2022-23 ACG Education Report

The 23-24 school year is underway. ACG is investing a million dollars in our education services this year. As you’ll read in the report below, ACG Education enriches the lives of thousands of young people and families in communities near and far. If you are inspired by this work we hope you will consider making a gift as part of our Fall Fund Drive. Click here to donate.


Dear Friends of ACG Education,

When ACG Education began in 2001, music offerings in most U.S. public schools were limited to choir, orchestra, and band. We believed guitar, the most popular instrument in the world, could make a huge, positive impact on American youth, if taught with careful attention to beauty, expressivity, individual identity, and technical development. Through a partnership with Austin ISD, we were given a rare opportunity to create an entirely new course area – classroom-based guitar – and develop an approach to teaching that engages and welcomes every student who participates. 

Twenty-two years and tens of thousands of students later, we are incredibly grateful for this opportunity to serve, and to all those who have made it possible. And we are excited for the path before us. 

In two decades we have built programs in every Austin ISD middle and high school. Last year, enrollment in guitar across AISD surpassed all other music classes besides band. The district’s latest Master Plan calls for a dedicated guitar room and guitar faculty member on every new campus going forward, beginning with this year’s new Marshall Middle School.

We believe now more than ever that high-quality guitar education can significantly and positively move the needle for youth development, and not just here in Austin. We have successfully scaled our guitar education systems and resources to support programs in 45 Texas school districts and 40 states, along with a growing list of international partners. We believe we hold the keys to a major shift in scholastic engagement across the nation. A major focus in our 2023 Strategic Plan is continued scaling and replicating of ACG Education services and methods, while maintaining special focus on the critical needs of our local community, including Title 1 Schools and the Juvenile Justice System.

We hope reading this 2022-23 Education Report brings you joy and makes you proud. We thank you for your support, and the support of friends like you, who believe in ACG and the power of music to do good in the world, and who make all of this service possible. 

The ACG Team

Juvenile Justice Services

Earlier this year Kim Andersen, a Counselor at Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center and one of our longest-serving partners, wrote a beautiful letter in support of ACG’s work at the facility. Here’s an excerpt:

I can’t say enough about how much the addition of music influences the lives of our incarcerated youth. Every student in Guitar starts up reluctant, afraid of failure, and afraid of trying. The ACG teachers coax them out of their protective shell, note by note, until they are performing in front of crowds. It’s an amazing sight to see their faces when they look up and take in the effect they’ve had on those in attendance.

You can read Kim’s complete letter online here.

This past school year was a monumental time for ACG’s Juvenile Justice Education programs. For the first time since we have been working with youth in detention centers, we were able to successfully advocate for a student to be granted leave to perform off-site at one of our public events. To be able to gain the trust of the student and the leaders of the facility to do something like this is only done through the faith and efforts of everyone involved. This was such a beautiful experience for everyone, but most of all for this young performer. After playing he stated, “It’s amazing! There are so many words to describe it. I can’t find any right now but it’s really changed my life. It does a lot for me. It helps me. It gives me peace. It gives me happiness. I love this art of playing the guitar. It’s really beautiful and I’m really thankful for you.” 

Under the leadership of Hector Aguilar, ACG Director of Juvenile Justice Services, our work in this arena has thrived in five Texas facilities: Gardner Betts and Phoenix House in Travis County, the Williamson County Juvenile Justice Center in Georgetown, and the Henry Wade and Medlock centers in Dallas County. The success of these programs, and our expanding reach, is made possible by the dedication of our amazing and talented teachers: Hector of course, as well as Gabriel Ibarra in Dallas, and Francisco de la Rosa – himself a graduate of ACG education – in Austin.

Students in all five facilities performed throughout the year, including final recitals in May, and were able to participate remotely in our spring Concert and Sight Reading Contest.

Below is a piece titled “Forever Lasting,” created by the students in Travis County’s Gardner Betts Facility. What started as a simple warm-up exercise transformed into a composed and improvised piece that showcases the artistic growth and creativity of these remarkable young musicians. 

Local Services

Last year we reported our big news that guitar had become the second highest enrolled music class of any kind in Austin ISD middle and high schools (behind band). This was a huge milestone for ACG, since our primary work since 2001 has been to build these programs from curriculum, to teacher training, to district-wide organization and standards.

In August 2023, AISD Director of Fine Arts, Philip Taylor, wrote: “This growth has garnered district wide attention, as guitar courses now play a large role in the new educational specifications and master plan for the school district. AISD passed a bond in November 2022 and, as we modernize or build new campuses, guitar classrooms will be added to (or enlarged) at each of the secondary campuses. Not only does this partnership expand interest in the arts, but it provides an affordable instrument option for students interested in becoming a musician, removing one of the many barriers that exist for students to participate in the arts.”

We are still seeing strong performance from our local programs in Manor and Hutto, and are looking forward to two new middle school programs being added in San Marcos ISD, which will strengthen the excellent programs there.

Read Phillip Taylor’s letter here.

Photo by Jack Kloecker

Concert and Sight Reading

Since 2014, ACG has created and administered Austin ISD’s Concert and Sight Reading Contest. This is a critical part of our growing ecosystem, creating an opportunity for students, teachers, and administrators near and far to work toward common educational goals. On May 11 and 12 over 40 programs participated from Austin, Odessa, San Marcos, Dallas, Williamson County, and San Antonio. 

ACG has also been working with the communities of El Paso, Corpus Christie, Brownsville, and Houston to deliver similar events in those areas. For example, in April the Socorro ISD event (El Paso) attracted all Six SISD High schools and two Middle Schools for a total of 13 events. Each year we share best practices, deliver newly created sight-reading excerpts, and offer training.

GuitarCurriculum, Method Books, and Teacher Training

The primary engine driving ACG Education’s growing reach in Texas and across the US is the support, training, and resources we can offer to music teachers and their guitar programs. 

GuitarCurriculum, originally launched in 2008, is a vast and evolving web-based resource for classroom-based guitar teachers. The big news this summer is the publication of our first-ever printed Student and Teacher Method Books. The books compile selected materials and scores from the website to give teachers a clearly prescribed path to follow with their beginning classes. The books are already getting a tremendous response. Isaac Greene, professor at Bob Jones University called them “a resource without comparison,” and guitar education leader Matt Denman called them, “a great achievement for class guitar pedagogy.” 

We are especially pleased to announce the arrival of a new staff member, Phil Swasey, who will be taking both the curriculum and our partner relationships to the next level. Phil has had a marvelous 14-year career as a master middle school instructor, has been contracting with ACG for several years, and his arrival on the team is much-anticipated.

We produced two Teacher Summits this summer: Austin, July 13-15, and Columbia, South Carolina, July 28-29. With over 70 participants, the Summits were a wonderful chance to debut the new Method Books. Our session survey comments included: That was some of the BEST professional development I’ve had in 13 years of teaching!” and, “I want to commend you all for a fantastic conference. The patience and understanding of the GC team was phenomenal. I am incredibly appreciative of your kindness and encouragement. This conference helped ease my anxiety as I approach the new school year, launching a beginning guitar program.”

Performance Engagement

Over the years we’ve learned that a broad baseline of high quality education, when combined with injections of inspiration from high-profile events or guest artist appearances, make for a powerful recipe for personal transformation. Students have frequently pointed to ‘that one time’ when a guest artist came to their classroom, connected with them, and set them on a path of deeper dedication.

Joseph Palmer is our Performance Engagement Artist, performing over 50 concerts a year in schools. Guests artists and staff members often visit schools in this capacity as well. Here’s a note we received from Lively Middle School’s Meredith McAlmon about the impact a visit by ACG’s Justice Phillips, himself an alum of Lively’s guitar program, had on her students:

“I want to thank you for providing another wonderful opportunity for my students. Justice Phillips came to talk to and play for my beginning guitar class, which is made up of 18 sixth graders. This is a high energy class that meets right after lunch, and it is often a challenge to engage them. The visit from Justice was a surprise and they were so excited when they came into the room to meet someone they have often heard me talk about. Justice spoke about his journey and accomplishments in music, which started at Fulmore (now Lively) Middle School when he was their age. He pointed out that we even met in the same room that we are still in, and they loved that! Justice talked a little, played, talked some more, showed a little bit of his clip from Nick Hurt’s movie – whose title is the song that he commissioned Justice to write – and did some improvising along the way. The students were fascinated by the composing process, which Justice talked about as well. We are currently working on El Chinati, so we had the students get their guitars and play some of their parts – which he then improvised over. It was such an exciting visit for them, and the next day we did some more improvising in class, which they loved! They really related to Justice as a former student of their school and to the fact that someone so young and energetic (like they are) has already accomplished so much. It helped them to see what they could do if they set their mind to it!”

Community Education

The Rosette, Austin Classical Guitar’s new concert and creative learning center in Hyde Park, has been a game changer for our Community Education initiatives. The number of offerings and the number of participants has more than doubled in our youth and adult ensembles, our classes, workshops, open mic opportunities, student spotlight concerts, and early childhood development classes. In all cases we seek to leverage the inspiring beauty of the Rosette, with our knowledge of teaching, and our unique brand of welcoming kindness, to offer diverse members of our community joyful and unforgettable experiences with music.

Community Co-creation

In recent years we have made a significant, organization-wide effort to integrate our artistic programming with our services in education. We arrange school visits for almost every guest artist, and students perform before or during every major ACG public presentation. We also are investing deeply in large-scale community-based creative projects where students and community members collaborate for months to co-create and perform major new works. 

This past season, 65 members of our community developed a piece called “The Elements,” written by our Artist in Residence, Marek Pasieczny, which was performed in February, 2023. In the upcoming 23-24 season, we are thrilled to welcome the Fulbright-winning and Grammy-nominated composer Reena Esmail as our Artist in Residence. Reena will collaborate with students from across our community in the creation and realization of an exciting new work, which will be premiered in February, 2024.

Of her experience performing “The Elements,” an eighth-grade student, Aryanna, wrote in a handwritten letter to her teacher: “I was so excited because I was going to be surrounded by people who are just as passionate about guitar as I am. Ever since we worked with ACG, I haven’t been able to get that out of my head. The members were so sweet, the music they play is so beautiful and majestic, the stage was huge, just everything about that experience was so wonderful. The moment I stepped foot on that stage I knew this is the life I want.”

Read Aryanna’s letter here.

Free Individual Lessons

Recognizing that not all students in our community have the same access to private individual instruction, ACG has worked to provide high-level, weekly instruction for students across our district who show dedication to improving their skills, and who are nominated by their classroom instructors for this scholarship program. Started in 2001, our Free individual lessons programs is focused primarily in Title 1 Schools, and has grown to employ seven instructors with advanced music degrees, and serve about fifty students.

Our Free Individual Lessons program is a deep investment in the individuals served, with weekly instruction and an ecosystem of support that includes ensemble participation, performance opportunities, free instruments, and professional development including college and financial aid application support.

The results of this program have been remarkable. Dozens of students have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarships over the years. Six former ACG students, posit-college, joined the ACG team as staff members of instructors. Five graduates are now themselves full-time teachers in AISD. 

This year we’re especially proud of 2023 graduate Juanito Rodriguez who won scholarships to attend several universities in the spring and will be starting as a Music major at the Butler School of Music at UT Austin this fall.

Spotlight: Spy Kids

A particularly exciting example of community co-creation, is our Spy Kids project in collaboration with famed film director Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez has generously donated his Spy Kids movie music for us to use in our teaching curriculum. He also offered to make a music video of students playing it. ACG contract composer, Matthew Lyons, prepared the arrangement with Rodriguez and Rick del Castillo. Eighteen students learned the piece in the spring, and Rodriguez filmed them performing it at The Long Center in June. The video is due out soon, and the teaching score is already available online at GuitarCurriculum.

The Future

We have big plans to deepen and expand our education services. As we wrote at the beginning of this report, we believe we are holding the keys to a major transformation in scholastic engagement in America. In the coming years we plan to launch and name the Austin Classical Guitar Education Institute with several endowed positions in order to support and sustain the work we have started in the past twenty-two years. If you would like help us launch this institute, or if you have any questions about this report, please do not hesitate to reach out to Executive Director, Matthew Hinsley.

Thank You

ACG Education services are only possible because of the generosity of the many people who share our belief in the power of music to positively transform lives. We would like to extend an extra special thanks to the following institutions and individuals for their major financial support over the past year:

The Augustine Foundation, The Kaman Foundation, Karrie & Tim League, the Cain Foundation, the Webber Family Foundation, the Rea Charitable Trust, The Ben & Nancy Sander Family, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Shield-Ayres Foundation, the Still Water Foundation, Greg Wooldridge & Lynne Dobson, Bill & Lynne Cariker, Mary Raley, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the Long Foundation, atsec information security, Jeff & Gail Kodosky, Reverb Gives/Reverb.com, Carson & Michele McKowen, Judith Stich & the MFS Fund at the North Georgia Community Foundation, H-E-B, the Kodosky Foundation, Debra Lewis, Jacqueline Rixen, the Burdine Johnson Foundation, the Texas Bar Foundation, Lucy & Bill Farland, Sarah & Ernest Butler, the Texas Women for the Arts, Rick & Valeri Reeder, Mercedes-Benz of Austin, Mike Chesser, the Warren Skaaren Charitable Trust, Megyn Busse, Zack & Whitney Zamora, Greg & Cindy Abell, Martha P. Rochelle, Ameriprise Financial Community Relations, the University Area Rotary Club, Edwina Carrington, Patrice Arnold, Rich & Caryn Puccio, IBC Bank Austin, Stacia & Walt DeBill, the Shanti Foundation for Intercultural Understanding, the Mockingbird Foundation, the Arnold Foundation in honor of Lazan Pargaman, and Anonymous Donors.


From Matt Hinsley: The Space Music Creates

Throughout the month of March we will be shining a light on ACG Music & Healing. On March 25-26, we will present a concert of some of the most memorable songs created by Music & Healing artists and participants over the years. The concert is called We’ve Always Known, and we’ve never done anything like it. We hope you’ll join us! Learn more about ACG Music & Healing here.

 

In 2014 we were talking with Carnegie Hall. Our work each day in Austin’s Juvenile Justice Center was unique in America – it still is – and they wanted to know more. In the course of our conversations, they mentioned a new pilot they’d started, called Lullaby Project, and they invited us to become one of their first national partners. 

Caseworkers had approached Carnegie Hall for help with a problem. 

New and expecting mothers in two New York maternity shelters and at Rikers Island were facing high levels of stress and anxiety due to trauma and isolation, and it was having negative health outcomes for both mother and baby. The acute medical care and other treatments available in the facilities did not seem to be reaching the social and emotional levels that the caseworkers believed were critical factors.

Could music help?

Carnegie Hall came up with a simple and brilliant idea: pair highly-skilled, empathic, teaching musicians with each mom to visit, talk through hopes, dreams, and fears, write out feelings and letters to loved ones, distill those thoughts into lyrics for a song, compose, perform, and record that song, and then share and celebrate it with others. The results had been amazing. Not only were beautiful songs being written, the act of expressive creation itself had become a powerful medium for human connection, bridging isolation, meeting trauma with listening, and developing new narratives for the future.

We’ve been doing this work through ACG Music & Healing ever since, and it’s changed us.

We learned quickly that the space music creates is profound and unusual. Two people who don’t know each other can meet and connect deeply in the context of creation and expression. The music itself is a kind of emotional sandbox we can play in together, develop friendship, and create and experience beauty in a way that’s beyond words.

Over time we realized the same thing is happening in our education programs. Thousands of young people across our community are coming together each day to learn and make beautiful music and in those special moments are opportunities for belonging and kindness to nurture responsibility and perseverance. We realized it’s what we do in our community ensembles, in our concerts, and in our work together as volunteers and staff members.

I’m sharing this with you today for a couple of reasons. 

The first is at the end of this month we’re presenting We’ve Always Known at The Rosette, our first concert featuring songs composed in the course of our Music & Healing work. Please come! 

Second is that we’re in the midst of a March fund drive to support this work. We’ll invest over $800,000 this year in education and healing, most of which goes to artists in our community. A shift in government funding priorities has meant the loss of about $150,000 for ACG this year. To help bridge that gap we need help. Our board member Shannon Belcher made a matching pledge of $10,000 in honor of her parents which friends like you have helped us to meet. Inspired by Shannon, another amazing board member, Carson McKowen, has added an additional $10,000 in honor of his mother who recently passed away. Thank you Shannon, thank you Carson, and thanks to everyone who has contributed so far. 

If this is work you might like to support, I’ll place a link to donate below.

Thank you so much for your support, and for your belief in the power of music to do good in the world.

Matt Hinsley

ACG Music & Healing March Fund Drive


Music & Healing: A Gift

A note from ACG Executive Director Matt Hinsley:

Talking with Shannon Belcher about the place music holds in her life, in her memories, and in her relationship with her mother was such a moving experience for me. If her story and generosity inspire you too, I hope you’ll consider making a contribution to our Spring 2023 Music & Healing Fund Drive. Shannon will match every dollar contributed up to $10,000. 

Throughout the month of March we will be shining a light on ACG Music & Healing. On Thursday, March 9th, our free, monthly ACGtalks breakfast series will focus on our work in this area. Then, on March 25-26, we will present a concert of some of the most memorable songs created by Music & Healing artists and participants over the years. The concert is called We’ve Always Known, and we’ve never done anything like it. I hope you’ll join us! 

As always, I welcome you to contact me any time for any reason. Thank you.

For many years, Shannon Belcher attended ACG concerts with her mom Paula. Some of Shannon’s fondest early memories revolve around a classical guitar festival in Carmel, California, when Paula first introduced her to the art form. Shannon’s father, Paula’s husband Glenn, was a fighter pilot who went Missing In Action during the Vietnam War. Paula and Shannon would stay close, classical guitar weaving in and out of their lives, all the way until Paula passed away last summer.

Shannon has just pledged a generous matching gift of $10,000 to ACG Music & Healing in honor of her parents, and I sat down with her to talk about why. 

“I wanted to give this gift for so many reasons,” she told me. “The work you do at Dell Children’s Hospital, with veterans, with the juvenile justice population. Through ACG I’ve seen music give huge gifts to people that change their lives. And I’ve experienced it myself many times, including the sense of peace and healing that came to me when ACG musicians hosted and performed for Mom’s memorial service at The Rosette.”

A career data and financial systems analyst, Shannon joined the Board of Directors of Austin Classical Guitar in September 2019. As a patron of the organization for more than a decade by that time, Shannon was already deeply familiar with ACG Music & Healing.

“Mom and I attended the presentations you would do before concerts. I remember, in particular, a song called Miles To Go, written by a woman with a chronic cancer diagnosis. It was so moving, with lyrics about her drive to and from MD Anderson in Houston. 

“We were introduced to that song only shortly before mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, so its meaning only grew for us. And now, as it turns out, I’m about to move to a place in Bastrop on that very road she described in the song.”

I asked Shannon about impact she hopes her gift will bring to ACG Music & Healing participants. She told me,

“In Mom’s last few days, you came to play for her. Mom was in that twilight stage, still there, body aware, but eyes closed. You played for us, and Mom intentionally changed her grasp on my hand. She was there, she was communicating. This was a good thing.”

“I believe Music & Healing can give people a core of peace. I think that core of peace can bring about many things, perhaps focus and discipline to take difficult steps, perhaps a release from physical or psychological pain, perhaps resilience that will keep them from self-destructive behavior. What ACG does is not soporific, it’s not escapist, it addresses the pain through expression, and that makes a huge difference. It really goes back to the mission of ACG: to inspire individuals in our community through experiences of deep personal significance.”

Shannon and Paula in Carmel

From Matt Hinsley: Our December Goal

Support ACG! We’ve just announced our end-of-year $250,000 fund drive goal to support our programming in more than 60 local schools, juvenile justice centers, medical centers, and shelters, as well as the activation of our new ACG home, The Rosette! Donate here.

 

It has been an incredible year at Austin Classical Guitar so far. 

We learned that the education programs we’ve built in AISD, that started as a dream over twenty years ago, now enroll more students than any other music class in middle or high school across AISD besides band.

Our work in the juvenile justice system, that is the first and only daily for-credit performing arts class for incarcerated youth in Texas ever, expanded to serve in a fifth facility in Dallas, and our first-of-its kind braille lifelong learning system was officially adopted by another nation’s Ministry of Education as a national curricular model.

And we opened The Rosette! The Rosette is the only theater in America created by an organization such as ours. It exists to bring joy and inspiration to our community through art, and my oh my how it has begun to live and breathe. 

So today I am announcing a December Fundraising Goal of $250,000.

Thousands of young people in central Texas alone are learning with ACG systems and training, and our team is out there every day making it as good as it can be. I’d like to be able to support them. Almost fifty students in Title One Schools are receiving free weekly lessons they would not likely otherwise be able to afford, the results are miraculous, and I’d like to support them. The Rosette is beautiful, but it’s not finished, and our team is building more, designing, and supporting on average more than one community-based event every day. I’d like to support them.

Today I’m asking you to join me. It might be with a phone call to 512-300-2247 set up lunch, it might be an email with an introduction, it might be a major gift or planned gift for our endowment to name one of our programs or one of our offices, or it might be a donation of any size made online here.

Remarkable things have happened thanks to friends like you. Truly remarkable things that have never happened, anywhere else, in our nation’s history. Through music we’ve had a chance to nurture, and heal, and educate, and share. And we’re just getting started. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

 

Matt Hinsley, Executive Director

Remote Teaching Resources

As many teachers in our community are faced with the prospect of remote teaching, the GuitarCurriculum.com and Austin Classical Guitar Team want to share all the remote resources we have available.


Let's Play.com

This is a completely free, graded, solo study track with 44 expressive sequential pieces. You and your students can download the entire 82-page book for free online here (choose pdf download).

The music, mostly written and arranged by Joseph Palmer, is beautiful and engaging, with ample fingering and dynamic indications. Even more exciting is that each piece in the first seven levels have accompanying audio guides, also free, and available for streaming online here.

As you may know, we developed this site specifically for use by the blind and visually impaired community, so some of the audio guides are labeled Braille Lessons, which your sighted students may simply ignore. The other audio lessons, however, address detailed technical and musical subjects, and provide recorded examples of each piece.

How can this help you and your class?

For beginning and intermediate classes you could assign, for example, an appropriate piece for each student to learn on their own using the audio guides. This will assist the speed and quality of their progress through the new material, and allow your remote teaching sessions to be more productive. They can prepare a section on their own, and share their progress with you via video exchange or in remote consultation. Additionally, since the 44 pieces are directly sequential, you and your students will have a clear path forward.

How does this relate to GuitarCurriculum?

It relates directly! The LetsPlay material was created to mirror the sequencing of GuitarCurriculum as follows:

LP Level 1 = GC Level 1 (simple, open string songs)

LP Level 2 = GC Level 2 (introduces reading on strings 2 and 3)

LP Level 3 = GC Level 2 (introduces reading on string 1)

LP Level 4 = GC Level 3 (3 pieces + 1 scale to learn and master im alternation and string crossing)

LP Level 5 = GC Level 3 (im alternation solos with open string bass notes)

LP Level 6 = GC Level 4 (solos with fretted bass strings)

LP Level 7 = GC Level 5 (more advanced solos with fretted bass strings)

LP Level 8 = GC Level 5+ (parallel literature, 1st position only, no audio guides)


Other Resources & More GuitarCurriculum.com Materials:

GuitarCurriculum.com: Our Director of Curriculum, Eric Pearson, has just changed permissions on videos in GC.com and are available for anyone who navigates to the video page. These videos are tailored specifically towards students and you can find them here.

Using Zoom? Here is a great video on how to optimize audio on a Zoom call for music.

Need more resources? Here is a comprehensive list of remote teaching tools.


Please be kind to yourselves during this time. All the solutions proposed above are imperfect, and there will be a ton of troubleshooting in the weeks ahead.

Additionally, feel free to reach out to anyone on the ACG team if you have any questions or need support!


Sponsor Spotlight: Harlow Russell & Awesome 3D Cards

We’re super grateful to Harlow Russell of Awesome 3D Cards for his generous sponsorship of our UpClose Series concert featuring Mateusz Kowalski at the home of Chaya Rao on Sunday, February 2nd at 6pm (tickets). Guests will enjoy Chaya’s delicious homemade vegetarian Indian Food, and they'll also get to take home one of Harlow’s awesome cards! Harlow has a neat story, and we asked him to share some of it.


ACG: How did the idea of 3D cards come to you?

HR: I lived and worked in Asia for the last 25 years, most of my adult life. The last 4 years were in Vietnam. So, I was very familiar with the Vietnamese artform of "Kirigami". It’s like Japanese Origami, but distinctly different. Kirigami always takes the form of a pop-up gift or thank you card. It contains a 3D paper model inside the card that "folds." For many years I would always bring back the cool cards when I came home to visit my mother in Austin. In fact, she kept all those cards over the years and would frequently show guests at her house because they were so unique. Real paper art.

I moved back to the USA in 2018 and among other things I had to buy insurance. Once I finally settled on an agent he sent me a thank you card and said I was a VIP customer. The card was a plain white generic card. You know, the kind that come in a stack of 100 at the Dollar stores. I didn’t feel like a VIP with this card. Then it hit me!  What if he had a custom cool Kirigami card! That would be amazing and make me feel special. And I knew everyone always keeps these handmade Kirigami cards because they are totally unique. Hence...Awesome 3D Cards was born!

ACG: What is something you wish everyone knew about the artistry?

HR: The art and skill is the 3D model inside each card. It’s like a Jack in the Box. When people open any of my cards, they smile. They are amazed. They play with the cards. Gen Z or Boomer, male or female, CEO or house sitter, every single person who has received one of my Awesome 3D cards in the last 12 months has had a moment of joy and fun. That’s the special artistry of these custom handmade cards.

ACG: You make a lot of custom designs for people in Austin. Why is it important to you to make special things for our community?

HR: I first lived and work in Austin in the 1980's. Then I moved west to LA and west again until it became "East"...Jakarta Indonesia, 1992. I always remembered how wonderful Austin was as a young person. My mother retired from Philly to Austin in 1994. So for 25 years, I've been coming back "home" to Austin once or twice a year. In early 2018, I came back home to take care of her in her final chapter of life. I loved being back, to the Live Music Capitol of the World, to the BBQ scene, to the "keep Austin Weird" scene. 

When I decided to start my Custom 3D card business, I first produced two Austin-themed concept cards: our beloved, historic, State Capitol Building, and the “Bat Bridge” (Congress Ave. Bridge) - where people from all over the world come to watch our 2 million bats go out on the town every evening. These two cards also demonstrated the skill and fine detail of using Vietnamese Kirigami but in an "Austin" style. Now I create cards for companies and organizations in Austin and across the US and Canada. If you’d like to know more, email me anytime or call 512-571-1615.

 


'together' Artist Profile: Jennifer Choi - Violinist

We are thrilled to be collaborating with some incredible artists for our January 24-26 season centerpiece together. Jennifer Choi will be the violinist on the show. We asked Jennifer to tell us a bit about the process and a bit about herself. 


Austin Classical Guitar: You’ve been part of this series form the beginning. i/we, dream, together. What does this series  mean to you?

Jennifer Choi: I feel so honored to have been a part of all three concerts in this series, which is one of the most unique projects that I have been involved in. I loved how much the community at large has been interwoven within the programs, and that we heard these voices from the heart.  It brought us a real perspective and deeper understanding of the events happening around us each day, and made the music so meaningful to perform.

ACG: What do you wish everyone knew about the process of creating, collaborating on, and sharing new music and new art?

JC: With new music, there is always a sense of adventure because you are meeting the music for the first time, and on some occasions, you're meeting the composer for the first time too, like going on a musical blind date!  You don't know exactly what you're gonna get, so of course there's a feeling of the unknown.  But then, you take a peek, and when the music speaks to you, it can feel like something strikes a chord in your being and that something can be soul-moving, bring you to tears.. or it can be joyful and exciting, and you just want to get more of it!  I have so much respect for composers. They are putting all their energy into something they believe in for us to listen to and be moved with them.

ACG: What’s it been like work with this team?

The process here at ACG has been one of deep connections and collaboration from the beginning.  So much thought has gone into each concert with a vision that is large and all encompassing. I loved that there were no constraints. Every idea was considered, and in the end, a wide range of music and genres has been incorporated into the format.  It says a lot about an organization when year after year, the core team stays the same and everyone is in it for the same, beautiful purpose.

ACG: Tell us a little about what else you have going on - how can people learn more about you?

JC: Last month I was in Toulouse, France playing with Les Freres Meduses -no strangers to ACG- guitarists, Randall Avers and Benoit Albert. I have found that chamber music with guitars and violin to be a divine combination.  The Texas Guitar Quartet with Isaac Bustos and Alejandro Montiel have also graciously invited me to perform with them and I also brought Isaac and Al to NYC last season and it was just so much fun to reunite then as it is now. I continue my various collaborations with composer/performers in New York, and most recently I have joined the Artist Faculty of Juilliard Global which takes me around the world for performances and master classes.  My website is www.jenniferchoi.com if you'd like to know more about me go to https://www.jenniferchoi.com.


If you would like to know more about the inspiration of ‘together,’ we invite you to read this article by Artistic Director, Joe Williams, and Education Director, Travis Marcum.


'together' Artist Profile: Celil Refik Kaya - Composer

We are thrilled to be collaborating with some incredible artists for our January 24-26 season centerpiece together. Composer and guitarist Celil Refik Kaya has created a beautiful and moving new work for these shows: There Is Life In This Room. We asked Celil to tell us a bit about the process and a bit about himself. 


Austin Classical Guitar: Tell us about together? What has this project meant to you so far, has anything surprised you?

Celil Refik Kaya: I believe this project is very enlightening in an age that people are disconnected from each other. Today, we as a society are more disconnected than ever. When we think about a family, it is like the smallest country. Family members love, trust and support each other. We should achieve this as humanity as well. When I heard the interview with the young patient, it was one of the most touching things I have ever heard, and I dedicated “There is life in this Room” for her. The title is taken from her interview expressing her feelings and life in the hospital room. I believe the commissioned pieces that we will hear for this project will change the way people see each other, and will guide us to have superior empathy toward each other. 

ACG: What do you wish everyone knew about the process of creating, collaborating on, and sharing new music and new art?

CRK: Today new music and arts in general should be supported more. Performing, composing and sharing beautiful projects as artists are possible thanks to the support of people. People often don’t realize how important music is in our lives as a whole. It is everywhere—we almost don’t live a moment without it. New music and arts in general reflect our civilization, and people should realize how important this is not only for today but also for future generations. All the creation, collaboration and sharing process comes with a tremendous amount of work, practice and sacrifice just so we change people’s lives and touch people’s souls.

ACG: What’s it been like working with this team?

CRK: Working with the Austin Classical Guitar team is a wonderful experience. They are full of creative ideas and every project is meaningful and immortal in my opinion. I always think of an artist as a person of creativity rather than imitator or craftsman. Although we don’t create from nothing, the unique ideas come from an artist’s mind and this is what ACG is doing. Over the years, I enjoyed collaboration with Matthew Hinsley, Joe Williams and all my other friends in ACG team. I was able to express myself as composer and performer. 

ACG: Tell us a little about what else you have going on - how can people learn more about you?

CRK: I have a busy performing schedule while teaching classical guitar privately. For the future, I have 4 CD projects coming up with Naxos records. I will be continuing recording the works of Agustin Barrios Mangore, Jorge Morel and Carlo Domeniconi. Sometime around next year my 4th recording, the music of Joaquin Rodrigo, will be released. I am currently planning on publishing new works that I have written including Five Turkish Folk Dances for solo guitar, Dicle ve Fırat (Tigris and Euphrates) for trio and many others. My recordings are on Naxos Records and can be found on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. Some of my compositions, recorded by me and my colleagues, are on Youtube. People can also visit my website for more information about concerts and other news.


If you would like to know more about the inspiration of 'together,' we invite you to read this article by Artistic Director, Joe Williams, and Education Director, Travis Marcum.


'together' Artist Profile: Isaac Bustos - Guitarist

We are thrilled to be collaborating with some incredible artists for our January 24-26 season centerpiece together. Guitarist Isaac Bustos has been with us since the beginning of this series playing in both i/we and dream, and many others. We asked Isaac to tell us a bit about this project and a bit about himself. 


Austin Classical Guitar: You’ve been part of this series from the beginning. i/we, dream, together. What’s it mean to you?

Issac Bustos: It has been a powerful experience to be part of each of these projects because of the profound impact each event has had on me as an artist and person. I/WE, in particular, hit so close to home because of how I related to the refugee experience expressed in the interviews. This short anecdote encapsulates how significant this concert was for me: I vividly remember that while working on the solo of "I am not afraid", I was overwhelmed by how perfectly Joe's music captured the message of the text! I remember how my own experience was guiding my phrasing, the way I breathed with the music, which colors to bring out, what kind of touch to use on the strings, how loud/soft to play. All these things, obviously, are always part of our interpretative process, but the fact that they were serving a greater purpose - at least from my perspective - made the whole experience much more meaningful. 

ACG: What do you wish everyone knew about the process of creating, collaborating on, and sharing new music and new art?

IB: The music, collaborative efforts, creation, and production of these new works of art reveal our humanity and how much we have in common. One of the most fascinating aspects of these events is the fact that most musicians involved in these concerts have never worked together! Somehow, however, the music brings us all together to serve a common purpose - which we in return share with audiences that have come to experience something new. This entire process takes open minds and hearts.

ACG: What’s it been like work with this team?

IB: Inspiring! The professionalism, dedication, and camaraderie are nothing short of exceptional. I have gotten to work with top-notch musicians in settings that allow the creative process to flourish. Plus, we get to share beautiful and impactful music. 

ACG: Tell us a little about what else you have going on - how can people learn more about you?

IB: This spring is full of exciting new adventures for me! I have concerts with the Texas Guitar Quartet in Feb, March, and April! In the summer, we are touring Mexico. Plus, I am hosting the Southwest Guitar Symposium and competition in March (13-15) as part of my new position as director of guitar studies at UT -San Antonio! Then, a solo show in Anaheim, California followed by a performance of the Concierto de Aranjuez with the Rapides Symphony in Alexandria, LA. Lots of music to be made and I can't wait to share it with people.

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If you would like to know more about the inspiration of 'together,' we invite you to read this article by Artistic Director, Joe Williams, and Education Director, Travis Marcum.


'together' Artist Profile: Alejandro Montiel - Guitarist

We are thrilled to be collaborating with some incredible artists for our January 24-26 season centerpiece together. Guitarist Alejandro Montiel has been with us since the beginning of this series playing in both i/we and dream, and many others. We asked Alejandro to tell us a bit about this project and a bit about himself. 


Austin Classical Guitar: You’ve been part of this series form the beginning. i/we, dream, together. What’s it mean to you?

Alejandro Montiel: I can’t believe this is the third and final one! It has all been building up to “together” - this idea that we are never alone. “i/we” dealt with the very real and terrifying act of uprooting your family to seek a better life for them. Through his harrowing story, our protagonist appealed to our shared sense of humanity. “dream”’s universal message of hopeful fear of the future in our youth successfully bridges across generations because we all share in the experience of growth, and we all remember how difficult it was (and in some cases still is). While I’m sad to see it end, “together” seems like the natural stopping point to the story Joe has been telling for the past three years. I’m so incredibly proud and fortunate to have played a small part.

ACG: What do you wish everyone knew about the process of creating, collaborating on, and sharing new music and new art?

AM: Birthing a new chamber work varies from one piece to the next. Sometimes the process is quite easy and will quickly comes together. Other times, it’s incredibly difficult and we’ll have to roll up our proverbial sleeves. Eventually, the piece reveals itself and the story begins to take shape. It’s during these “ah hah!” moments when I regain my sense of magic and wonder at the power of music - and it never gets old!

ACG: What’s it been like work with this team?

AM: It’s a bit like going to camp: I get to see old friends, make new ones, and then there’s a big performance at the end! For three years (four if you count “Persona”), the ACG team has had the difficult task of putting this production together and making it run smoothly. Their tireless professionalism never ceases to amaze and inspire me. 

Working with spectacular musicians is always a highlight of my year. In the past four years I’ve learned so much from Hakan Rosengren, Louis-Marie Fardet, Esteli Gomez, DaXun Zhang, Chris Lyzak, Ta’tyana Jammer, Travis Marcum, and Line upon line, but it’s two-thirds of the trio at the core of the pieces whom I’ve learned the most from. Jennifer Choi’s ability to do anything and everything on the violin is frightening, but so amazing to watch from five feet away. Isaac Bustos, my friend and Texas Guitar Quartet brother, is someone I always look forward to working with because he makes it ridiculously easy. Jenni and Isaac are two of a handful of people I’ve played with in the past 25 years who share in my musical sensibilities, and I’m incredibly lucky I get to perform with them. 

Of course, there’s Joe Williams. Every time he calls, I always say yes without asking what I’m doing. I know that whatever the project is, it will be beautiful, magical, and spiritually rewarding. It’s Joe’s vision we are bringing to life - his lead we are choosing to follow and believe in. I’m going to do my very best to help.

ACG: Tell us a little about what else you have going on - how can people learn more about you?

AM: This spring semester, I start my 11th year at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. In addition to being part of Conspirare’s world-premiere recording of Nico Muhly’s “How Little You Are”, the Texas Guitar Quartet has been hard at work on an album of new compositions which we hope to have ready by next year. I’ve been arranging a few pieces (one of which will be performed in “together”) which should yield some exciting new collaborations! I’m also traveling to Virginia, New Orleans, and Brownsville with the quartet as part of a few festivals and residencies, and we’re planning a multi-week summer tour of Mexico.

While I personally keep a very low online profile, people can learn a little bit more about my main project, the Texas Guitar Quartet via our website.

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If you would like to know more about the inspiration of 'together,' we invite you to read this article by Artistic Director, Joe Williams, and Education Director, Travis Marcum.