Music and Healing

Dr. Travis Marcum, Austin Classical Guitar’s Director of Education since 2005, has been at the forefront of ACG's Music and Healing Initiative in recent years. Tune in as Dr. Marcum discusses a magical time where music truly touched a family.

If you are inspired after reading this story, and would like to support our Music & Healing Services at ACG, click here.

Over the last 18 months I've been meeting with long-term patients at Dell Children's Hospital as part of ACG's Music & Healing Initiative. Every child I've met and every experience I've had there has been unique, but I wanted to share a particularly special encounter I had recently.

I work closely with Della Malloy-Daugherty, the hospital's staff music therapist, to create individualized musical experiences for each patient. These experiences vary depending on the child, and can be guitar lessons, bedside concerts, writing an original song, or singing together.

In early April, I met with a teenage girl - I'll call her Anna - who expressed interest in taking guitar lessons during the three months she was hospitalized for a major procedure. We met every few days to have a lesson, play guitar, and talk about life and music.

Within moments of our first meeting, I learned that Anna had lived in Spain, and was a huge fan of flamenco music. Soon after, I found out that ACG's good friend and world-class flamenco guitarist, Grisha, would be in Houston for a concert in May.  

I had an idea.

With help from Edward Grigassy, director of the Houston Guitar Initiative, and thanks to the kindness and generosity of Grisha, we were able to arrange a private concert for Anna.

Grisha and Anna met in a small room in the hospital's rehabilitation wing. She pulled her seat up within inches of his guitar as a thundering, muted rasgueado rang out, signifying the beginning of a Bulerias. Anna leaned in, her jaw dropped, so close she could feel the breeze from Grisha's right hand.

Before long Anna's father, mother, and brother all gathered in the room. When they heard Grisha play, they were in disbelief.

"You have brought me home! You have brought me a piece of my home in Andalusia!" her father exclaimed.

Between songs they shared stories. Grisha talked about the first time he met Paco de Lucía, and Anna recalled memories of living in Zamora as a child, eating bocadillo in the park and hearing music in the distance.

Grisha played for well over an hour, Anna transfixed on his hands, her father humming along with the melodies - many of which he knew by heart.

Before his last piece, Grisha said, "I have studied my whole life to do this, I practice all the time. But this music does not exist without you ... it means so much more because of you."

There wasn't a dry eye in the room. For a moment, the cold, sterile hospital room was filled with warmth, feelings of community, and memories of home. Grisha finished his last piece and signed Anna's guitar before giving everyone a big hug goodbye.

The goal of ACG's Music & Healing Initiative is simply to be together and let the music direct us. Music, like water, finds the path of least resistance. Music can soften and calm. It can give purpose and offer an open space to receive all kinds of difficult feelings and emotions.

Travis Marcum on Passionate Teaching

Travis Marcum.croppedDear Friends,

The ACG Education team is honored to be a part of one of the most accomplished, dynamic, community-focused music education programs in the world. We believe that thoughtful and passionate teaching leads to meaningful connections with our students, connections that break down barriers across our community. Because when a young person finds a little success, it opens the door for fascination and the guitar becomes a vehicle to express, inspire, validate, and grow.

We believe that thoughtful and passionate teaching leads to meaningful connections with our students, connections that break down barriers across our community.

ACG’s core education staff and associate teaching artists are among the most experienced and accomplished classroom guitar educators and professional guitarists in the nation. Together, we work with over 50 schools and 3,000 students in the central Texas area each day. We are writing cutting-edge classroom curriculum for school programs worldwide. We are helping to create guitar resources for students with blindness and visual impairments. We are sitting down with teen mothers and incarcerated mothers to help them write personal lullabies for their children. We are teaching young men in detention at Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center that they can do great things regardless of their past.

Your support and energy through the years have helped build this guitar family. I could not be more excited for the coming year, and for the continued privilege of working with such a vibrant, inspiring community.

Thank you for everything,

travis sig

Travis Marcum
Director of Education & Outreach


Letter from Travis Marcum

MarcumFor the past nine years, I have directed Austin Classical Guitar’s education team in building a flourishing guitar community for Austin students and teachers. What began in one school with one class of 20 students has expanded to serve 50 schools and more than 3,000 students locally.

Each day we see teachers working tirelessly, often in difficult situations, to help their students become refined, joyful musicians. We work with students who are navigating complex lives full of unique and difficult obstacles because we believe that talent and artistry are not luxuries reserved only for those with means. In the midst of individual hardships and complications, these students spend hours playing the guitar because it is meaningful to them. As one young student recently said so eloquently, “I play music because it is real and it feels human.”

Austin Classical Guitar has long been committed to bringing quality music education to students without access to the arts. As part of this commitment, we began a guitar program at Travis County’s Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center in 2011. Teaching these students over the past four years has been a great honor, and they have changed my life and inspired me in profound ways. I am thrilled to say that, because of these students’ success, the program will expand this spring with support from Austin ISD.

Not a day passes when I’m not reminded that there are still so many opportunities to bring meaningful music experiences to people from all walks of life—whether it’s teaching an ensemble of 25 enthusiastic employees at Silicon Labs on their lunch break or starting a new program at Annunciation Maternity Home for young women experiencing unplanned pregnancy. It is your support that allows us the privilege to bring these experiences to the Austin community.

I look forward to seeing you in 2015, as we continue to foster a community of creative education and inspiration.


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