It gives me great pleasure to share our spring 2014 Education summary progress report. It’s been another remarkable year in ACG Education.

More information on our program is online: Education Services, School Curriculum & Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra, and you can also make a contribution online to ACG Education if you wish. We invite your questions at 512-300-2247.

Major Developments in 2013-14

Perhaps the most important development this year was the introduction of our Teacher Training program in August 2013 at the University of Texas. We worked extensively to create a 3-day, 16-hour training course that was attended by 65 educators from 10 States and one teacher from Nicaragua. The training was very well received (and was the subject of our Fall 2013 Progress Report, available on request) and had the direct result of creating 7 new elementary school programs in Austin with over 600 new students. The training also allowed us to present teachers with top-level priorities, benchmarks for success, and classroom techniques—all of which made a huge impact throughout the year. Our attendee from Nicaragua will be holding a national congress on classroom guitar teaching this summer (2014) based on what he learned at our training session and utilizing our materials.

The addition of 7 new elementary programs required a new part-time staff member, Toby Rodriguez, to be added to our core education team. Performance videos from our elementary programs are available upon request. This year also saw the addition of new guitar programs at Burnet Middle School, Paredes Middle School and at Austin’s KIPP Academy (charter school). The KIPP program has thrived in its first year and will soar to over 120 students enrolled this coming fall.

There are major administrative and structural developments that carry great potential impact on our work. Austin Independent School District (AISD) has asked that we assist this summer in a 3-week curriculum generation project. This spring we were asked to develop all concert and sight-reading procedures in accordance with University Interscholastic League (UIL) standards, as well as adjudication processes and adjudicator selection criteria. In April and May, the AISD Director of Fine Arts requested meetings with our team and the Director of Music for UIL, as well as the Director of TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) to move that our evaluation events become UIL-sanctioned pilots by 2016. The motion was then introduced and passed by the Region 18 (includes Austin) Orchestra and Band Directors conference. These developments are signs of the ever-increasing acceptance of and support for our far-reaching program in Central Texas, and they are also signs of greater awareness of and respect for our work throughout the entire state.

Program Status

This year our core education team and contractors carried out about 150 hours of on-site teacher training, consulting, team teaching, and direct instruction each week in our 42 Austin schools that now serve more than 2,000 students. We provided in-service trainings in Austin, Brownsville, and Santa Fe, in addition to our August national teacher training, weekly group guitar lessons for our new elementary school instructors, and daily phone and email consultation with educators all over the world. We provide many auxiliary functions in Austin, including student recital planning and preparation, more than 100 student performance opportunities, local and national contest preparation, complete oversight and execution of All City Guitar and AISD Concert and Sight Reading Evaluation events, and dozens of in-school guest-artist performances. We provide hundreds of guitars to students at no cost, and we focus our free individual lessons on Travis High School and Webb Middle School.

The results continue to be quite remarkable. Most importantly, kids who were not involved in the performing arts are getting engaged and experiencing the well-documented benefits of quality arts education. In his fall letter, AISD Fine Arts Director, Greg Goodman wrote, “We have seen increased student, family and community engagement with this particular program. Austin Classical Guitar has done an incredible job of increasing quality and access to a new art form that has allowed a diverse option for our students.”

McCallum High School, where our program began in 2001, won the high school division of the UT Brownsville National Guitar Ensemble contest for the eighth straight year, and also toured in Fayetteville, La Grange, and Round Top/Carmine as part of a new rural outreach initiative we developed this year. We are particularly proud that five seniors from Travis High School (all ACG free lesson recipients) will graduate and pursue music studies on college scholarship this year. One of these students will be the first in her family ever to go to college, and another student from this group will attend Austin Community College as the fourth recipient of our Austin Classical Guitar ACC scholarship.

Our program at the Travis County Juvenile Justice System continues to thrive. Students perform quarterly for the induction ceremonies of Travis County’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and one student wrote earlier this month, “I like guitar because I can express myself when I’m sad. I like to hear something hard and powerful when I am mad. When I am sad I like to play something calm and smooth. When I am bored it lifts me up and makes me want to hear more music. Music means a lot to me. It can relieve anger, sadness and stress. It can make you forget about the bad things for a time. I always imagined myself playing guitar and singing to a lady that I would like to marry. This is why I like guitar.”

ACG & in Print and Presentation

Our education team presented in the fall at the National Association for Music Education and has been invited to return in the coming year. We were also invited to write two articles, the first for Guitar Foundation of America’s Soundboard Magazine and the second for TMEA’s Southwestern Musician. Both articles were published in early 2014 and are available upon request. TMEA has asked that ACG present an entire day of sessions for their February 2015 conference in San Antonio.

Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra

In addition to our core education programming, this was the first year for our Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra, an auditioned ensemble of players under the age of 19 from around the region. ACGYO performed for more than 3,000 people this year and premiered two new pieces of music, one by our Composer in Residence, and another by one of our Crockett High School guitar students composed under the tutelage of our Composer in Residence.


We have learned from asking our students to write responses to concert experiences that young people can write eloquently and passionately about music. For that reason we launched, in 2012, an online magazine called as a vehicle for promoting critical thinking and the exchange of ideas by young guitarists. Fretbuzz has since published many essays, articles, reviews, interviews and video submissions from young guitarists, and now also hosts monthly writing and performance competitions. I encourage you to visit online. It is an inspiring site, and we believe it has tremendous potential.

The Lullaby Project

2013-14 saw our first collaboration with Carnegie Hall Outreach in the form of the Lullaby Project, in partnership locally with Any Baby Can. Carnegie Hall developed this program two years ago and, after monitoring our work in juvenile justice, asked if we would be one of two organizations in the US to expand the program outside of New York. In the Lullaby Project, our teaching artists were paired with at-risk mothers (clients of Any Baby Can), and in this collaborative partnership, each mother wrote a lullaby for her baby. The lullabies were then professionally recorded, and each mother then shared her song with family and friends at a final sharing session. The effects of this program have been studied extensively by Wolf-Brown and Carnegie Hall, and more can be found on the Carnegie Hall website. A recording of our first lullabies is available upon request.

Future Plans

In summer 2014 we will expand our teacher training sessions to include Atlanta and St. Louis, and we will offer an augmented training in Austin to accommodate past trainees. Our greatest concern, as the program expands, is maintaining quality in the classroom. We believe that training, improved online teacher resources (especially video), and a path toward certification are the best ways to promote quality. Certification is something we hope to offer beginning in 2015. We have established the training path and have also outlined the criteria for certification, which will be accomplished if teacher applicants submit qualifying videos that demonstrate field success.

In Austin we know of four new elementary schools, at least one new middle school (Pearce), and a new high school (Garza) that will be adding our classical guitar program in the fall. Existing programs continue to grow. We anticipate direct service to approximately 50 schools with close to 3,000 students in 2014-15. One programming highlight will be April 18, 2015 at Bass Concert Hall, when our Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra will pair with Conspirare’s Youth Choir to open a major concert we are presenting in conjunction with Texas Performing Arts

We plan to allocate a new staff position to management of and teacher training. Our broad reach to educators across the globe through curriculum and training has grown to the extent that, in order to manage it properly, we must have closer and dedicated oversight. This June we expect to relaunch on an updated platform that will allow us far greater control of content. Refining and augmenting core teacher materials, adding substantial video material, a teacher forum, and integration are all on the horizon for this curriculum, which is the backbone of our programming. On the administrative side, we will continue to work diligently to advance guitar as a quality school based offering in the State of Texas, and beyond, with the goal of “All-State” guitar in Texas by 2020.

On behalf of our Board of Directors and Staff, I would like to extend my deepest thanks for your support of our programming at Austin Classical Guitar.

More information on our program is online: Education Services, School Curriculum & Austin Classical Guitar Youth Orchestra, and you can also make a contribution online to ACG Education if you wish. We invite your questions at 512-300-2247.