of Austin ISD, Virtual Guitar Orchestra, Augustine Foundation, and Ex-Aequo. 

As part of Ex-Aequo’s Changing the Canon project that is dedicated to sharing and promoting living composers of color, the Virtual Guitar Orchestra premiered composer Mason Byne’s Broomsticks. We have been so lucky to get the opportunity to speak with Mason.

Mason Bynes is a composer, vocalist and multi-media artist from Sugar Land, TX. She stays musically inspired by chasing collaboration in a myriad of artistic disciplines, including film and television,  theatre, dance, the culinary arts and music for an acoustic/live setting. Her passion and musical curiosity has encouraged a diverse variety of commissions and collaborations with  groups like: The Westerlies, Bass Players for Black Composers, the National Youth Orchestra  of Great Britain, the Dallas Opera, the Fort Worth Opera and many others.  

Mason shared some insight about her composition process and what this project in particular meant for her:

“A  common process of mine is using the piano, guitar or my voice to compose what’s in my head.  I’ve also enjoyed processes that involved listening to music that include the instruments I’m  writing for. I’ve enjoyed processes that involve making field recordings of sounds that inspire  musical material. Other versions of my processes include taking pictures and videos to inspire  a new sound world, finding and wearing different fashion trends, or even cooking a new meal. I  love synthesizing these experiences when trying to find musical inspiration- it’s more fun to me  this way!  

This collaboration with Ex-Aequo was so fun, as was the process behind it! At the time, I had  recently discovered Brazilian guitarist, Luiz Bonfa. I soon realized that I had growing list of  Brazilian artists that I really loved to listen to: Maria Rita, Joyce Moreno, and Adriana  Calcanhotto. So this process started with a lot of listening, singing and dancing! These artists' rhythmic styles in addition to their sense of lyricism, groove and musical transformation  overtime was helpful when writing this new piece. In addition to this part of the project, Ex Aequo also organized composer- talk sessions with different schools around the country. This  was my favorite part of the project, as there are so many bright and talented young guitarists,  performers and composers out there.” 

Broomsticks is a special composition for Mason because it is the first piece she has composed for solo classical guitar! Mason shared what this meant for her and how it influenced her growth as an artist. 

“I’ve written for rock groups  before, and I love writing for electric guitar- but I’d never written for solo classical guitar. It was  a good challenge and it was so rewarding. The compositional processes behind this piece  allowed me to deepen my listening by way of discovering new artists, and it has had a lasting  impact on the way I listen and compose as a musician. I’m also grateful for the people I’ve met  in this collaboration and for being introduced to the classical guitar community. I was intrigued  by this project when I was first approached by Ex-Aequo, because of their passion for new  music, “changing the canon”. What a thrill it will be to hear all of this incredible new music by living Black composers.”

We are so ecstatic to share Mason’s incredible composition with you! (arr. for the Virtual Guitar Orchestra by Alejandro Montiel). We hope you enjoy!

Guitar & Horses: A Letter from Edward Kimball

It’s our May Fund Drive, and during this time we love to share inspiring stories. This is one of our recent favorites, brought to us by ACG Community Ensemble member Edward Kimball. If you’d like to support our May Fund Drive, you can Donate Online Here


Every Tuesday morning I go out to a place called Healing With Horses Ranch in Manor, TX.  HWHR helps children and adults with a wide variety of physical and emotional afflictions.  Its services are free for military veterans like me, and the rest pay fees.  

Along with ACG, visiting HWHR is what I've been doing to cope with my chronic ankle pain & surgery recovery, hearing disability and struggles with major depressive disorder.  We all must figure out ways to compensate for the genetic hand we've been dealt.

Because of my previous experience with horses, my instructors steered me into more refined aspects of horsemanship. Sort of like the difference between the folk-song strumming most of us did "back in the day," and learning classical guitar. 

I've been kicked, bitten, bucked off and fallen with a horse. I’ve trained a few, and ended up being trained by them.  Obviously I love horses.  Most of them read human emotions better than humans.  

For some strange reason I don't understand, while at home working on solo pieces on guitar, thinking about phrasing, my mind will wander, sometimes reflecting on things instructors said to me that week about handling horses.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that the subtle details of classical guitar, and the nuances of horsemanship, have much in common.  

I’ve been going to Healing With Horses Ranch since 2017. I’ve been involved with Austin Classical Guitar since 2010. To cut to the chase, as they say, the experiences have begun to meld.  

From my two instructors at HWHR, Crystal & Libby, I’ve been taught "nuance," subtle positioning of body parts while riding, as well as connecting and communicating with the horse while on the ground. Meanwhile, as a member of ACG Community Guitarist Ensembles, I’ve been learning "nuance" from Carlos, Eric, and now Tony, as well as fellow members of our groups.  

This picture of “Mr. Dude” and me was taken at our last Vet's program of the fall season. I got to do what I’d wanted to do most: play guitar for the horse I'd been working with.  

Having had a hearing disability from birth, I envy horses' ears.  We may never know what a guitar sounds like to a horse, but I like to believe that something was going on in his mind as I was doing my best to play for him.  It’s quite possible he was totally bored and felt like just standing there…nothing else to do!

 - Edward Kimball

Thank you so much Edward! Since we received the marvelous letter and photograph above, Edward has continued his artistic connection to HWHR by creating the beautiful video below for his friend “Patience,” also a client at HWHR, as part of the ACG GIVE project in April. Enjoy!


Flowers of Life: A Conversation with Gabriel Santiago

Inspired by the transformation of winter to spring at the Wildflower Center, composer and performer Gabriel Santiago collaborates with master horticulturist Andrea DeLong-Amaya to celebrate the intersections of nature and music. Thursday, May 13th at 7pm CDT. Register online here. Free, Donations welcome. 


We are so thrilled to share an incredibly special event called Flowers of Life on Thursday, May 13th, at 7pm CDT, presented in partnership with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. 

As part of the Austin Now series, ACG’s Artistic Director Joe Williams asked the talented composer and performer Gabriel Santiago to collaborate with master horticulturist Andrea DeLong-Amaya from the Wildflower Center to create a program inspired by the intersections of nature and music.

We have seen many transformations this year, including the infamous Texas Winter Storm that turned into this beautiful spring we are now experiencing. 

Nature's beauty and complexity has been a common inspiration for some of our Austin Now events such as Cycles from last fall. Joe Williams shared some of his inspiration for Flowers of Life, 

“The ACG Spring season has been centered around the themes of hope, rebirth & celebration. In many ways, these themes grew out of a conversation with Andrea DeLong-Amaya, the director of Horticulture at Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

We talked about the cycle of seasons and the process that plants go through every year: from winter to spring, from seed to bloom, from dirt to fields of flowers. And it occurred to me that that transformation - that process - in many ways reveals where we are.  We’ve been in a sort of winter since Covid hit and, starting with the new year, sparks of hope are igniting.  We can peak at a foreseeable end to the pandemic and the human spirit and our community is in the process of blooming.  But we aren't out of the woods yet - we need to nurture every last bit of hope in our community - and that's what we have been endeavoring to do.

I am so inspired by Andrea and Gabriel's collaboration and their work together.  In Flowers of Life, Gabriel Santiago's gorgeous music evokes the beauty of both wildflowers and our community and Andrea's voice offers poems and quotes gently urging us to take part in the wonder around us and ignite hope for our future.”

We also spoke with Gabriel about his creative process in this collaboration and what this event meant to him, 

“There was a lot of inspiration from photos and videos of birds, flowers, and nature, which inspired me to try to come up with a musical description of what I was seeing to enhance the imagery that was being presented to me. This made the creative process very fruitful for me.”

Gabriel shared how this inspiration is expressed in the music, 

“The music is made up of main themes and variations. The main theme is the transformation from winter to spring, of course. But here’s another example: I saw an image of a bumble bee, so in one of the pieces I created a small variation within the main theme about that bee! The process was very similar to scoring music for a movie, and that  was exciting for me.” 

During the planning of this event the title “Flowers of Life” was chosen through Gabriel and Andrea’s intentions of the event being an expression of the celebration of life. The Flower of Life is a geometric figure that represents the path of creation in sacred geometry. Gabriel composed a piece called Flowers of Life which we are so excited to hear premiered in the concert! Gabriel shared: 

“The piece Flowers of Life has to do with seasons and change and the cycles of nature. The world is constantly changing and the piece I composed was inspired during the winter storm. I was here at home with no electricity and no water but I had a little juice left on my phone, so I recorded this piece that was inspired by the scenery I was experiencing in this very odd time. It plays as my dialogue of my experience which touches on this sentiment of constant change, destruction, and growth in the cycles of nature.” 

We are so excited to see this collaboration come to life! Please join us.

ACG Originals: GIVE

Guided by the belief that music can be a powerful catalyst for acceptance, hope, and joy, GIVE is a community concert featuring commissions from local artists, creative projects from students and community members as well as powerful songs from ACG’s Music & Healing program. Thursday, April 29th, 2021 at 7pm CT. Register Online Here. Free, Donations Welcome.

Music has the power to heal, allow emotions to flow freely, and to bring people together. We at ACG feel so grateful for the sincere and deep connections we have been able to make through this boundless medium. Some of our deepest connections have been made through ACG Music & Healing and ACG Education. 

Our final ACG Originals event of the spring season, GIVE, has been curated to present this magic that music can create. 

We have asked local artists, community members, and students to create a video composed of music or art for a loved one in their lives as a gift, a form of appreciation and love, and an expression of beauty. 

We will be featuring artists from ACG’s Music & Healing: Arnold Yzaguirre, Claudia Chapa, John Churchill, and Claire Puckett, as well as Michelle Schumann (piano), the Miró string quartet, Oliver Rajamani (oud), ARCOS (dance), Sunil Gadgil (saxophone), Stephen Krishnan (guitar), The Magnolia Kids, and members of the ACG youth and community ensembles.

We are so excited to see the beauty our community creates in this remarkable event. Please join us! 

CALL AND RESPONSE: A Conversation with Invoke's Zach Matteson

Streamed live from KMFA’s new Draylen Mason Music Studio, the genre-blurring string quartet Invoke alongside wildly creative Thomas Echols will fashion a lush musical journey with guitar, strings, and electronics. Sunday, April 18th, 2021 at 5pm CT. Register Online Here. Free, Donations Welcome.


We are so excited to present our first Austin Now event of the Spring 2021 season, CALL AND RESPONSE with Invoke and Thomas Echols, presented in partnership with KMFA, on Sunday, April 18th at 5pm CDT. 

For the Austin Now series our Artistic Director, Joe Williams, has asked outstanding artists from our city to get together and create something beautiful using the collaboration of different mediums in whatever way they feel represents the times we are living in now.  

CALL AND RESPONSE is an exploration into memory, meaning, and the not-so-obvious threads that connect us all over Austin. It was developed in collaboration with members of the community and participants were asked questions about what music means to them. Their responses helped steer the program we will see Sunday.

We got the opportunity to connect with one of the incredible members of Invoke, Zach Matteson, and he shared some beautiful things about his journey as a musician and the journey of Invoke coming together.

“I started the violin at age 5. As I grew up, music was something that was always constant in my life: chamber music with siblings/friends, community choir with my dad in middle school, and eventually community orchestra in high school. In orchestra, I really fell in love with the rush of being completely surrounded by music, creating something together as a group. Maybe it was the “rush” that making music provided (or the fact that nothing else in school had interested me) but I decided to try and get a college degree in music. I went to University of Maryland to get my degree in music performance (for a variety of reasons) and it was there that I met the other members of Invoke during my Junior year.”

“At UMD, we worked with dance choreographer, Liz Lerman, to get the orchestra dancing while performing “Appalachian Spring,” among other things...there was a definite energy in the air of “what’s next?” and “what can we do to subvert expectations.” It was in this environment that Invoke (Nick, Geoff, Karl, and myself) came together. Initially, we started as a straight forward new music quartet, interested in performing works by living composers that we knew, but it quickly developed into the bluegrass crossover/composer collective/new music ensemble/string quartet group that you see today. That “rush” is still there, and I love the fact that it’s something I get to create with my best friends everyday.”

Music has the magical capability of bringing up deep rooted emotions or creating new sensations and feelings depending on the sound, situation, and mood of the piece. We asked Zach how performing music makes him feel when he is alone versus when he is with his colleagues. Zach shared,

“For me, “overwhelm” is the closest word I can think of when playing music. So much is happening on every level of your senses — it’s like a 20 ft. wave of pure feeling that you’re trying to harness into intelligible sounds that someone can comprehend. It can be really intimidating in that way when you’re by yourself (especially when you’re trying to start) but for me the challenge of trying to harness those feelings has been an extremely satisfying endeavor. I think it’s made much easier when you have people around you helping out. That’s probably the reason I enjoy playing chamber music so much, a shared struggle to create something really powerful that can speak to people on every level.”

Invoke’s musical style is described as “not classical but not not classical.” We have been so intrigued by what this means and cannot wait to hear this style in action! Zach addressed our curiosity and shared what that description means for Invoke, 

Everyone in Invoke comes from a “classical” background. We all went to school for western art music, studied western theory, etc...That being said, I think our musical interests extend far beyond that, ranging from Gamelan, to Hair Metal, to Bluegrass, and more. So when we’re writing music together, or individually, we really enjoy highlighting as much of those external influences as possible and we’re not afraid to break out of the traditional “string quartet” mold to do so. If the piece needs Nick to play gamelan for 20 minutes, we’ll do it. If we need all of us on fretted instruments like banjos and mandolins, we’ll do it. But, most of the time, you can see that thread leading back to the “classical” training that we all had so that’s where the “not classical but not not classical” comes from.”

We are so pumped to see this collaboration and deeply thought out creation come to life on April 18th! We hope you can join us and enjoy it just as much as we will! 

RSVP Online Here, Free, Donations Accepted.

PLAY: A Celebration of ACG Education

PLAY celebrates our partner teachers and students who created inspiring works of joy and friendship during a year like no other. We are so proud of this extraordinary concert! If you are inspired by what you see, and would like to contribute to ACG Education, you can Donate Here.

ACG Education turned 20 years old this year! It's hard to believe what started in one school in Austin, Texas in 2001 has turned into a movement reaching tens of thousands of young people across the nation and beyond.

We created PLAY to showcase some of the incredible young musicians and alumni from our local programs and several of our partner programs, and to celebrate the beauty and joy of their music-making. 

In a year marked by hardship and challenges, we have been so inspired by the ambition, dedication, and determination of the teachers and students we have the privilege to work with and support. It is a thrill to be able to share the results of their hard work and passion. We hope you enjoy it too!

PLAY: A Celebration of ACG Education originally aired on March 27th, 2021. 

PLAY features music of young artists from Austin (Elijah Melodic Flores, Sydney Piper, Northeast High School Ensemble, Bedichek Middle School, ACG Youth Orchestra and Gardner Betts Juvenile Center), Ohio (McKinley High School and Cleveland Classical Guitar Society), Arizona (Glendale Community College Guitar),  Mexico (Orquesta de Guitarras del Ciclo de Iniciación Musical), and Paraguay (Municipal “Agustín Pio Barrios” de San Juan Bautista de las Misiones) as well as 36 middle and high schools from U.S. and Canada. Also featured are special guests Berta Rojas, Devin Gutierrez, Daniel Fears, Montsho Thoth, Claire Puckett, Claudia Chapa and Arnold Yzaguirre.

I Am Who I Am by Michael Beranek with John Churchill

We feel so fortunate at ACG to share inspiration through music in many ways from concerts to classrooms. Some of our most profound personal connections are made through ACG Music & Healing. ACG Music & Healing utilizes a trauma-informed, strength-based approach to facilitate meaningful expression and personal narrative through music making for members of our community facing significant challenges. 

Today we’d love to celebrate the connection between Michael Beranek and John Churchill.

Composer John Churchill met Michael in early February of this year to create a piece of music together as Michael is recovering from intense chemo and radiation treatment for cancer at 71. 

Here is what John shared with us about the experience, 

“Even though Michael is in remission, the procedures have left him with a longer road of recovery. This included a dramatic change to his voice. We spent the first month together talking about where he was from and a plethora of memories from throughout his life. The man has had such a variety of experiences that it gave us so many interesting things to talk about. He even saw Elton John perform in a duck costume at the Iowa State Fair in the early 70s!

It became clear over the course of our first few meetings that the song we would write together should be a chronological story of some of his memories. At one point during one of our meetings Michael made the comment "I am who I am because of the experiences that I have had". This stuck out to me, and I mentioned that we may have our song's hook in that statement right there. With a minor tweak, the tag in the song became "I am who I am because of the life that I have lived". 

This project was a true collaboration in which Michael played such a key role in writing the lyrics. I was so impressed with how he and I worked together. He even sent me some last minute edits right before I was set to record the vocals, and his improvements made all the difference. It was such a pleasure to work with him, and I am truly excited to share his work with others.”

Learn more about our Music & Healing program here


Play: A conversation with Elijah Flores

ACG Education turned 20 this year. What started in one school in Austin, Texas, has grown into a movement impacting tens of thousands of young people across the nation and beyond. PLAY celebrates our partner teachers and students who created inspiring works of joy and friendship during a year like no other. We are so proud of this extraordinary concert! If you are inspired by what you see, and would like to contribute to ACG Education, you can Donate Here.

Here at ACG we have so much to be grateful for! One of the top contenders on that list is our ACG Education program. Sharing the beauty, joy, and passion of music with young people has been our greatest passion at ACG for the past twenty years. 

We started this magnificent journey in one school in 2001 and now we are in more than fifty local schools including Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and three Juvenile Justice Centers, and stretching all across the United States and beyond. 

This year has brought many challenges to the typical flow of guitar education but we are so inspired by the ambition, dedication, and determination of the teachers and students in these programs. 

We were so thrilled to be able to share the results of their hard work and passion in PLAY

We are sharing videos of local students and partner programs as well as students from Mexico City all the way to Cleveland, Ohio and many places in between! 

One of the students we have the opportunity to see is Elijah Flores.

Elijah joined our partner program at Bedichek Middle School with Phil Swasey and is now a senior at Crockett High School with Ron Hare. We got the opportunity to speak with Elijah about his experience in these programs and this is what he had to share. 

“I found an outlet for my energy. Over time I started to expand and use my voice along with trying new instruments. I gained inspiration from the people I was around, and the environment. I had a lot of encouragement and guidance through school, and my family, and being able to have a healthy environment to practice.”

Elijah is an incredibly successful young musician and is considering continuing his music education in college. He just accepted a scholarship with UTSA and is planning to attend fall 2021. 

We are so awed by the hard work put in by Elijah throughout his path as a young musician even during the difficulties brought to us by COVID-19. Elijah shared,  

“When the pandemic hit, life became very different. I became different.. Isolation changed me, and the way I adapted to learning overall. On the bright side of the pandemic I had so much time, so I acquired new hobbies, new routines, and did not dwell on the past. I was constantly working on my writing skills, vocal skills, instrumental skills and I realized I find so much joy from music overall. It has always been my outlet and a medium for expressing my emotions.” 

ACG Education is our pride and joy and we feel so fortunate to be surrounded by so many inspiring individuals everyday. We are so grateful for the teachers we work with, the students in our programs, the lessons we learn daily, and all the many connections we make. We hope you can celebrate these remarkable accomplishments and people with us in PLAY.

Grisha with Internal Creations

One of our all-time favorite musical geniuses returns to inspire us in ways we can only imagine. Presented in partnership with Internal Creations, we will be able to experience the musicianship of Grisha live from Brooklyn, New York. Saturday, March 13, 2021 at 8pm CST. Register Online Here. Free, Donations Welcome. 


At ACG we have experiences every day that show us the power of music to inspire. In fact, it’s our mission: to inspire individuals in our community through musical experiences of deep personal significance.

Grisha is an artist that shines with an unusually bright light in this regard. Not only has he dazzled us many times on the concert stage, but he has always been willing to visit as many schools as we could fit in his schedule, to share his talent with countless young people. We frequently hear adult audience members and young students alike tell us how much they love and admire Grisha.

This week, Grisha is performing for us from Brooklyn, New York. So we wanted to take the opportunity to connect him with our education partner at Internal Creations, Jahzeel Montes.

Jahzeel and his students were able to have an online conversation, masterclass, and short performance from Grisha yesterday evening.

The class began with Grisha sharing his introduction into classical guitar and his inspiration to teach himself flamenco guitar from a recording of Paco de Lucia. His story was followed by a flamenco performance that left awe in the students eyes. 

Before hearing each student play their solos for Grisha, he taught and walked them through a fundamental rasgueado technique for flamenco. 

“Start by pinching the third string with your index and thumb, then strum the thumb up, strum the middle finger out and open the palm, and then finally strum down with the thumb and bring the fingers in to come back into the starting position.”

For the rest of the class, Grisha shared wisdom on musicianship, self expression, technique, patience, and motivated the students in individually unique ways. 

We are so ecstatic to be able to connect with the artistry and musicality of this incredibly talented and inspiring musician, Grisha, this Saturday March 13, 2021. We are also jumping in excitement to hear a program that includes repertoire by the man who inspired Grisha to become the musician he is today, Paco de Lucia. 

If you would like to join us please RSVP Here.