Beautiful Gifts: Tyrique & the Guitar

At ACG we often think of special moments as gifts. This holiday season, we’d like to share some of these gifts with you in a series we’re calling Beautiful Gifts.

Learn more about how to support ACG and make a year-end gift here.


Just this week, we had the privilege of witnessing a heartwarming and transformative experience as ACG Teaching Artist, Brendon Grabowski and Director of Guitar at Travis High School, Susan Ronzac presented a gifted guitar to a talented young student at Travis named Tyrique. This guitar, generously provided to us by Hungry for Music, is a symbol of encouragement, inspiration, and a bright musical future for Tyrique. 

Tyrique’s private teacher, Brendon, shared his thoughts on Tyrique’s musical journey and the impact of this gift. 

“Tyrique is an extremely focused, inquisitive and hard working person who deserves a beautiful guitar that can match his high level of playing. It has been so much fun to watch Tyrique change as a player every single week as he practices diligently and works on all of the things we changed in his previous lesson. His care for music and the guitar are inspirational, and it is my honor to call him my student (and of course Susan’s!). Bravo to Tyrique and his bright musical future – I look forward to our continued growth over the years!” – Brendon Grabowski, ACG Teaching Artist

Moments like these can be life changing and leave a lasting impression. Susan shared what this moment was like in her classroom with Tyrique, 

“One of the best parts of this morning was how much his classmates supported and cheered for him. Every one of them was really happy for him and they thought he was the most deserving among them all. That instrument will be carried with him 24/7. The smile on his face will be there for weeks! Thank you all so much for this amazing gift, that couldn’t go to a more deserving student, and also for ACG’s unwavering support for both my program and of me. I have the teaching career I dreamed about in my youth because of that support. Being able to see the sheer joy and amazement on Tyrique’s face has filled my cup! Moments like this are why I do what I do!”  – Susan Ronzac, Director of Guitar at Travis HS

Director of Community Education, Tony Mariano, reflected on the profound impact a gifted instrument can have on a young person’s life. He shared, 

“When I think of the true effect a gifted instrument can have on a young person’s life, the word that immediately comes to mind is validation. A gift of a beautiful instrument tells a young artist, “you are doing the right thing, keep creating beautiful things, stay inspired, the community believes in you.” The emotions that are on full display when a young person opens the case for their new guitar for the first time and pulls out a spectacular new instrument are profound. Joy, pride, inspiration, encouragement – these are the feelings that power ACG. I am incredibly grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of these wonderful moments, and I am incredibly grateful for the community that steps up to make these gifts and these moments possible.” – Tony Mariano, Director of Community Education

Stories such as these exemplify the transformative power of music and the importance of community support. ACG is grateful to be a part of Tyrique’s journey and to contribute to the joy and inspiration that music brings. 

As we continue our Beautiful Gifts series, we look forward to sharing more heartwarming moments that showcase the positive impact of music in our community. 

Learn more about how to support ACG and make a year-end gift here.

ACG Youth Orchestra's 10 Year Anniversary!

Austin Classical Guitar Youth orchestra is celebrating its tenth year with a tour to Spain! We’re raising funds to make sure all the members can go, and to help make ACGYO the best it can be. If you’d like to make a gift, you can donate here.

What a wonderful journey we’ve had so far at ACG Youth Orchestra! We’ve commissioned and premiered new works, performed in Austin’s major venues, made beautiful recordings, toured across Texas and beyond, and collaborated with other students, professionals, and even stars like Clarice Assad, David Russell, and Pepe Romero!

This year, in addition to beautiful performances and the premiere of a major new work by celebrated composer Reena Esmail, ACGYO is going on tour in June to Spain. We’re raising funds so that every member can make the trip.

We welcome your support! You can donate here, or, if you would like to get involved as a sponsor or business partner, email [email protected] and we’ll talk!. Either way, we’ll make sure to invite you to special ACGYO performances this season, keep you informed on all things related to our trip to Spain, and send special thanks from our super-talented young members along the way.

ABOUT ACG: In addition to our amazing concerts and the opening of our new theater in Hyde Park, The Rosette, our Education division has had the incredibly rare opportunity to add an entirely new for-credit course subject to American public schools. What started in one school in 2001, has grown to every Austin ISD school, 45 schools districts in Texas, and 40 US states, including Texas’s first and only for-credit daily performing arts classes for incarcerated youth (now in five facilities), and the world’s first lifelong learning system in braille for blind and visually impaired learners. If you’d like to learn more about this cause, you might enjoy reading our most recent Education Report.

Thank you for helping us make the world a better place through music!

Fall Fund Drive: Francisco De La Rosa

We dream of a world where music is here for everyone, connecting us, inspiring us, and bringing joy and meaning wherever it goes. We are having our Fall fund drive here at ACG and it’s because of our community and supporters that we are able to share stories like this. Click here to learn more about supporting ACG.


This week we had the pleasure of delving into the inspiring full circle journey of one of our teaching artists, Francisco De La Rosa. We got to explore the path that led him to become dedicated to sharing the beauty of classical guitar with others and we’re so grateful to be able to share his story with you. 

As a young child, Francisco was always drawn to guitars. He shares his early experiences with the instrument,

When I was five years old I received my first guitar after I begged my parents to buy me a toy guitar from a street vendor at the border crossing of Juarez and El Paso, on our way back from visiting family in Mexico. By ten years old I had outgrown that guitar, and I received my first full size acoustic guitar as a birthday gift. I taught myself by ear until I was 15, at which point I received the privilege of learning Classical guitar at Akins High school in Austin.”

Francisco became involved with ACG as a student at Akins and began performing and volunteering at events in 2009! Upon graduating university at Texas State in 2021, he became a teaching artist in our programs. Francisco shares, 

“The amazing experiences I had as a guitar student at Akins is what inspired me to become a teacher myself. Dr. Travis Marcum and Jeremy Osborne had such a positive and inspiring influence on me, that I dreamt of doing the same for future generations of guitarists. Now, I teach at multiple schools. This year I am teaching private lessons at Crockett High school, Travis High school, and Covington Middle school. I also teach guitar ensembles at Bowie high school and occasionally at Gardner Betts and Williamson County Juvenile Justice centers. I am also the director of the ACG Community Ensemble guitar choir.”

We’re so grateful that the experiences in our programs could inspire students to come full circle and teach the programs they were once a part of. Francisco shares a little bit about some of these full circle moments for him,

“Last year, the ensemble I had been teaching at Bowie earned sweepstakes at the guitar concert and sight reading and seeing their response was so awesome. They were so ecstatic because they realized their hard work paid off! This experience was so cool as a former student and now teacher, because it reminded me how I felt at that age and how hard these students work. I feel at times as busy teachers, we may forget how meaningful and joyful these experiences are for them but it was so cool to see.”

Francisco is a wonderful educator and we are fortunate to have him on our team! During our conversation he dove into what he loved about teaching and somethings he’s looking forward to. He said,

“As a teacher, I most enjoy how happy students get when they learn a new piece of music. Occasionally, there are times in my lessons with students where I take a break from teaching classical and will teach them riffs from metal bands like Metallica or Black Sabbath. They get so excited to learn these songs, but even more excited when I show them how it connects to what they have learned in their classical training and how that can apply to rock and pop and hip hop and even writing their own music! 

I see myself continuing to inspire the community through music in the future. As a teaching artist with ACG, I’ve had the honor of doing this at so many schools and I’m grateful for the opportunity. A few goals I’ve set for this year are to take some of my groups to the Texas State University Classical Guitar ensemble festival hosted by Professor Cruz, directing the middle school region concert, and on a personal level I am hoping to return to doing what I love the most, which is performing. I am getting a rock group together in which I play guitar and sing, and I am also hoping to start up a classical guitar quartet for fun!” 

We’re so excited to see Francisco continue to thrive as a successful musician and educator. We could not be more grateful for his journey with ACG and all the opportunities we have to connect with such beautiful people such as him. 

We are so grateful to our community for supporting the programs that bring us these relationships and transformative experiences. Thank you for supporting the heart of our organization, ACG Education.

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/, 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.

Juvenile Justice: A Letter from Kim Andersen

At ACG, we believe in the transformative power of music. We have witnessed firsthand how music can transcend boundaries, touch hearts, and make a positive impact in people’s lives. Over the past decade, we have been privileged to create and sustain Texas’ first and only daily, for-credit performing arts course for young people incarcerated in the Juvenile Justice system. Learn more about ACG Education and our Juvenile Justice programs here

Here is a beautiful reflection by AISD Counselor at Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center, Kim Andersen. 

“My name is Kim Andersen and I have been working at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center in Austin, Texas since 2007. Gardner Betts is a juvenile detention center. The kids live here, incarcerated, and the seeds of a successful future are planted. I was a teacher at Gardner Betts for several years and currently serve as the school counselor. I feel I know our students well after all this time. These young men and women, aged 13-17, come to us via the Travis County Juvenile Courts, adjudicated by judges, for a therapeutic length of stay that varies from about 6 months to a year, with an average residence of 9 months.

Motivating them has always been our biggest challenge. I’ve never spoken to a student who didn’t want to have a bright future. But all too often they have failed so many times that their confidence is shot and they simply don’t believe they have the right to be successful. Our teachers meet them where they are, typically on an elementary grade level even though they’re technically in middle or high school grades, and challenge them to try. Trying involves failure, and that triggers their wellhoned coping mechanisms to avoid embarrassment or shame; sometimes they lash out violently. It’s a daily struggle to be honest. But the teachers, guards, and mental health counselors persevere, because these are young humans who are capable of far more than they realize when they come to us.

Out teachers have worked alongside the teacher-musicians from Austin Classical Guitar since the beginning of my tenure. Over the years, our collaboration with Austin Classical Guitar has grown from a few times a week in the evenings to a regular class, within the school day, where students earn Fine Arts credits towards a diploma. I can’t say enough about how much the addition of music influences the lives of our incarcerated youth. Every student in Guitar starts out reluctant, afraid of failure, and afraid of trying. The ACG teachers coax them out of their protective shell, note by note, until they’re 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. Many of them choose to continue their guitar studies after they leave Gardner Betts, and ACG makes sure whatever school they’re enrolling in next is prepared to receive them with open arms, often providing an instrument to our resident students as their discharge from the facility. They’re hooked on music! And they’ve accomplished something they didn’t imagine they could.

It’s very hard for our young people to engage in the kind of practice and repetition necessary for incremental growth in reading, writing, and mathematics. At our best, we raise their grade levels by 1⁄2, 1, 1 1⁄2, or in rare cases 2 grade levels in the time they’re with us. It’s a tremendous source of pride to us, make no mistake, but the reality is that they come in with a 4th grade reading level and leave us reading on a 6th grade reading level, as they head back to their high school. More challenges await them. But music seems to have something very different for them. Going from almost complete ignorance of reading or playing music to confidently playing a composed classical guitar piece in front of an audience in just one semester is priceless for their sense of selfworth. The correlation between their engagement in their traditional classes of math, science, etc and their confidence level rising in their Guitar class is profound. Hope and Determination are wonderfully contagious!

I can think of no better way to invest in a creative Texas than by ensuring the wayward youth of our fine state continue to be provided with this musical opportunity from Austin Classical Guitar, and to expand the access to as many young people as possible. Please consider them strongly as a recipient of your grant funding, the money invested will come back to Texas many times over in the form of confident, competent, educated, and artistic citizens as these young studentmusicians reenter society with their newly acquired talents.” – Kim Andersen, Austin ISD School Counselor, Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center

Listen to a piece composed and performed by the students of Gardner Betts here.

Reflections such as these inspire us to keep evolving, fostering connections, and continue healing together. We are so grateful to have the chance to do this work and would not be able to create these opportunities without the support of our community. Learn more about how to support our Juvenile Justice programs here

Unveiling the Magic: A Reflection from Concert & Sight Reading with Evan Taucher

Guitar is the world’s most popular instrument, and the results have been new students engaging in school-based performing arts by the tens of thousands. We learned this year that enrollment in our partner guitar classes is now second only to band amongst all AISD middle and high school music classes. We now have partner teachers in 45 Texas school districts and 40 states. Education has been our largest budget area at ACG since 2004. And it’s all possible thanks to friends like you. So, as we reach the end of another record-breaking school year, we’d like to thank you for helping make it all possible, and thank you for your belief in ACG, and in the power of music to do good in the world. Learn more about ACG Education here. Support ACG Education here


This year’s Concert & Sight Reading event was filled with vibrant sounds of music, the thrill of anticipation, and the transformative power of performance.

We had the opportunity to speak with one of our wonderful judges, Evan Taucher, who experienced firsthand the beauty and growth that emerged from the talented young musicians and dedicated directors. Evan shared his reflections on the event and the profound impact it had on all involved, 

“My role at this year's Concert & Sight Reading event was one of the main-stage judges. This means I had the privilege of hearing almost forty amazing young groups play a wide variety of music. What I tried to focus on was providing as much as possible written feedback as it pertains to the directors of the ensembles, but also feedback for some tendencies I noticed amongst the students. I judged this event last year as well, and it's amazing how much each group improves year to year. It's proof of the amazing work that both the students and directors put into their music and practice, but also a testament to the valuable education, mentorship and curriculum that ACG provides to these schools.

This may seem strange, but some of my favorite moments were seeing the process of the students (and sometimes directors) nervously entering the stage, sitting down, then putting on an absolutely amazing performance and show. It's a feeling I relate to on a personal level as a performer and educator. Walking onto the stage, and introducing yourself is seemingly the easiest part but in actuality, it's the most nerve-wracking part of the performance! Then, you just do what you've been practicing, and most of the time it turns out great. 

The environment of the whole event is quite electric (well, acoustic but you get what I mean!). The AISD stage is HUGE and when you enter, it feels very, very important and serious. But in reality, everyone is quite friendly, and everyone on stage (judges, directors, and most importantly - the students) is made to feel super comfortable. It's an environment of sharing the blood, sweat and tears that went into preparing and performing this music. I think I speak for everyone when I say that it was an inspiring couple of days.”

The incredibly talented students and directors at this year’s Concert & Sight Reading event exemplified growth, raw expression, and wholesome collaboration. Each participant played an integral role in creating an atmosphere that nurtured talent and celebrated the journey of becoming a musician. We feel so honored to continue to equip the next generation of musicians with the skills, support, and confidence to create magic on and off the stage. We are so grateful for this community, thank you. 

Juvenile Justice: Forever Lasting

At ACG, we believe in the transformative power of music. We have witnessed firsthand how music can transcend boundaries, touch hearts, and make a positive impact in people’s lives. Over the past decade, we have been privileged to create and sustain Texas’ first and only daily, for-credit performing arts course for young people incarcerated in the Juvenile Justice system. Learn more about ACG Education and our Juvenile Justice programs here


We are delighted to present a recent recording by the students at Gardner Betts.

The recording, titled “Forever Lasting,” was 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. We are so proud of their dedication, hard work, and commitment to learn.

Young Artist Concert and Class with Jorge Caballero

Young Artist Concert and Class with Jorge Caballero

May 4 at 7 pm
at The Rosette
3908 Avenue B, Austin TX 78751

On May 4th, we will be hosting a Young Artist Concert and Class with renowned classical guitarist, Jorge Caballero, at The Rosette.

This concert will feature some of the most beautiful and captivating pieces of music played by some of the most promising young guitarists we know in our community. See program below. 

The event will also feature a master class with Jorge Caballero, an internationally acclaimed classical guitarist who has been hailed by critics as a “musical genius.” His insights and guidance will undoubtedly help these young musicians take their talents to the next level. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to witness the next generation of classical guitarists showcase their talents and learn from one of the most celebrated guitarists of our time!



Cello Suite no. 1, Prelude – Johann Sebastian Bach
Michael Vetter

Gran Vals – Francisco Tárrega
Sydney Piper

En Los Trigales – Joaquin Rodrigo
Satvik Chawla

Capricho Árabe – Francisco Tárrega
Ethan Kuhlken

GRISHA: A Reflection from Hector Aguilar and Tony Mariano

This past weekend at ACG was spectacular! We had our 2022-2023 Season Opening Night with flamenco prodigy, Grisha Goryachev. The concert was absolutely stunning and exhilarating! We were swept away by Grisha’s impressive speed and beautiful musicianship. It was so wonderful to be back in the gorgeous AISD Performing Arts Center with close to 1,000 friends! 

Not only did we have a magical evening on Saturday, we had an entire week with Grisha filled with amazing moments! Not everyone knows that our guest artists also spend several days in our community teaching and visiting schools! 

“All the middle school students were amazed and came back the next day telling me they wanted to get better,” Hector Aguilar, reported about his students in the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center. “They are so excited they could jam with Grisha and perform for him. It was already a good group of young men, but after the visit they’re even more patient and attentive.”

Grisha also played for a high school unit at Gardner Betts. Hector shared:

“The high school group is two students with a third one that is not in the class but is in their unit - which is where the classes are held. Usually, the third student goes into his dorm because he does not want to be in the room with the rest of the class, but when Grisha visited he came out and sat down to join the performance and even asked questions. It was great because he doesn’t communicate much normally when I am there. The newest member of this group also had a profound experience. Prior to Grisha's visit he did not want to participate in the Hispanic Heritage Month Event we have coming up. We’d agreed that as long as he performed for Grisha's visit he would not have to participate in it. After his performance, and Grisha's beautiful playing, the student was so inspired that he now wants to perform for the Hispanic Heritage Month presentation.”

Students from Manor Middle School, with their teacher Victor Longoria, posing with Grisha after his Saturday evening performance at the AISD Performing Arts Center

Tony Mariano, ACG’s Director of Community Education, took Grisha to several high schools, and shared this reflection as well.

“There was a particular moment that happened at Bowie that I thought was worth sharing. It was a little reminder for me about why we do the things we do at ACG.

Grisha had just finished an amazing 45 minute set for the students at Bowie High School, who had crowded into the front and center section of the school's theatre to hear him play. Some students there had started playing guitar only a month or so ago. For them, this was their first ever artist they had seen up close and personal. Others in there had been playing for a long time and had been waiting with anticipation to see and meet Grisha for weeks.

After Grisha's last rasgueado and golpe, after the students quieted from their excited applause, there was time for questions. At first, there were the usual questions you'd expect: how many hours do you practice, what age did you start? But then there was a question that seemingly came out of nowhere, one that made Grisha pause. A student asked Grisha, "why do you do this?" Grisha paused and asked, "what do you mean?" The student clarified their question with "what motivates you to do this, what inspires you?"

Grisha looked right at him and told him that music is what gives him purpose. It's what gives him meaning to his life. It's what makes him feel whole. Music is what gives his deepest feelings a voice. For Grisha, music is the language that allowed him to express himself in a way that speech never could. And that expression can connect with others, and bring them closer to him. 

On our way back to the car I looked at Grisha and told him how beautiful of a moment I thought that was. And without skipping a beat he said to me,  "this is how I can help make the world a little better. This is how we all can help make this world a little better, in our own small ways." That moment was so special. When you put people like Grisha in a room with young minds, really special and beautiful things happen. Everyone looks inward to find the things that really matter to them. The things that give us purpose.”

We are so grateful for the time we’ve spent with Grisha and all the inspiring moments we’ve got to share. 


Read a beautiful story about our Music & Healing program here

Learn more about ACG Education services here.

The 21-22 Javier Niño Memorial Scholarship Recipients

Click here to contribute to the Javier Niño Scholarship Fund.

The Javier Niño Memorial Scholarship at Austin Classical Guitar exists to honor the memory of a wonderful young man who brought joy through beauty and kindness to countless people during his lifetime, and to support young classical guitarists in Austin, Texas — through scholarship lessons and other means — who show great promise and who will benefit from access to expert instruction and mentorship. For the 2021-22 school year, after reviewing applications from many talented student musicians across Austin ISD, two stood out. We are proud to award scholarships to both of these deserving young artists.

Juan Itzep from McCallum Fine Arts Academy and Edan Tapia at Akins High School are both senior members and leaders of their respective guitar ensembles. They have both been playing since middle school and express a deep passion for the guitar and connecting to others with the music they make. 

“I started my guitar experience in seventh grade at Parades Middle School, with my director Mr. Conger. He inspired me to continue pursuing the guitar to where I am today. When I entered the guitar program at Akins High School, my director did not think I was at the level I needed to be to enter varsity guitar but after lots of hard work and determination, I am now the President of the 2022 chapter of Varsity guitar! Since that first year in seventh grade I have done so much with this instrument, including being part of my first theatrical play this year as both the guitarist and the banjo player. I plan to continue playing guitar for the rest of my life because I simply cannot imagine living without it. I hope that I can help others love guitar as much as I do as either a teacher or performer.” - Edan Tapia

“I started playing guitar seven years ago in middle school. Ferocity filled my chest as I entered my first guitar class in sixth grade. I felt a spark that opened the door to a passion I didn’t know would become my whole life. I was a quick learner at the beginning and surely enough the passion grew larger and larger as time went on, like a snowball running down a hill. My guitar director saw that talent in me and how bright my future would be so he introduced me to McCallum High School. When I started at McCallum, I started having second thoughts. I was nervous to be in a new environment with new people of different cultures and backgrounds. But my passion for guitar overpowered that anxiety. I was able to make my first friends in highschool through guitar. On top of going to school, I had to work at a young age to help support my family and my home life was chaotic. After long stressful days, I would come home and play guitar to help soothe my emotions. While playing guitar, it feels like I’m being taken to a different place, a place where I feel calm and relaxed. Guitar is more than just an instrument to me, it opened so many opportunities that my sixth grade self would have never dreamed of.” - Juan Itzep

Juan and Edan will receive weekly private lessons with professional and expert guitar instructors, Dr. Joseph Palmer and David Lester will be working with Juan. And Evan Taucher will be Edan's teacher and mentor. Each student will receive a concert-level instrument and they will be performing frequently at ACG events this year. 

At the heart of this award is to remember and honor Javi Nino, who was a truly beautiful player and human being in his time with us. Juan and Edan will be carrying on his tradition of joyful expression and kindness through music.