Austin Flamenco Festival

Flamenco dancer Genevieve Guinn is a world-renowed performer and teacher of flamenco, as well as the founder and artistic director of the Austin Flamenco Academy. On July 6-8, Genevieve will be hosting the  Austin Flamenco Festival where there will be music, theatre, dance, and even free community classes! We recently had a chance to sit down with Genevieve to talk about the festival, as well as her history with the flamenco art form.

What would you like people to know about the Austin Flamenco Festival?

This is the inaugural year of the Austin Flamenco Festival, and it’s something this city has never had before. There will be dance workshops, theater performances, a free community rhythm and dance class, and a big closing party. My plan is to expand every year and continue bringing the top names in flamenco dance and music to Austin. This first year focuses on building a base and introducing Austin to some of the incredible flamenco performers from around the world. We'll also be presenting Fosteros, a Flamenco Suite created by myself and the festival's Musical Director Gonzalo Grau.

Could you tell us a little bit about the artists that are coming in for the festival, as well as some of the educational opportunities for the community?

Along with local talent, the festival will feature an international cast of artists from Spain, Cuba, Venezuela, and France. Edwin Aparicio will be teaching both beginning and professional workshops at Austin Flamenco Academy and I will also host a free rhythm and rumba workshop on July 8th on the H-E-B Terrace at the Long Center. These workshops are unique to the festival, but flamenco classes for children and adults are offered year-round at Austin Flamenco Academy.

Could you talk about how you got involved with flamenco and what makes you so passionate about it?

I’ve always loved flamenco. As a kid, I started dancing flamenco at a studio on South Congress, where the future Soho House would be. My mom took me to my first class and I was instantly hooked. I remember asking my parents if I could go to Spain to study flamenco instead of going to high school. That didn’t fly. So I saved up until I graduated and immediately jumped on the plane to Madrid. After years of performing in Spain, I moved back to the U.S. and taught on the east coast. I moved back to Austin in 2011 and founded what is now Austin Flamenco Academy. All my classes are bilingual and I start my little ones at three-years-old. We work on technique, posture, music, singing, and memory. We even get special guest musicians to come play and sing for us!

Alumni Reflection: Francisco De La Rosa

For our ACG Fall Fund Drive, we’re sharing stories on our Changing Lives Storyboard of ways music has changed our world, and how our community helped make it happen. Consider supporting ACG today!

We came to know Francisco De La Rosa in 2009 when he joined the guitar class at Akins High School and began working with ACG’s Assistant Director of Education, Jeremy Osborne. We’re proud to count Francisco, who's currently a Music Performance major at Texas State University, as one of our alumni. He recently sat down with us to talk about his love for music, and what motivates him to continue playing.

How did you start learning guitar, and what were your early experiences with Austin Classical Guitar?

I started classical guitar my freshman year at Akins High School. Before that, I was self-taught and had never been exposed to classical music. I still remember the first time I heard a Bach cello suite on guitar. It was unbelievable.

At Akins, guitar was more than just a class - it was a second family. And Mr. Osborne was like an older brother, a role model. High school can be a stressful time, but guitar class was my comfort zone. Everyone was friendly, and there was no judgement. We worked as a team.

I remember that I needed to improve my grades to participate in guitar competitions, and Mr. Osborne helped me study until my GPA was good enough. Before that, I didn’t have to worry about grades, and could just play guitar. He helped me become a better student.

When I talk, I can’t always find the right words, but when I play guitar, I can express exactly how I’m feeling.

What has it been like studying guitar in college?

I received a scholarship from ACG to attend Austin Community College. After that, I reached out to Mr. Osborne for some help preparing for my audition for Texas State’s classical guitar program. I’m proud to say I just finished my second year there, and I'm working toward my Bachelor's in Music Performance. It hasn't always been easy, but ACG helped me discover my passion and go further with guitar than I ever thought I could.

What does music mean to you?

Music completes life for me. It allows me to express who I truly am. When I’m playing guitar, it's like I’m transferred to a different world. Music is a magical feeling. I step outside my consciousness. When I talk, I can’t always find the right words, but when I play guitar, I can express exactly how I’m feeling.

In the future, I want to continue performing and composing, but my biggest dream is to become a teacher. I want to follow in the the footsteps of Mark Cruz, Jeremy Osborne, and Travis Marcum. They all showed me how music can help to achieve my dreams, and I want to share that with others.

Music all around us - literally!

A dream we have at ACG Education is for all children to have opportunities to find safety, success, and celebration in their lives through music.

So we spend lots of time carefully developing and refining curriculum materials, training teachers, working with local and state administrators, and building special resources to serve as many kids in the very best ways we can.

But something else we love to do is help create memories to last a lifetime, whether it be performances on big stages like the Paramount Theatre or the Long Center, opportunities for 85 students to collaborate with superstars like Pepe Romero or....

...a chance for our amazing youth orchestra to perform in a 360 degree video on the rooftop of the art museum in downtown Austin!

And here it is!

If you've not experienced a 360 degree video then you're in for a special treat. You, as the viewer, will actually be in the middle of the experience, so if you're watching on a mobile device you will actually be able to physically move around and see different kids playing! You can also use your finger to navigate within the video. On a desktop computer you can click and drag your mouse to see everything.

On a mobile device we recommend using the YouTube app, rather than watching it through your browser. We also highly recommend headphones, or having your volume nice and full - because the kids gave an amazing performance!

We hope you love it.

And thank you for helping make everything at ACG Education possible.

ACG Alum Comes Full Circle

For our ACG Fall Fund Drive, we’re sharing stories on our Changing Lives Storyboard of ways music has changed our world, and how our community helped make it happen. Consider supporting ACG today!

We first met Javier Saucedo during his junior year at Akins High School. He had always loved guitar, but never had a teacher or an opportunity to perform. That all changed when he saw a flyer about a new guitar class at Akins. Javier told us, "I couldn’t believe I could actually play guitar during the school day and receive credit for it!" That first semester the class was small, but Javier felt right at home with the other guitar students, and the experience of rehearsing and performing together made them all close friends.

Javier excelled in guitar class during that first year, and began taking private lessons with Tate Coyle, a local professional guitarist, and Jeremy Osborne, ACG’s Assistant Director of Education. Javier says, “Mr. Osborne became a mentor. He helped me with guitar and helped me figure out my future, what I was going to do with my life.”

"Guitar was a place for me to put my energy and emotions. It gave me a constructive activity to be a part of. I always had a guitar by my side or in my hands. It became a part of my identity and motivated me to work hard in school and at home."

Javier also credits guitar with helping him stay focused as a teenager: “I went through a rough patch in high school, and guitar was a place for me to put my energy and emotions. It gave me a constructive activity to be a part of. I always had a guitar by my side or in my hands. It became a part of my identity and motivated me to work hard in school and at home.”

Javier remained committed to guitar throughout high school, and was awarded a full scholarship to study classical guitar at Austin Community College. Eventually, he transferred to Texas State University, where he earned his Bachelor of Music degree this past fall.

Mr. Osborne stayed in touch with Javier over the years, and attended his senior recital this past November. Impressed with his maturity and musicianship, Mr. Osborne began mentoring Javier once again. But this time, instead of helping Javier with his guitar playing, Mr. Osborne began showing him how to be an effective and inspiring guitar teacher.

In January, Javier became an instructor with ACG's Free Lessons Initiative, which provides weekly private guitar lessons to students with financial need. He’s now teaching at Paredes and Mendez Middle Schools, as well as Akins High School, working with students in the very same classroom he himself was in only five years ago.

Javier says his goal is to keep teaching and performing guitar as much as possible. He’s currently applying to get his teaching certificate, and hopes to one day work as a full-time classroom guitar educator in one of ACG’s programs in Austin. He told us:

"I’m thankful to ACG not only for helping me when I was in high school, but for their support through college, and now for helping me to get my teaching career started. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to give back to my community and to the program that helped make me the musician I am today.  I love being able to work with students who are in the same place I was not too long ago. I’m even helping some of them get ready for college auditions. The cycle continues – I had great teachers in high school who helped me, and now I get to do the same for others."

Guitar & Juvenile Justice: a student perspective

This story is part of our ACG Fall Fund Drive Changing Lives Storyboard. Consider supporting ACG today!

In 2010, in partnership with Austin Independent School District and Travis County, ACG developed the only for-credit arts class offered to young people incarcerated at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center. The impact of these classes has drawn national attention, including coverage on PBS NewsHour. Most recently, the Travis County Juvenile Probation Department has asked that ACG expand this program to begin serving Austin students who are currently on probation.

A couple of weeks ago, we sat down with several of ACG's students at Gardner Betts to ask them about their experience with guitar. We’d like to share one young man’s perspective:

My mom cried she was so happy after my first guitar concert.

I hadn’t even told her that I was learning to play. For that first performance, I just told her to come to the courthouse, that there was something going on and she needed to be there. When she showed up and there was a concert, and I played, she was amazed, and just kept crying.

I already finished my fine arts credit, but I decided to stay in guitar. I just like it. It keeps me busy, keeps me out of trouble and makes me feel grounded. It calms me down when I’m feeling angry or upset, for real. When I start playing, my mind slows down and pretty soon I’m lost in the music and everything else goes away, like blurs, and it’s just me playing guitar.

Guitar is just interesting. I’ve even learned how to figure out songs by ear. I used to bring in a recording of a song I wanted to learn and Mr. Osborne would start showing me how to play it. One day he told me to try and figure it out myself. I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but I started trying. At first I couldn’t do anything, so Mr. Osborne showed me the first note. Then I got it, one note here and there until I had the whole thing. If I got stuck or something, he would help, but other than that, I figured it out myself.

You practice to get better, you make a little progress, but you can’t really see it happening in a big way. Then one day you’re able to play this crazy piece. When I’m about to perform, I don’t worry about messing up, I just worry about playing. I close my eyes, and just focus on the music. When I sit down to play my hands always shake, but you just gotta play, get in your zone. The audience might not like it, they don’t have to like it, as long as you like it, that’s what matters.

If you are inspired by Austin Classical Guitar’s work with young people in the Juvenile Justice System, please consider making a donation to support this work today.

Greg Davis, National Geographic

©Amber Vickery Photography

“The purpose of my work is to serve as a reminder to us that we are all part of something greater than ourselves. At a faster rate than ever before, our world is shrinking and traditional cultures are at risk. It is imperative that we be aware of and respect the diversity of our planet as well as our unprecedented need to preserve it.” - Greg Davis

Greg Davis is a National Geographic Creative Photographer and an Ambassador for the Austin non-profit Well Aware, which provides innovative and sustainable solutions to the problems of water scarcity and contamination in Africa. His collectible works hang in private and institutional collections worldwide. We are thrilled to have Greg as our very first International Series visual art collaborator! He'll be on hand at the AISD Performing Arts Center during this Saturday night's concert with Ioana Gandrabur, exhibiting some of his stunning photographs from all over the world. Join us for an international celebration of music, art, and human connection.

Here is a preview of Greg's incredible work:

The Blanket Weaver, Vietnam

© Greg Davis Photography

Nine months into a transcontinental soul-searching expedition, a twist of fate put Greg on a dirt road in northern Vietnam—one that converged with that of Black Hmong blanket weaver. Without a word of common language between them, Greg gestured towards her hands. She held them out: deep blue and green, worn from years of labor, an intricate map of the lines of fate. With only a $400 point-and-shoot, Davis captured something larger than himself. Though he did not know it yet, in this fleeting moment, his life was woven with that of the blanket weaver.

Circle of Gratitude Too, Kenya

© Greg Davis Photography

They had walked hours, risking exposure to heat, animal and even man. A perilous journey, each day, every day. A journey of need. A journey of water. Education wasn’t the priority anymore, the intent was to fetch a basic human need...clean drinking water. Young girls are normally tasked with this job. School becomes secondary. In this arid region of Northern Kenya, at a young age, this becomes an obvious reality to life here. But but even then, its not always guaranteed that the water gathered isn’t tainted and may possibly cause more harm than good. This is where Well Aware delivers. Well Aware, an Austin based non-profit, provides innovative and sustainable solutions to the problems of water scarcity and contamination in Africa. This image was captured in the village of Daaba, where I worked with the children in a creative way to represent the well that was built there in 2011. 20% of the profits from the sale of Well Aware fine art photographs go back to help serve those in need.

Mohan's Offering, India

© Greg Davis Photography

He sat quietly on the banks of the Sangam, the confluence of the three holiest rivers in India, his gentle spirit shined. Mohan was quick to smile and the type of man that when you first met him, you’d swear that you had met before. I first met Mohan in 2013 at Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest pilgrimage in Allahabad, India. I sat with him one day and at one point asked where he lived. He smiled graciously and replied, “The sky is my roof and the land is my room.” Mohan spent his time near the birthplace of Lord Krishna, four hours upriver but had no home. He came from a wealthy family but chose the life of a sadhu, an ascetic who is solely dedicated to the contemplation of God. It was his eyes that drew you initially, but it was Mohan’s heart that ultimately captured you. Mohan welcomes others into his realm and leaves them all the better for it, for he believes, as he stated many times in our encounters, that “We are all one.” In July 2017, we embarked on a quest to find Mohan, somewhere between the heavens and the earth, not just for the man, but for the wisdom that resides within. To learn more, visit


Ioana Gandrabur

Romanian-born Ioana Gandrabur is one of the most inspiring artists we know, and we’re thrilled to present her Austin debut on January 27th at the AISD Performing Arts Center. Ioana, who is blind, will spend the week before her concert at Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, working with students in their guitar program. Then, those same students will perform to open her concert! We asked Ioana to tell us about how she discovered the guitar, the impact it has had on her life, and her career as a professional musician.

Can you describe your journey with guitar, how you started, and what it's meant to you over the years?
Since I was a little kid I was always attracted to sounds, and would play the songs I knew on any toy instrument I could find. I started piano lessons at five, and it was my piano teacher who suggested I try out the guitar. Her reason was that the guitar is an intimate instrument you can feel with your whole body as you play. I fell in love with it right away. Becoming a classical guitarist helped me find my voice, find a place where I felt strong, and provided a way for me to connect with other like-minded people. My identity became inextricably linked to the guitar and I am grateful for the ability to touch others through music.

What has been your experience with braille music and its availability to musicians?
In general, braille-adapted texts are much harder to find than printed ones. This situation is improving steadily for books, but braille music is lagging far behind. Great progress has been made with some braille music translation software, but it’s quite expensive. Some libraries have braille music, but if you find a piece you want to learn, you have to copy it by hand. I learned music by having others - usually my father - read the score out loud, note-by-note, as I would write it down in braille.

As a musician who is blind, have there been particular challenges to overcome? Did your blindness help foster any strengths?
I often joke that being a musician who is blind forces me to do what would be beneficial for any other musician. Not being able to see my instrument encouraged me to develop an innate tactile connection with the guitar, and since I can’t look at my hands, I truly listen to what I am playing. I know many musicians who practice in the dark to hone these skills.

Not being able to sight-read makes discovering new repertoire difficult. I would love to sit and read through new pieces, but I have to listen to recordings and thus am dependent on the rendition I hear. The upside is that I have a very well-trained memory, since everything I play has to be learned by heart from the beginning. In terms of teaching students who are blind, I believe it's critical to hold them to the same standards as you would anyone else. I remember feeling frustrated when I would hear comments like, “she’s a good player, even though she’s blind.” I have always wanted to be known only as a great musician, nothing else.

Special thanks to our friends at Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired for helping support Ioana Gandrabur’s concert and teaching residency!

A’lante Flamenco

The Austin-based flamenco ensemble A’lante Flamenco has been dazzling Texas audiences since 2011. Their productions range from traditional flamenco performances to multimedia theater works that draw upon flamenco culture to address pressing social issues. Austin Classical Guitar is grateful to have partnered with A'lante Flamenco over the years, and we invite you to attend an upcoming performance of their latest original work, Juana: First (I) Dream. Here, A’lante Flamenco's Artistic Director and Choreographer, Oliva Chacón, talks about the inspiration behind Juana: First (I) Dream, as well as why she is so passionate about the flamenco art form.

What do wish everyone knew about flamenco?

Flamenco is not just a musical style—it’s an entire culture, with a long, complex history. Most people are familiar with flamenco as a dance form or guitar music, but the oldest and most important element of flamenco is the singing, known as cante. Both the guitar and dance developed in service to the cante. In flamenco, the guitar, singing, and dancing are all parts of a whole, each feeding off one another. The audience also plays an important role, encouraging the performers and adding energy to the experience.

Can you tell us a little bit about this show?

Photo by Estrella Chacón

Juana: First (I) Dream is a full-length flamenco music and dance work by A’lante Flamenco that tells the story of one woman’s passionate quest for knowledge. It's about Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a 17th-century poet, scholar, and nun who lived Nueva España. Today she is known as the first feminist of the Americas. Our production features seven dancers and three musicians from A’lante Flamenco, along with beautiful costuming and lighting design, as well as six singers from the Texas Early Music Project.

The show's music combines traditional flamenco, original compositions by guitarist Jose Manuel Tejeda, and Baroque choral music sung by members of the Texas Early Music Project. Their director, Daniel Johnson, and I worked closely to choose choral selections that would have been performed during Juana's life, including one piece sung in Nahuatl, the indigenous language of Central Mexico. Plus, dancing in front of a six-member choir is a total luxury!

I love the process of bringing a feminist hero like Juana to life. She was so passionate about learning, and through her writing earned herself a platform from which to be heard. She used her voice to defend the right of women to be educated and speak freely - both unheard of in the 1600's. She’s a historical figure whose life and work is relevant to the current political and social climate, and I’m so pleased to introduce her to audience members who may not know her story.

How does your art form relate to the current human condition?

In my view, flamenco is a raw product of our humanity, without the filters of polite society. It comes from a longing to express all the richness of the human experience—joy, pain, nostalgia, mortality, and more. That’s why I think everyone can identify with some aspect of flamenco, even if they may not understand the words. The chords of the guitar, the tone of the voice, or the movement of a dancer can elicit an emotional response that transcends generations and cultures.

That’s why flamenco is the perfect language in which to tell a story like Juana's. She lived in the 17th century, but, like flamenco, her story is timeless. Her passion for knowledge, her struggle, is all present in flamenco. It doesn’t have an expiration date. The drive to achieve something, to persevere despite forces that oppose you—that’s the essence of the human spirit, and it’s the essence of flamenco, too.

Juana: First (I) Dream runs January 5-7 & 12-14 (6 shows total) at the Rollins Theater, inside the Long Center for the Performing Arts (701 Riverside Dr.) Tickets and more information are available here

The Artist-Audience Connection

This story is part of our ACG Fall Fund Drive Changing Lives Storyboard. Consider supporting ACG today!

In his role as ACG's Performance Engagement Artist, Joseph Palmer gives concerts in schools, libraries, museums - even alongside puppets! His programs are each uniquely crafted for the audience he's performing for, and always feature plenty of storytelling and audience interaction. And through his regular visits to all of our local middle and high school guitar programs, along with a series of online performance videos, Joseph is inspiring young people throughout Austin to find joy through music-making. In this blog post, learn more about Joseph's work with ACG and approach to engaging diverse audiences.

School Visits

In 2017, Joseph made 35 visits to Austin middle and high schools, performing for more than 1,000 students. One of the main goals of his school visits in the last 18 months has been to inspire guitar students to participate in the University Interscholastic League (UIL) Solo Music Contest.

The specific design of these visits was Inspire-Support-Refine. First, Joseph developed a concert program consisting entirely of selections from the UIL Prescribed Music List. This meant that every piece he performed is one the students would be eligible to play for a UIL guitar competition. Joseph then recorded videos of many of the selections so that all students, particularly those without private instructors, would have access to excellent tutorial support for their own chosen solo. Finally, he scheduled follow-up visits at each school, styled as master classes, for the students to perform their piece for him and their peers, and receive feedback.

Joseph during a recent visit to Akins High School.

Musical Puppet Shows

At the core of Joseph’s work in Performance Engagement is the question: As an artist, what can I do to make my performances as deeply personally significant as possible?

In the UIL example above, he designed a powerful program for middle and high school students of guitar. In partnering with storytellers from Austin Public Library’s “Literature Live” program for six performances of the musical puppet show, Fifolet (in addition to a radio show performance), Joseph provided free and engaging musical experiences for about 350 diverse young people and families all around Austin.

We asked Joseph to tell us a bit more about his work:

The role of music has always been deeply significant in my life. It can express what words cannot, connect people with their emotions, and it carries the capacity to dissolve the barriers that separate people. In the last several years, I have become increasingly inspired by the idea of being able to connect with virtually any person through music.

I’ve found that combining musical performance with personal interaction can open up a space where young people can explore something beautiful, share their impressions, self-reflect, discuss emotions, empathize, and think creatively. These are perhaps atypical experiences for a classroom setting, yet they are an essential part of our every day lives.

The greatness of the art we love and produce is only manifest through the personal connections others are able to make with it. As the performer, you are the ambassador for your art, and each performance is an opportunity to connect others to the richness and beauty of that world. Oftentimes, it’s not only about how great you play; it’s about how you present the experience as a whole.

The way an artist communicates and interacts with the audience during a performance has the potential to significantly enrich the listening experience. The goal is not to merely give information, but to build audience anticipation, engage their interest, imagination, or emotions in ways that tie into the music. When done well, it dramatically changes the whole dynamic of the musical experience.

Joseph Palmer's Performance Engagement work is made possible through the generous support of Bill & Mary LaRosa and Carl Caricari & Margaret Murray Miller. 

Top 10 Moments of 2017

Back by popular demand, it's our list of the Top 10 ACG Moments of the Year! It was an epic struggle to narrow this one down. We argued, we pleaded, we cajoled, and for a while even thought about making it a Top 11 list - but when the dust finally settled, we chose the 10 unforgettable moments listed below.

Was there something we left out? Let us know your most memorable ACG moments of 2017!


#10 - "Coco"
We couldn’t resist. As soon as we heard that Disney/Pixar would be releasing “Coco,” an animated musical about a young boy and his magical guitar, we called our friends at the Alamo Drafthouse and made plans for a kid-friendly, first-time guitar experience as part of the movie’s opening weekend in late November. We secured permission from Disney to create a simple arrangement of one of the songs from the film, came up with a fun lesson plan designed to get a roomful of kids from zero to performance-ready in less than an hour, gathered up 50 guitars, and headed to the theater hoping it would all work! Somehow, it did! And everyone had a blast. BONUS: Lots of adorable kiddos with guitars!


#9 - "The Fifolet"
What will happen to little Jolie when she encounters Percival, the mysterious pirate ghost, standing guard over his precious treasure? Find out in The Fifolet!

In August, ACG’s Performance Engagement Artist, Joseph Palmer, teamed up with storytellers from Austin Public Library for our first-ever musical puppet show collaboration! So much drama - so much fun! They gave six free shows in six different neighborhood libraries around the city.

Joseph recently shared some thoughts about connecting with audiences in this blog post.


#8 - Guitars Under the Stars
Guitars Under the Stars, our annual gala for ACG Education, is always a highlight of the season, and the 2017 edition was no exception. So many memorable moments – the heartfelt testimonial by Judge Darlene Byrne about ACG’s work with youth in juvenile detention... words of gratitude from ACG Scholarship recipient Santiago Esquivel... the Paper Guitar... Joseph Palmer's "Bold Fashioned" custom cocktail... the Akins High School guitar ensemble... and capping it all off, a performance by Grisha that led to long standing ovations (and swooning guitarists). But the part we loved the most? That we got to spend a magical night with so many friends and raised nearly $90,000 for ACG Education programs.


#7 - ACG Juvenile Justice Program featured in Teen Vogue
ACG’s work with youth in the juvenile justice system has attracted a lot of attention over the years – but we never expected to make it into Teen Vogue! Click here to read the article they published on their website in October.

We are so proud of the positive impact our guitar classes at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center have had on the young people we have the privilege of working with there. Check out this recent blog from Jeremy Osborne for a story about one of his students. BONUS: At the end of Jeremy's post you can watch the PBS NewsHour segment that led to the Teen Vogue story, which features an interview with the NewsHour reporter. Meta!


#6 - Matt gets an award!

We always knew our boss was pretty special. Matt Hinsley's leadership and vision have transformed Austin Classical Guitar from a humble guitar society into one of the most innovative and effective arts service organizations in the United States, so we were thrilled when the National Association of Social Workers named him as the 2017 “Public Citizen of the Year” for the state of Texas. Congratulations, Matt!


#5 - Changing lives from Austin to Kathmandu

The not-so-secret engine that powers ACG Education is, our online instructional resource for classroom-based guitar that allows us to support hundreds of teachers and thousands of their students across the U.S. and beyond. We didn’t truly appreciate how “beyond” our reach extended until we heard from Daniel Linden, who uses our curriculum with his students in Kathmandu, Nepal! Behind the scenes, the big news happened this August with the long-awaited relaunch of on a new software platform. This upgrade has dramatically improved the usability of the site and will allow us to introduce some new features that we've been dreaming about for a while.


#4 - The Lullaby Project, and a Transformational Gift

The Lullaby Project brings us together with mothers in extremely challenging circumstances to help them write personal songs for their children. It's incredibly challenging and rewarding work, and the songs and stories that have emerged since we began in 2014 have touched us deeply. The lullaby above, "I Will Protect You," was created just a couple of weeks ago at Travis County Jail.

In October, an anonymous donor handed us a check for $75,000 to start a Lullaby Project fund within ACG’s Endowment. We were blown away by this incredible gift, which will help sustain this special program for years to come.


#3 - A trial run for our newest and coolest project

One of our most exciting projects at the moment is a web-based learning resource designed to empower lifelong learning on the classical guitar for people with visual impairments. Nothing like it exists, and with help from Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, we're on track to launch in March, 2018! Back in August, though, we were just getting started and needed assurance it would all work. Seven members from the Austin chapter of the National Association for the Blind agreed to meet with us at TSBVI to try out the first few lessons. None of them played guitar, and as soon as we handed them instruments they had lots of questions! We told them they could only use the audio guides and braille scores we provided – because that's how people using the resource would do it. Not only did everyone sail through the lessons, they had so much fun they asked to keep going!


#2 - "Hope After Harvey"

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast on Friday, August 25th. The devastation it left in its wake was unimaginable, and we were eager to do something – anything - to help those affected. Together with Austin Chamber Music Center, Conspirare, and the Miro Quartet, we formulated plans for a benefit concert to raise money for the relief effort. St. John’s United Methodist Church generously stepped in and offered to host, and with five days to prepare, we got busy!

As soon as “Hope After Harvey” was announced, the contributions began pouring in - and not just from local folks planning to attend the concert. There were contributions from all over Texas, as well as Florida, California – even Singapore and Switzerland!

And on the day of the concert, hundreds of you came. Every single seat in St. John’s large sanctuary was filled, with more people lining the aisles, and even more watching a video simulcast of the concert from two overflow rooms. We also collected two carloads of donated goods, and signed up volunteers for two trips to assist nearby affected communities.

In the end, the concert raised over $35,000, all of which went to Austin- and Houston-based disaster relief organizations. "Hope After Harvey" was a remarkable demonstration of what our community can accomplish when we come together to help our neighbors - and a powerful affirmation that music is a mysterious and gentle force that brings people together, and inspires and lifts us all.


#1 - i/we

i/we changed us.

For two evenings in late July, i/we invited us to gather, to contemplate, and to search for ourselves in the faces and stories of others. It was also one of the most unique, ambitious, and challenging projects we’ve ever attempted at ACG. Highlighted by Joe Williams’s stunning score and Travis Marcum's interviews with refugees recently settled in central Texas, i/we drew upon the combined efforts and talents of the entire staff, a small army volunteers, and an international ensemble of world-class musicians. Everyone poured their hearts into it. i/we also drew upon the willingness of our community to open themselves up to an experience that asked a lot from them. The result was a truly extraordinary night of music, art, and stories we will never forget. The video above captures some of the magic.



From every one of us at Austin Classical Guitar, thank you for your incredible support and friendship. We are so grateful for the generous spirit of this community. You inspire us every day. We can't wait to share more great moments together in 2018!