Dear Friends,

Fall 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of ACG Education.

Two decades ago, we were given an opportunity to work with students in a guitar class at McCallum High School here in Austin. In the years since, ACG has become a driving force in the field of classroom-based guitar education, partnering with hundreds of teachers serving thousands of students in schools around the world. As we reflect on the countless stories of challenge and beauty from the past twenty years, we are reminded of the passion, purpose, and inspiration at the core of our service mission.

We’d like to begin this report with a reminder of the Five Elements we consider essential to the impact of our work in education. These elements, which we first shared publicly in our 2017 Education Report, are: 1) Safety, Trust & Belonging 2) Individual Importance 3) Adversity & Perseverance 4) Performance & Success 5) Celebration.

We promote the Five Elements in the microcosm (every class, every interaction), and the macrocosm (semester, school year, training summit). As you are reading this report, we hope it will show the degree to which our team, particularly during this pandemic, has worked to keep the Five Elements at the heart of everything we do in education.

As you’ll see in this report, despite the challenges we all faced in this past year and a half, ACG Education continues to grow in impact, sharing and connecting in new and deeper ways with more people than ever before. We hope what you find in this report will make you proud.


Travis Marcum, Director of Education and Music & Healing


ACG Education: Service during the Pandemic 

Early in the pandemic we realized our highest goal was to combat isolation, separation from friends and colleagues, by creating opportunities for safety and belonging via deep personal expression in the music we make together. Using technology, personal narrative, and multi-modal participation options, we created an array of new tools and approaches for our students and teachers. We built virtual spaces for young artists to commune, create, and describe their world. 

This included the commissioning of an astonishing (to us!) ninety new works, an array of mass-participation events, and a new level of community-based projects. 

Community-based Projects

In spring 2020 Travis Marcum wrote Everything Changes at Once. This piece included 13 multi-level repeating musical patterns, and opportunities for performers to participate through guitar, spoken voice, photo, and video. More than 750 files were submitted by students in 23 cities across the US. ECAO formed the basis for many of our projects since.

In October 2020 we invited our community to create musical offerings, called Ofrendas, in celebration of loved ones who had passed away. This is in the Latin American tradition of Día de Muertos, and we partnered with Austin’s Mexic-Arte Museum for the educational and cultural framework of the project. Here is a playlist with 68 of the moving creations: Ofrendas.

In March 2021 we had a similar community-wide call for submissions of performances and compositions created as gifts for loved ones who could use something warm and supportive in their lives. Here is a playlist with 48 such performances: GIVE.

Local Services & Campus-Specific Special Projects 

We enter the 2021-2022 school year with 51 local partner schools. Established programs need minimal day-to-day support beyond performance engagement and special opportunities, but many of our programs are new, have new teachers, or special challenges requiring significant assistance ranging from planning and consultation, to school visits, private instruction, and recruiting.

We are continually amazed by the resourcefulness and resilience displayed by our partner teachers and their students. Here is a particularly inspiring video of a collaboration between the guitar and dance programs at KIPP Academy in Austin performing Chris Lee’s arrangement of Izika Zumba from our library.

While every school and community faced unprecedented challenges, we identified several campus communities where we wished to focus additional resources in an effort to use group expression and creation as a unifying and healing force for good. These were all student led projects that provided a creative space for our young musicians to generate ideas and contribute their individual voice to a larger endeavor. Students met and overcame creative challenges involving composition, performance, video and audio recording and engineering and more. And they ultimately were able to celebrate the birth of a work of art made specifically by and for their school community. 

Six Feet Together was composed by Justice Phillips and performed by Lively Middle School guitar, orchestra, and dance programs. ACG supported the production elements as well as the composition and some preparation. This project was extra special because Justice, ACG’s Director of Customer Experience, is also a graduate of the Lively Middle School guitar program. The stage recording of this project marked the first time that Lively Fine Arts students were able to be together after more than one year apart. 

Hope was created and performed by Northeast High School students and Director Dallas Shreve with guest artists-in-residence Daniel Fears and Tony Mariano. This is an excellent example of personal narrative combined with music and multimedia production. 

San Marcos High School students led this project with Travis Marcum to write, record, and engineer several pieces as a way of processing community grief. One movement is linked here. 

Individual Free Lessons and Alumni Stories

ACG has provided free lessons, primarily in Title 1 Schools, for much of the past twenty years. Many of our most remarkable stories of personal transformation, and transcendent musical success relate to this deep service that pairs expert teachers with individual students on a weekly basis. These mentor relationships often last for years. In this report we’ll focus on one current scholarship recipient and share four brief updates from alumni. 

Elijah Flores just graduated from Crockett High School. As the winner of our Javier Niño Scholarship, Elijah had weekly lessons with ACG’s Tony Mariano, was awarded a concert-quality guitar, had multiple performance opportunities, and assistance in his college application and audition process. Elijah was accepted on scholarship to UT San Antonio where he now studies with Dr. Isaac Bustos, and was given a first-ever six-year scholarship award from The D’Addario Foundation for the Performing Arts. 

Will Flores, graduated from our McCallum program in 2008 and joined the US Army Band. Now exiting the Army after 12 years in service, with a BA in Psychology, Will is planning his next stages in life, and called ACG to ask about volunteering. Will has just been confirmed as a new member of the ACG Board of Directors, becoming our first former student to serve on the board. 

Susana Diaz Lopez, a graduate of Travis High School, is now a full-time guitar and mariachi teacher at Akins High School. Susana, who was also an intern at ACG, and worked as a teacher in our juvenile justice system programs, becomes our fourth graduate to come full circle and enter AISD as a full-time teacher. 

Lennox Kolics, a long-time member of ACG Youth Orchestra, and former intern, graduated high school, is attending college for music production, and became an indispensable part of our AV team in the past year. About his experience in ACGYO with director Joe Williams, Lennox wrote: “Over the years, breathing life into the scores before us and making the pieces our own became instinctual — we didn’t just play songs anymore, we made them into stories. It wasn’t primarily about getting it right, but about creating beautiful things together; I came to see that that’s what life is about too.” 

Claire Puckett, graduated from our McCallum program and has had a prolific early career as a professional musician. After several years on our Music & Healing artist team, Claire now joins our Music & Healing administrative staff. Here she is introducing herself (video) and a song she wrote for the Music & Healing program called Oli Boy, as part of our GIVE project. 

Feature Performances

On March 27, 2021, ACG produced PLAY, an education showcase featuring 13 performances by individual students and ensembles from Austin and far beyond. This video may be the best single resource to experience the range of ACG Education pivots made during the pandemic. 

For our May 25, 2021 season finale, we partnered with guitarist collective Ex-Aqueo and the Virtual Guitar Orchestra with special support from the Augustine Foundation to assemble a statewide group of students for the premiere performance of Mason Bynes’ Broomsticks. For more insight into the project, here is an interview with Mason Bynes. This piece was commissioned and arranged in partnership with Ex-Aequo’s Changing the Canon project, highlighting 9 new works by Black American composers. 

Juvenile Justice 

We are pleased to report that the May 2020 expansion of our Juvenile Justice services to include Travis County’s Phoenix House, was successful and productive. Jim Lorenz, the Lead Teacher at Phoenix Academy, wrote: “The impact of these learning opportunities on Phoenix students have been profound. The Phoenix faculty has recognized marked growth in the self-esteem of students participating in guitar classes. Guitar students have taken ownership and pride in their new abilities, and have opened themselves up to modalities of expression few of them even knew existed. Students in guitar classes are eager to share newly learned abilities with peers, mentors, and loved ones. Moreover, students express extreme gratitude for the ACG teachers, and profess that they will be able to use their new found music skills as coping mechanisms that will support their sobriety.”

Phoenix House became our third juvenile justice center program, following our decade of service at Travis County’s Gardner Betts facility, and our four years of service at Williamson County’s Wilco facility. After months in preparation, we just opened our fourth juvenile justice service area in Dallas County’s Medlock facility in August 2021. This represents the first time we have started such a program outside of central Texas. 

In spring 2021, ACG Education received a Liberty Bell Award from the Austin Young Lawyers’  Association in recognition of more than ten years of service in the juvenile justice arena. 

While it is rare for us to be able to record our students in detention, we are particularly pleased to share this beautiful performance of John Legend’s All Of Me. One of our students in Williamson County wanted very much to learn this song. He worked hard, learned it, and carefully recorded the accompaniment track, displaying a variety of guitar skills, and remarkably steady rhythm for a lengthy single recording. The recording was then paired with ACG Music & Healing artist Claudia Chapa to make the moving video that is linked above.

Community Ensembles

We commissioned five new works for our youth and adult community ensembles. Forward by Michael Keplinger, is a four-movement work written in fall 2020 with one movement for each group: Guitar Choir, Guitar Ensemble, Youth Camerata, and Youth Orchestra. 

In the spring the ACG Guitar Choir performed Reassembled by Matthew Lyons. The ACG Youth Camerata performed Winter To Spring. The ACG Guitar Ensemble Performed Adelante by Alan Retamozo. The ACG Youth Orchestra performed Hello I Just Wanted to See How You Were Doing, by Cassie Shenkman.

This Conversation with Catalina Galvan, gives special insight into the new capability Zoom technology gave us in 2020-2021 to engage members from outside our driving distance. Catalina said: “My experience this Spring was one like no-other. I have never had the opportunity to collaborate with such a diverse group of people and work on a beautiful piece to make it our own, until I joined the ACGYO.”

This Letter from Edward Kimball: Guitar & Horses, is a beautiful testament to the impact of our adult ensembles on members of our community. 

Here is a playlist of Forward (4 movements):, Teacher Summit & National Services

During the 2020-2021 school year had 681 active users. Our team continues to update and augment our teaching materials with special emphasis on increasing diverse representation in our teaching library. Recent additions include new arrangements by Mariette Stephens, a new work by Shuborno Biswas, and five arrangements of songs from Mexico by Celil Refik-Kaya. The site also now has a “Special Projects” page including processes for our new community-based projects like Everything Changes at Once, Ofrendas and GIVE. 

We frequently receive positive user feedback. One note that stood out was this one, from August 2021: “We’d like to give a big thank you to you and your team for creating such a great resource for our teachers and students. One area that we particularly appreciated is the scaffolding of performance materials in the music library and their accompanying video tutorials. As we know, the best way to learn is to do and it is often the case that one guitar class will have a wide range of skills. The various leveled pieces help maximize participation and will no doubt increase student learning and the joy for making music.”

A top goal of our July 2020 Teacher Summit was to prepare teachers for remote instruction online. Many teachers commented a year later, in our 2021 Teacher Summit, that the preparation–and specifically the direct experience building Canvas LMS course modules–gave them confidence and technical skills they needed to succeed during the 2020-2021 school year. We would like to say a special thanks to partner teacher Phil Swasey, who led in developing our Canvas LMS systems. 

Travis Marcum wrote a new piece for our teachers to study and perform during the July 2021 Teacher Summit called Open. It is beautiful, and represents another example of centering participant voices, and seeking to promote our Five Elements throughout all aspects of ACG Education. 

We’d like to end this section on national services with a special shout out to James Young of the Ferguson-Florissant School District, who was recent awarded Missouri State Teacher of the Year (article). We have been working with James for more than five years, and believe this award could not have been given to a nicer or more dedicated teacher. In response to our letter of congratulations, Mr. Young wrote: “My time spent with you and the staff at Austin Classical Guitar has certainly been an integral part of my journey and I am grateful. I look forward to the path ahead and continuing to work with you and St. Louis Classical Guitar!”

LetsPlay: Braille Lifelong Learning Resource

Our braille lifelong learning resource,, had 7,681 unique visitors in 2020 (compared to 3422 in 2019) with 1,721 downloads of our music teaching packet (1,299 in 2019). Perhaps our biggest news has been the fall 2019 launch of our sister site, Svirajmo Gitaru in a full translation for use in the Balkans. 

We continue to have wonderful conversations with users. We recently received a call from an 81 year old resident of rural Oregon who lost his sight four years ago. He does not have internet access, he does not read braille, and he lives in a remote part of the state. A friend of his was able to download the audio guides from Level 1 of, and while he had never played guitar before, he was able to learn all of the Level 1 material through the audio guides. He was calling us to ask what to do next. When we informed him that there are seven more levels, and about forty-five more pieces to learn, he became ecstatic and said, “I’m so excited right now. I wish you could see me. I’m so excited my knees are shaking.” We’ve since placed the audio guides from Levels 2 and 3 onto a flash drive for him to play using the audio player provided to him by the Braille Foundation. 

Looking Ahead

In the coming months, ACG Education is planning to fully celebrate our 20th Anniversary year with all kinds of special events and projects for students and teachers including hosting two artist residencies for students in Austin ISD with the amazing Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist Clarice Assad. As the community we serve grows, so does our talented education team. This Fall, we are thrilled to bring on Tony Mariano, ACG’s new Director of Community Education. Tony will be engaging with all of our local programs and will direct ACG’s youth and adult community ensemble programs. In addition to Claire Puckett, mentioned above, we have also hired another ACG Education alum, Rey Rodriguez, to teach in our free private lesson program for Austin ISD. Rey attended our partner programs at Bedichek Middle School and Crockett High School before attending the UT Austin Butler School of Music for guitar performance. He will be working with students at both campuses he attended in his youth. 

We are also particularly excited to announce a catalytic growth opportunity for Austin Classical Guitar in the creation and activation of our first-ever home. This fall we are renovating and opening a new venue and center for creative learning and collaboration we’re calling The Rosette in central Austin. With multiple indoor and outdoor performance and teaching spaces, along with state-of-the-art lighting, sound, recording, and broadcasting capabilities, we believe our opportunities for education, training, and community engagement will evolve to a whole new level. 

We are deeply grateful for the generosity of the many individuals and institutions whose support makes Austin Classical Guitar’s education programming possible, including: 

Augustine Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, Kaman Foundation, Bill Wood Foundation, Cain Foundation, Webber Family Foundation, Still Water Foundation, Lucy & Bill Farland, Rea Charitable Trust, Texas Commission on the Arts, H-E-B Tournament of Champions Charitable Trust, Kodosky Foundation, Long Foundation, Wright Family Foundation, Shield-Ayres Foundation, the Skeel/Baldauf Family, Karrie & Tim League, Louise Epstein & John Henry McDonald, Bill Metz, MFS Foundation, University Area Rotary Club, Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, Applied Materials Foundation, Sue L. Nguyen Management Trust, Dr. Michael Froehls, Sarah & Ernest Butler, Mercedes-Benz of Austin, United Way for Greater Austin, Carl Caricari & Margaret Murray Miller, Burdine Johnson Foundation, 3M Foundation, Whole Foods Market, D’Addario Foundation, Calido Guitars, Rick & Valeri Reeder, Dan Bullock & Annette Carlozzi, Dr. Lynne Boggs & Bill Cariker, The Ben and Nancy Sander Family, The Raley Family and many, many others.