ACG Originals: Ofrendas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you would like to get involved, learn more here

I/WE 2020

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

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

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

Says ARCOS choreographer Erica Gionfriddo.

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

Bonnie Cox, ARCOS Dancer, on location © Paulo Rocha-Tavares [email protected]

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

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

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

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

Oddalys Salcido, ARCOS Dancer, on location
© Paulo Rocha-Tavares 
[email protected]

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

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

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

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

Ginnifer Joe, ARCOS Dancer, on location
© Paulo Rocha-Tavares 
[email protected]

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

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

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

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

Kaitlyn Jones, ARCOS Dancer, on location
© Paulo Rocha-Tavares 
[email protected]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Austin Now: Cycles

On Saturday, October 10th, we will experience a unique and captivating collaboration between two artistic mediums, paint and sound. Cycles is the first event in our Austin Now series, and is offered with presenting partner Big Medium. RSVP Online Here.

Two beloved Austin artists, Joseph Palmer (guitar) and Ryan Runcie (art), have teamed up to create a vivid streaming experience like none other. ACG’s Artistic Director, Joe Williams, asked them ‘What is your experience as an Austin artist today?’ and, twelve weeks later, Cycles is their answer: a collaborative artwork expressing their philosophies of nature, life, and their understanding of each other as artists. 

We spoke with these two incredibly talented creatives to better understand their vision: 

This project has been a process of exploration and discovery. We both share a deep fascination with nature and philosophy. These two elements combined with an understanding of each other’s artistic sensibilities guided the direction of the project. The concert doesn't hold any stark answers, more so reminders of the daily cycles of nature that are often overlooked that weave and overlap our daily lives. Focusing on the cycles of nature suppressed by our ‘blinders of humanity.’” -Ryan Runcie

“At a time when there appears to be such division between people, creating art and embracing the beauty of nature is our response. The appreciation for these things is universal. Music, art, and the love and understanding of nature are essential elements of humanity as well as some of the most powerful forces for dissolving boundaries between people. This experience is an invitation for people to calm the mental noise, be present, take a deep breath, feel the life force in and around you, and join us in an exploration of the cycles of nature.” -Joseph Palmer

The performance itself will be a live streaming experience with Ryan creating physical art while Joseph plays carefully selected music. The two have also created videos to be played as part of the evening. Joseph explains:

“People often become caught in a bubble of their self-made ‘reality’ - and though this is a tendency we all share- the personal opinions, things you believe, and things heard in the media can often influence one’s perception of the world so profoundly that many often fail to grasp the incredible beauty of the world we live in."

“Over these last few months, Ryan and I have captured numerous moments in our day-to-day lives through video accompanied by recordings I made on Kalimba, mandolin, bass guitar, guitar, bells, as well as the appearance of various household objects-turned-percussion instruments to pull people into our creative reality. In the live performance I’ll be playing pairs of pieces that don’t necessarily go together - together - in a complementary or contrasting way, which parallels the collaboration of painting and music.” 

Ryan added:

“The idea was based on showing a slow building process. We wanted to start with a more fragmented and sparse musical texture accompanying the videos. From there, we incorporate more instruments to represent the fullness of nature and the essence of growth.”

We at ACG are so excited to share such profound and intimate art with our community. We hope you join us to witness this uniquely Austin collaboration. RSVP Online Here.


30th Season: Fall Event Guide

On Saturday, September 26th, we had our opening online concert for our 30th season starring the incredible Pepe Romero and we have recieved the most amazing notes from all over the world about the magical event. Pepe asked that we leave it online for a little longer, so you can still see it and share it online here.

We have nine more extraordinary, free, live, online events coming up in the next twelve weeks. Here’s a complete listing!

We hope you can join us in the magic, art, music, and connection that is our 30th season!


Austin Classical Guitar: Fall Event Guide

Austin Now: CYCLES with Ryan Runcie (art) & Joseph Palmer (guitar) 

Saturday, October 10 at 8PM CDT

A vivid experience exploring the rhythms of life through paint and sound.


ACG Originals: I/WE 2020 presented by ARCOS & Austin Classical Guitar

Thursday, October 15 at 7PM CDT

Bonnie Cox, Ginnifer Joe, Kaitlyn Jones & Oddalys Salcido (dance) Erica Gionfriddo (choreography) Interviews with Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Austin inspired ACG’s award-winning i/we (2017), reimagined in 2020 with breathtaking dance and image. 


UpClose Online: JIJI

Saturday, October 24 at 8PM CDT 

Electric. Classical. One of the most innovative players we’ve ever seen. 


ACG Originals: OFRENDAS presented in collaboration with Mexic-Arte Museum

Thursday, October 29 at 7PM CDT

Ofrendas will honor those no longer with us through music, art, and story by teachers, students, community members, and professional artists. 


Austin Now: THE SPACE IN BETWEEN with Oliver Rajamani (music) & John Aielli (poetry)

Saturday, November 7 at 8PM CST

Presented by One World & Austin Classical Guitar A masterfully woven tapestry of music and poetry in an Austin landmark.


UpClose Online: Andrea González Caballero

Saturday, November 14 at 8PM CST

Spectacular facility, beauty, clarity, refinement. 


Austin Now: LOOKING UP with Austin Guitar Quartet

Thursday, November 19 7PM CST

Presented in partnership with The Contemporary Austin Be transported to Laguna Gloria, where the sculptures will come to life in music.


Austin Now: ECHO with Daniel Fears, Montsho Jarreau Thoth & Claire Puckett

Sunday, December 6 at 5PM CST

Interactive performance of movement and sound asks, “Are we hearing each other, or just echoes?”


UpClose Online: Nella Fantasia with Matt Hinsley & The ACG Team

Saturday, December 12 at 8PM CST

Gratitude and joy in music and story.


The Singing Guitar: An Interview with Janet Grohovac

ACG turns 30 this year! In celebration, one of our generous supporters is matching every gift up to $50,000 between now and our opening concert with maestro Pepe Romero on September 26th! Make a gift today.

Five years ago we had the chance to be part of a spectacular event at Bass Concert Hall when Texas Performing Arts commissioned a work from preeminent young composer Nico Muhly for Austin Classical Guitar and Austin’s very own Grammy-winning choir, Conspirare.

It was a night to remember! Complete with a massive thunderstorm right in the middle of the last movement when the kettle drums entered!

Now Conspirare has recorded the work as part of their new album: The Singing Guitar.

The work features Conspirare under the direction of maestro Craig Hella Johnson, with the LA Guitar Quartet, Texas Guitar Quartet, Austin Guitar Quartet and cellist Douglas Harvey. It’s set for release this Friday, September 18th. Plus, there will be a release party this Tuesday, September 15th via Youtube live, and you can join here.

Looking forward to the event, we got the chance to speak with member of the Austin Guitar Quartet, Janet Grohovac, who shared some beautiful insight on the music in the album and her experience in being part of the artistry of this amazing piece of work. 

It is remarkable to experience Muhly’s voice through the unique ensemble of a choir of voices and a choir of twelve guitars. We were curious to know how it felt to be part of the magic. Janet shared:

 “It was incredibly enriching and inspiring to collaborate with a large scale ensemble and such wonderful talent. During our first large ensemble rehearsal, Craig positioned all of us guitarists in a semi-circle on stage and then had the chorus completely surround us. Hearing their heavenly voices and the sheer beauty of sound that enveloped us as we began that rehearsal was an unforgettable moment. We became so excited and enthralled by the beauty of Muhly’s composition.”

Janet continued on to share the experience of being directed by Craig Hella Johnson.

“Craig found a way to bring the best out of you and would often say something like, “It would be a gift if you could....” (playing louder, or softer, or more lyrical, etc). His approach was uniquely uplifting and changed us in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before. By the end of the journey, we knew we had captured something special together.”

Janet also shared with us the details of Nico Muhly’s composition How Little You Are.

“Muhly’s composition is based on the 19th century texts of the everyday life of two pioneer women. He brings to life the descriptions of nature and hardships of prairie life based on letters by Elinore Pruitt Stewart in all of the movements except for one. Part four of the work is based on the text of Mary Alma Blankenship, from which the “How Little You Are” title is derived. Her description ‘But when you get among such grandeur you get to feel how little you are, how foolish is human endeavor, except that which unites us with the almighty force called God’ is the text upon which the work was inspired and features solo soprano.”

As musicians, artists, and human beings we naturally connect ourselves in deep and meaningful ways to the art we observe, experience, and are part of. We had the pleasure of having Janet share her personal connection with Muhly’s composition and the ensemble:

“The fact that each of us individually, particularly as guitarists, were just a little part of the whole, because the texture was so large. Each little microcosm within each group has it’s own function, but it was the three groups coming together with Conspirare that carries their meaning and gives you the full picture, and at the end of it, you truly get the sense of how little you are.”

We are so excited to be able to enjoy and share something this beautiful and unique with our community. We hope that you can join us in listening to samples of this remarkable work, and connect with Craig Hella Johnson, the artists, and fellow listeners this Tuesday at the release party.

Interview: Brandon Carcamo - Composer and Guitarist

Brandon Carcamo is a New Orleans based composer and guitarist. Carcamo recently won the 2020 ACG composition competition with his piece 'Solace' for guitar choir. 'Solace' was planned to be premiered during ACG Fest; however, due to current circumstances the festival has been cancelled. Instead of letting the premiere die, the piece has taken new life through the SOLACE PROJECT. In this interview, we discuss Brandon Carcamo's experience in the time of COVID-19, his compositions, and specific challenges composing for guitar ensemble.

How did you get into classical and jazz guitar? 

I first got into jazz guitar when I was around 12 years old. For a few summers, I used to go to these jazz camps where I was introduced to the musical culture of New Orleans and where I was able to learn directly from experienced musicians in the city. I also went to a performing arts high school called the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA), which was also instrumental in my growth as a musician. My transition to classical guitar is actually very recent. I decided to take a stab at it about halfway through college, and after I had my first lesson, I knew that it would play a big role in my life. I was very fortunate to have some amazing teachers who pushed me in the right direction. After that, I started gravitating more towards classical guitar, but I do go back and forth with classical and jazz sometimes.

When did you start composing? 

I first started composing when I was in college, and it was mostly for film scoring. I wanted to be a film score composer for a time, and so I would try to find any opportunity where I could write music for someone else’s project. I eventually did get the chance to work on a few student films and even partake in a few film scoring competitions, all of which were invaluable experiences for me as a young composer. They really helped in honing my composing “chops”. Besides that, I haven’t written too much music that isn’t related to film scoring. I’m only just now starting to write music for classical guitar, and I’m getting more comfortable with it the more I grow as a player.

What inspired you to write “Solace”?

I wrote this piece thinking of the things we tend to turn to in a time of distress and how that itself is a beautiful expression of our humanity. I used some minimalist textures because I wanted the piece to sound sort of dreamlike, as if the things we find solace in put us in this trance of comfort.

What are some challenges you faced writing for guitar ensemble? 

I think the main challenge that I faced in writing for guitar ensemble was just keeping each part as interesting and engaging as the others, especially when you have to consider how to make each part slightly different in the level of difficulty. The other big challenge for me was creating interesting textures on guitar. I’m more comfortable with the variety of orchestral textures coming from my experience with film scoring, but with guitar, it’s something I had to think about. After writing this piece, I’m starting to think more now about how I can translate orchestral textures to guitar. 

We are living in an unprecedented time due to COVID-19, how has this pandemic affected you both personally and as a musician? 

Obviously this pandemic has been traumatizing to us all worldwide. My father tested positive for COVID-19, and while he is fully recovered now, it was difficult to see him in the state he was in. Like so many others right now, I’m just trying to get by emotionally. As for music, all gigs in the universe have been cancelled for every musician, and I am no exception to that. I’m just trying to share music online right now and do my best to stay connected with others. 

What are some ways you’ve seen musicians pivot during this time of social distancing that has inspired you? 

It really makes me happy to see the output of music that fellow musicians have been sharing over the internet. It’s been really inspiring to watch all of the solos, duets, and orchestras perform virtually. I think this is encouraging more people to share their music and connect with others online. It has definitely inspired me to do just that.

For the health and safety of the guitar community, Austin Classical Guitar has had to change the approach to premiere your piece. What do you hope musicians gain from performing “Solace” in a time of social distancing? 

I know this is cliché, but my hope is that this experience brings us closer together during this pandemic. I know it’s an unusual way to premiere a piece, but we are living in unusual times, and we just have to make the most of it. Even though we are living in a time of social distancing, we don’t have to stay disconnected. I also don’t think there are too many virtual guitar orchestras out there, so I really think that this piece can do something special for us and the world. I’m really hoping that this performance inspires others to share their art, especially our own members of the classical guitar community.