Pepe Romero plays Vivaldi with 80 students

On Thursday night, October 13th, Pepe Romero joined 80 students from our high school guitar programs in Austin to perform Vivaldi's Concerto in D Major.

Experiences like this are possible because of people like you who share Austin Classical Guitar's belief that music can change lives. If you would like to support ACG please consider making a donation today.


Spring 2016 Education Report

I am so pleased to present ACG's Spring 2016 education progress report. While I've been preparing this we have been receiving registrations from music educators around the country for our summer teacher training sessions, which are taking place this July in Austin and St. Louis. One of the registrants, an elementary school teacher from Odessa, Texas named Tyra, included this note:

Last year I attended my first teacher training for classical guitar. What I learned helped me immensely. It restored my joy, answered questions I had about introducing elementary students to ensemble experiences…My kids loved what we did. I am coming back for more! I want to keep growing and learning and teaching.

I love what Tyra says here. I think it encapsulates both the beauty and the complexity of the leadership role we find ourselves in here at ACG Education. There is an inextricable connection between consistent, high quality measureable student performance outcomes and joy. Our goal is not only to provide the most effective classical guitar curriculum and teacher resources in the world, but also to inspire a teacher like Tyra to keep “growing, learning and teaching.” Because as long she does, her students will thrive.

Thank you for making ACG Education possible. I hope that what you find in this report will make you proud of your support.

Matt Hinsley


ACG Education Progress Report, Spring 2016

Special Needs: Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

With thousands of diverse students in our affiliated programs, our teachers are regularly called upon to address a variety of special needs. This fall we introduced Jeremy Coleman, a former ACG instructor now employed by Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, as a consultant available to instructors nationwide who seek assistance with adaptive strategies.

Our main focus in this arena continues to be the development of resources and techniques for teaching students with visual impairments. Having now developed a functioning system for teaching guitar and music literacy through a Braille adaptation of our curriculum, our next project is to publish a free online repository of graded self-study solo literature in Braille with accompanying audio guides, a resource that will empower our graduates to become lifelong learners.


Spotlight: Angelica and Oscar at Crockett High School

Three years ago, a music teacher named Ron Hare took over the guitar program Crockett High School, a Title I school located in south Austin. We have worked closely with Ron from the beginning, and his program at Crockett is now thriving. In an April 2016 letter Ron wrote:

Before I even taught my first class at Crockett the education staff at ACG met with me personally to discuss what to expect in the classroom, registered me for a free training, gave me access to their amazing curriculum, and provided me with a personal mentor who would work with me periodically over the course of the school year. This detailed and personal attention to the needs of my students has helped me tremendously.

This fall we learned about Angelica and Oscar, two promising seniors from Ron’s advanced class. They were both interested in pursuing music education degrees in college, but neither could afford private lessons or quality instruments in preparation for their auditions. We were able to provide both for each student, and are thrilled to report that, after months of hard work, Angelica and Oscar passed their auditions and were accepted into the highly-competitive Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin. In honor of their commitment we decided they should keep the instruments we had loaned them. Angelica wrote to us:

I’d like to share my appreciation for Austin Classical Guitar, the program itself, supporters of the program, and everyone part of it. The hard work, dedication, and support put in by everyone involved has given me so many opportunities to achieve. Without this program I don't believe I'd be headed down the road I am today. I'm so excited to share that I achieved my goal of being accepted to the Butler School of Music, but I couldn't do it without the support given to me from all of you.


Lullaby Project: Shirdyn Sings to Izaeah

The Lullaby Project has become our fastest-growing area of constituent-specific service. In partnership with Carnegie Hall, our clinicians visit with new and expectant mothers in challenging circumstances, guide them through a series of introspective writing exercises, distill their writings into song lyrics, and collaborate to compose and record an original song as an expression of their hopes and dreams for themselves and their children. The following video captures the moment when Shirdyn, one of our teen moms at Annunciation Maternity Home, sang her lullaby to her son Izaeah for the first time.


Lullaby Project: Travis County Jail

Dr. Ted Held is Director of Reproductive Health at People’s Community Clinic (PCC). In January he asked us to offer the Lullaby Project to women incarcerated at Travis County Jail, and is supporting a further expansion this summer to include patients at PCC. In explaining his support for this program, Dr. Held wrote:

A lifetime of financial and emotion stressors is highly correlated with preterm birth, low birth weight babies, and poor maternal bonding…Through The Lullaby Project, Austin Classical Guitar provides a unique and powerful intervention for pregnant women in challenging circumstances to have positive and creative engagement creating original lullabies that express their love, hopes and dreams for their babies. These engagements can improve women’s social and emotional health which is an area of increasing concern for medical professionals…

Here's a recording of a lullaby that one of our clients at Travis County Jail wrote for her daughter Miracle, and also for her son, who passed away soon after he was born.


Local Support: Program-Building, Student Engagement, and Job Creation

ACG Education created and actively supports over 50 local school programs like the one at Crockett High School. We have been asked to help develop new programs in the coming year in Dripping Springs and Del Valle. The level of support needed by each school varies, and in 2015-16 we are particularly proud of what we helped accomplish at Bowie High School.

In August 2015 the AISD Fine Arts Department decided to launch a pilot guitar program at Bowie, but with the start of the school year fast approaching they were struggling to find a qualified and certified teacher. Two days before classes began we decided to step in and provide one of our own staff members, Toby Rodriguez, to lead the program in its pilot year.

Toby taught 57 students in two sections this past year at Bowie. More than 150 students signed up for guitar next fall, enough to fill five sections, meaning many new students participating in Fine Arts, and a new job opportunity for a qualified professional teacher.


Addressing Economic Disadvantage: Garcia YMLA & Mendez Middle School

Progress and refinement are keys to student motivation. ACG frequently offers direct support to specific programs and individuals that show promise but face economic challenges that impede their progress. Our work at Travis High School—highlighted in past reports —and Crockett High School are examples of these targeted efforts.

Earlier this spring we received a request for special assistance from Eric Walz at Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy in east Austin. We sent Arnold Yzaguirre, one of our teaching artists, to work with Eric and his students twice a week for the remainder of the semester. Eric recently wrote:

Arnold came to support our young men in more advanced guitar techniques and skills that I am unfamiliar with, and help guide students toward precision music-making that would not have been possible without him. Arnold continually held high standards for the sound production and musicality of each student…they are unquestionably better off with his guidance. His ability to quickly give them the tools they need was an extremely important step to the growth of their musical minds and our program’s success.

We have also invested significantly in the program at Mendez Middle School. One of our teaching artists there is Colin Fullerton, an exceptional guitarist who just received his master’s degree in performance from UT–Austin. In a recent letter, Colin shared a different perspective on the impact of ACG Education:

Teaching at Mendez Middle School, I've come to understand the true breadth of the impact of ACG's free lessons initiative. Beyond instruction on how to play the guitar, this program provides the opportunity to engage students on a level that only arts immersion can offer; they are exposed to elements of collaboration and modes of critical thinking that can influence their lives well beyond the context of school, and all through the intimate, enriching medium of music. ACG is providing a vital service to which, otherwise, students in these communities would never have access.


Juvenile Justice

On Sunday, April 22nd over 100 guests gathered in the Gardner Betts courtroom for the first public recital by our students at the Travis County Juvenile Justice Center. The students played 5 ensemble pieces and 4 solos, and received a standing ovation. After the concert, we invited guests to write a short note to the students. Here’s what one said:

Today you inspired me. You reminded me of how powerful music can be. As an ensemble, you presented a united front. As soloists, your attention to detail brought your pieces to life. Music unites us, it’s the universal language, and today that unification made me want to be a better guitarist. Thank you for that.

On the heels of a PBS NewsHour story and an appearance by our staff before the Texas State Board of Juvenile Justice, Travis County officials have requested a significant extension of our program to serve non-incarcerated court-involved youth as part of their case plans. This expansion is set to begin as soon as summer 2016.


Community Programs: Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra

ACG offers a variety of other programs designed to meet the needs of people where they are. These include a workplace education initiative piloted at Silicon Labs, a program for adults living with mental health diagnoses at Austin Clubhouse, and audition-based youth and adult ensemble programs based on the civic orchestra model. Here is an excerpt from this spring’s final concert by the ACG Youth Orchestra.


Organization: Structure, System, Training and Evaluation

The highest administrative priority to emerge from our 2015 Strategic Planning process was to hire a full-time marketing staff person. We are pleased to announce that veteran communicator and social servant Carlos Femat joined the ACG team on June 1st as our first Director of Marketing and Communications.

Our online curriculum and teacher resource,, has been undergoing a major overhaul for over a year. We have made significant progress in recent months, and look forward to launching the new and significantly improved site this summer.

Our national training sessions will take place in Austin and St. Louis this July. Our team led three sessions at the Texas Music Educators Association convention in February, including the first meeting of our statewide advocacy organization, Texas Guitar Directors Association. We are also presenting at this summer’s Guitar Foundation of America International Festival in Denver, CO.

As our programs expand our primary concern is quality control. We are addressing this through the creation and implementation of smart, systemic, and replicable evaluation procedures. In March, 49 guitar ensembles participated in the first official pilot for a UIL  concert and sight-reading assessment event. We assisted with similar events in Houston and Brownsville, and hosted guests from El Paso who are planning a similar event for their district next school year. Our team also contributed significantly to the new revisions of the UIL statewide Prescribed Music List for solo contests, and we will launch a new statewide video and guest artist outreach initiative to promote and improve solo guitar participation in the coming year.


Special Thanks

ACG Education would not be possible without the generosity of our many individual donors, along with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Augustine Foundation, Webber Family Foundation, Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, Sarah & Ernest Butler, Kodosky Foundation, H-E-B, Shield-Ayres Foundation, Topfer Family Foundation, Mercedes-Benz of Austin, Silicon Labs, Texas Commission on the Arts, 3M Foundation, Kendal & Ken Gladish, Oliver Custom Homes, D’Addario Foundation, Louise Epstein & John Henry McDonald, David & Sheila Lastrapes, PricewaterhouseCoopers, 3Can Events, Savarez, Ameriprise Financial, Cain Foundation, Charles Schwab, Dr. Ted Held, MFS Foundation, William Metz, Bill & Marilyn Hartman, Ted Philippus & Carol Wratten, and Calido Guitars.

Winter 2015 Education Report


The work we do in education is what we are most proud of, and most thankful for, at Austin Classical Guitar. By entrusting us with your generous support, you make this vital work possible. On behalf of our entire staff and board of directors, I would like to thank you for believing in us. I hope this brief report and accompanying videos will make you proud of what you have helped create.

Thank you,

Matt Hinsley



I have come to view our education initiatives in two different but equally important categories: Large and Small. Our large initiatives focus on program building and include curriculum development, teacher training, assessment, and consultation. It is through these efforts, including, that rigorous, for-credit school-based guitar programs are established, refined, and expanded throughout Austin, the state of Texas, the United States, and internationally. We now have 55 local programs serving 3,500 students, and the educational quality, measured in individual student performance outcomes and system-wide through our district assessments and city-wide festival audition process, has never been stronger.

Our small initiatives are programs we create to meet the needs of specific constituencies. These programs include our Braille learning program at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, classes at Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center, ensemble program at Austin Clubhouse for adults with mental health diagnoses, the Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra, and the Lullaby Project at Annunciation Maternity Home for teenage mothers and mothers-to-be.


The work you support is having ripple effects throughout the nation and beyond. Last year we reported on the progress in St. Louis Public Schools, a program that continues to grow and attract attention and support. I visited there this month and saw over 100 kids in three of our 16 affiliated schools. They were engaged in high-quality learning experiences, including a public performance at Johnson-Wabash School in Ferguson for over 200 parents and siblings.

What is the practical impact of our curriculum, training and support? This month we received an update from a ten-year veteran music teacher in Canton, Ohio who attended our training this past summer. Since the training he has not only improved and expanded his own program, but adopted a vision to dramatically expand guitar education in his region.

Here is an excerpt of his December 13th letter that illuminates the kinds of effects our program is having:

After attending the Guitar Teacher Training in Austin, I was committed to changing how I approached guitar instruction in the classroom. I studied the materials that were provided by and what was covered during the Austin training. I have to admit I was a little unsure how this would look in my classroom, I have had a guitar class for 10 years, but I was committed to applying the approach so I gave it a strong, committed go ahead.

I have to tell you I am blown away by the results! I would have never dreamed it would have transformed my class this much! I received immediate success from student engagement and standards-based skill mastery. This program has completely transformed how I approach the guitar classroom. It has actually opened up more creativity for my students and me as a teacher. It has allowed me to approach new music with more efficiency in teaching and arrange new music for my students more successfully.

[In addition to my middle and high school classes] I have successfully launched the Canton Guitar Society Outreach program to serve the students of Stark County. My district has now committed to expanding guitar through the high school levels 10-12 and at the McKinley Senior High School main campus. In short, thank you, and I am a huge supporter of ACG and!


ACG Education in the Juvenile Justice System on PBS NewsHour: This story aired nationally in September 2015 and gives insight into one of our small initiatives, a program created to serve incarcerated youth. Our work is having such positive results that the Travis County Juvenile Justice System has asked us to design and deliver an expanded program in 2016 that would be offered to all 600-800 court-involved youth in the community as part of their case-plans.

Aly’s Lullaby: This video from June 2015 features a lullaby written by Aly, one of our young mothers at Annunciation Maternity Home. In our ongoing guitar classes there we see 12-16 mothers weekly, and at any given time we are individually engaged with two to four in the lullaby-writing process. If you would like to hear more recent lullabies, please ask! Just recently, Dr. Ted Held, who oversees women’s health services for Central Health, asked us to provide the Lullaby Project for women in Travis County Jail. We’ll start in January.

Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra: This November 2015 performance of Enrique Granados’ Villanescas gives a sense of the level of refinement being achieved by young guitarists in Austin.

Excellence in the Guitar Classroom: This July 2015 video created in collaboration with AISD provides an excellent overview of our largest education initiative, including the history and growth of the program, curriculum, teacher training, and assessment, and touches on important issues like the role guitar class plays in the district in providing equity and access for youth who might not otherwise be engaged in performing arts.


Our small programs will deepen and expand in the coming year, with the Lullaby Project in collaboration with Central Health, our Juvenile Justice partnership extending to case-plans for all court-involved youth, and much more. Our “large” programs will continue building and refining guitar education throughout Austin and beyond including, for example, a new rural program in Nepal and a national guitar orchestra program in Uruguay.

We hope you enjoy the videos provided with this brief report, and will happily expand upon any aspect of our program development should you have further questions. We thank you for your support.







A Letter from Meredith McAlmon

Meredith McAlmon is director of Guitar and Orchestra at Fulmore Middle School, one of a few schools to receive superior ratings in all categories from all judges in the 2015 District Concert and Sight reading Assessment.  She sent this letter on the occasion of our celebration of Travis Marcum’s ten years as Director of Education and Outreach for Austin Classical Guitar.

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Dear Travis -
In case I can't make it to the Cactus tonight,  (Region Orchestra sectionals) I want to congratulate you on ten years of amazing achievements.  I can't teach El Chinati without visions of you forging your way through the barren mountains of West Texas, your guitar on your back, opening up new horizons as you bring the magic of making music through the guitar curriculum to the hungry and needy masses.  Your name is very visible in my classes, and my students always want to know who Travis Marcum is.   I just tell them that you're the Red-Headed Stranger........(Jeremy has come to be known as "The Dude" - they ask "Is The Dude coming today?", and Matt is "The Famous Guy")  So - to The Red-Headed Stranger, The Dude, and The Famous Guy - you are a Mighty Threesome!  Travis - thank you for everything you've done for the guitar and music and the art of teaching,  and I wish you a spectacular evening!
your humble and grateful admirer -
Meredith McAlmon


Celebrating 10 Years of Marcum

Last night for our 2nd Annual "Staff Cactus" friends, family, and fans of ACG piled into the Cactus Cafe to celebrate a very special member of our staff. Travis Marcum, our Director of Education, has now been with us for 10 years, so it was only fitting that we dedicate the night to him. As friends and members of our staff took turns taking the stage to each play a piece they had chosen, they all had very kind words & memories to share about their experiences working with Travis and his vision for ACG's educational program.

Some spoke of their days together as students at UT, others highlighted his dedication to the development of and the reach ACG has been able to have to students across the country as a result. We even received a letter from a long-time ACG volunteer, Judith Agraz, who works for the Texas Eduaction Agency and wanted to give a personal testimony of the impact Travis has had as an educator; she wrote-

Judith Agraz
Long-time ACG Volunteer, Judith Agraz

When I met Travis Marcum about 9 years ago, he was teaching classical guitar at McCallum High School as part of the ACG educational outreach program. At that time, we were trying to create a classical guitar club at this school. He was also giving classical guitar lessons to my son Diego. Travis looked so young and shy. His speech was soft and quiet. Not long after that, in 2007, the McCallum Advanced Classical Guitar Ensemble participated in UT Brownsville National Guitar Ensemble Competition and won the competition that year. After my son graduated from high school, I lost track of Travis. It was at a Guitars Under Stars event that I heard him give a speech about the importance of teaching classical guitar in high schools. I was surprised to hear him speak with such assurance and dedication. As time goes on, every time I hear or see him in an interview, I see how he has grown not just in confidence. His heart has expanded. His service to the students, to the other teachers, and to the community is enormous. I have to congratulate a teacher, a director, and a friend.

With love and admiration,


As the night went on we had our fair share of laughs as guests got to participate in rounds of "Travis Trivia (Travia)" of questions about his favorite food and what character of Dungeons & Dragons he would be, in-between more songs and stories. The positive energy in the room was undeniable and the music spoke for itself, but one thing that was pointed out by our Executive Director, Matt Hinsley, resonated with the room on a higher note. As much as we all love what we do, promoting this instrument, teaching music; the longer all of us at ACG work together, in a strange way, the less it actually seems to be about guitar. It's all about forming a connection with people, and Travis Marcum has mastered this skill. Wether it be through his ability to create learning environments where students feel comfortable, or his teaching style that motivates them to be their best self, we could all learn a little something from Travis. So congratulations on everything you've achieved in the last 10 years, and here's to 10 more of connecting people through our two favorite things, education and classical guitar.

Travis Marcum, Jeremy Osborne & Toby Rodriguez playing a piece last night that Travis composed for the  ACG Educational Curriculum