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 Dream Big spring 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.

Below is a letter from Bedichek Middle School’s Director of Guitar and Mariachi, Phil Swasey, on their most recent performance at their Springfest!

Teaching during a pandemic has challenged many educators to navigate novel and complex issues, ones that still arrive daily in the form of mental health obstacles (teachers and students alike), inequitable outcomes, COVID protocols, when to return to normal program activities, and how to address the impact of separation on our communities. 

With the help of some amazing colleagues, Bedichek Middle planned and hosted a community celebration called “Bedichek Springfest”, with the purpose of reconnecting members of our community (families, teachers, PTA, and local businesses). It’s these connections that are vital to a school ecosystem, and ones that have been recently strained.

One major goal of the event was to reconnect with Alumni; students that had gone on after middle school to do incredible things, and bring their successes back to campus. It was an effort not only to celebrate them, but also to provide our current students and teachers with a vision into what our young learners become after middle school.

I spent the early part of the Spring semester reaching out to former guitar students from the last 11 years of the program. The responses that I received when proposing an Alumni Guitar Ensemble were enthusiastic and committed.

Two of the first people I reached out to were Angelica Campbell (Communications Director at ACG), and Rey Rodriguez (Teaching Artist at ACG), and once they were on-board the ensemble really started to take shape. We rehearsed twice in preparation for our performance at Springfest, and those moments together were filled with laughs, goofing around, reminiscing, and most importantly, really beautiful music making. The ensemble itself consisted of siblings (3 pairs), partners, current and former students, and spanned a 12 year age range.

During breaks in the rehearsal we would have structured conversations based on prompts. Answering the question, “What would you go back and tell your middle school self?”, a high school student’s response was, “I would tell myself not to compare myself to others.”.

The evening of the performance was beautiful, the group played well, and so many other students that weren’t able to participate in the ensemble showed up to support and watch. I’m so grateful for all of the students, current and former, that participated. 

Below is an excerpt from an 8th graders essay, imagining his first day at college. It’s an amazing testament to the impact that we all have on each other, even when not realizing it.

 “I soon realize that college is overwhelming and I have projects already due. I luckily know some people who can help. I go to talk to my teacher, his name is Rey and he tells me about how rough his first day was also. I start to feel better about everything, realizing that I have people to help me get through this.”

– Phil Swasey