Art is about human expression. I believe that we are all born with the need (not just desire) to create and to express ourselves, both individually and as part of a community.
– Catherine Wildermuth

Catherine and David Wildermuth can often be found at Austin arts events, and are frequently part of the reason those events, and the organizations producing them, are possible at all!

We at ACG have been incredibly fortunate to have Catherine and David’s support, and I was overjoyed when Catherine told me they would like to sponsor our Summer Series opening concert featuring the amazing guitar and mandolin duo of Rene Izquierdo and Carlo Aonzo.

I asked Catherine to share some thoughts with me. She said “sure” but only if the questions were easy ones! I was truly inspired by her words. I’m sure you will be too.

Matthew Hinsley: You and David are significant supporters of the arts in Austin, and have been for a long time. Why do you think arts are important in our community?

Catherine Wildermuth: You promised that you would only give me easy questions! But this is difficult because I cannot imagine living without the arts as part of my life. How does one argue rationally for something that feels an essential part of one’s self? But here goes . . .

Art is about human expression. I believe that we are all born with the need (not just desire) to create and to express ourselves, both individually and as part of a community. We not only get closer to reaching our full potential through shared self expression, it is the only means I know whereby we develop empathy and sensitivity to the world around us and can experience a world bigger than our local community or our current time. Much has changed in our world over the centuries, but our essential humanity is not one of those things. We not only learn that, but we experience that through the arts.

The arts challenge us to discover, to experience, to express what we think, what we feel, what we love or hate, what we hope, what we want to change, what we yearn for in the future and admire from the past, and whatever else might move us. We meet ourselves and continually reinvent ourselves through the arts. They enrich our spirits. As the Dali Lama said during his visit to the US a few years ago, “How can a material thing which is not spiritual make a human being who is spiritual happy?”

Dee Dickinson, in a article on the Johns Hopkins School of Education website, argues that the arts are “languages that all people speak that cut across racial, cultural, social, educational, and economic barriers and enhance cultural appreciation and awareness.”

And from Steve Jobs: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have lots of dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solution without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

MH: You serve on the board of ACMC. What do you wish everyone knew about that organization?

CW: Austin Chamber Music Center, Austin’s finest chamber music organization, was founded by Felicity Coltman in 1981 to offer a summer chamber music workshop to junior and senior high school musicians. The program immediately added school-year classes that met on Saturdays. These school-year classes, now called the Academy, and the summer workshop remain the heart and soul of ACMC’s mission of service to Austin and to chamber music.

Through its season concert series and summer festival, ACMC brings elite chamber musicians to music halls and homes for world-class performances and enables Austin students to participate in masterclasses with these visiting artists . ACMC provides exceptional musical instruction to people of all ages in its Fall and Spring Academy and Summer Workshop. The organization is community-driven, arranging outreach concerts in schools and retirement homes. Making Austin excited about chamber music is what ACMC strives to do.

The organization is led by award-winning pianist and Artistic Director Michelle Schumann along with newly hired Executive Director Peter Helf. Its summer festival begins on July 10. Visit for tickets and details.

MH: We talked about three concerts this summer, why did you choose to sponsor our opening night show with guitar and Mandolin?

CW: Most people don’t know this about me, but I have an advanced degree in Medieval English Literature. Of course, the mandolin first appeared in 15th century Naples, about 100 years later than Chaucer’s time, but it is an adaptation of the lute, which certainly appeared frequently in the art and literature I studied all those years ago. So the idea of a mandolin concert and the duo of guitar and mandolin really appealed to me.

I was torn, however, because I played the flute until I was a senior in high school and the guitar/flute duo is the joint concert with ACMC. But in the end, I thought, just how many opportunities was I going to have to sponsor a mandolin. So I had to go with that.

MH: You’re an avid marathon runner. What do you love about marathons?

CW: I’m not sure I can explain this because I’m not sure that I know myself. It’s sort of like the Steve Jobs’ comment above: It just seemed obvious after a while. My husband says it’s because I am crazy and that he’s the sane one in the family. He is probably right.

I didn’t start running until after I retired about 5 years ago. Well, I ran on treadmills in the evening, but that wasn’t running. That was exercise. Once I retired and could run outside during the day, a whole new world opened up for me. I signed up for a 5K race (3.1 miles) just as a motivational tactic. I was unprepared for just how much fun it was to run in a huge crowd of other runners all out there just to have fun. I was hooked.

I will never forget my first marathon, the Austin Marathon back in 2010. We started just north of the Congress Avenue bridge and ran across the bridge up Congress Avenue to Ben White. I was surrounded by hundreds of runners and for as far as I could see on the road ahead of me was a sea of more runners. It was incredibly moving and I can’t explain why. As we ran along Lake Austin Boulevard, a little ways into the race, I was entranced by the sounds of hundreds of footfalls, hundreds of breaths and birds singing. Of course, you do hurt after 26 miles, but that’s not what I remember.

My next race is the San Diego Marathon on 1 June. I hope all the fires in the area don’t make this a difficult run. Then I will be running the San Francisco Marathon at the end of July. We run across the Golden Gate bridge in that one. Pretty amazing.

MH: Anything else you’d like to add?

CW: Just that we are incredibly blessed here in Austin by all of the opportunities we have to hear, see and interact with world class artists and to have so many cultural organizations like ACG and ACMC committed to enriching our lives and the lives of our children through education and outreach into the community.

We should never take any of that for granted.

Last night I attended the Spring Concert of the Travis High School Classical Guitar Ensemble. There were several seniors on that stage who will be attending college in the fall on guitar scholarships at Mary Hardin Baylor, most of whom very probably would not otherwise have gone to college (or even wanted to go to college), much less finish high school. It was great to feel a very small part of that.


– Catherine & David Wildermuth