My first taste of arts organizing was at Oberlin Conservatory.  I went to college there when I was 16, and I was the first (me and two other guys) classical guitar student ever at the conservatory.  As a result there was no budget or infrastructure in place to support classical guitar study there (no series, no guest artists, no master classes).

So in my second year, my professor (Steve Aron) suggested I begin a student organization and request funding from the Oberlin Student Government to be able to bring in guest guitarists.  I did.  And over the course of three years the budget grew from about $1,000 to about $5,000 – when we brought in David Russell!

It was ’94-’95 that we hired Bill Kanengiser.  A phenomenal guitarist, and a founding member of the LA Guitar Quartet.  LAGQ and Bill were already monumentally famous in the classical guitar world, and it was an incredible thrill to meet him, hear him play, and get to play for him (I played El Decameron Negro, by Leo Brouwer in his class).

I arrived in Texas in August 1996 (that’s a long story!) and, because word of my experience with the Oberlin Guitar Club had spread, was almost immediately asked to take over the Austin Classical Guitar Society.  I was 20.  That’s also a long story – and it’s still being written!

So of course, one of the very first people I called to play for the ACGS series was… Bill Kanengiser!  In 1997 Bill played a magnificent concert for us in Jessen Auditorium.  I’ll never forget, we went to Trudy’s for Margaritas before we were supposed to go meet Tony Morris – who was on the all-night shift at KMFA – to record an interview for Tony’s show, “Classical Guitar Alive” (maybe you’ve heard of it?  Only now the most significant international classical guitar radio show in the world!), and Bill got carded!  Bill was pretty pleased to be carded, until he realized he couldn’t find his wallet… there begins another really long story!  Suffice to say we ended up finding the wallet, went back to Trudy’s for margaritas, and finally made it to see Tony (after 1am) for our interview.

It was during that visit, that Bill turned to me – and I remember this like it was yesterday – and said: “Maybe next time, you can bring the LAGQ”.  And I thought to myself “Yes.  Yes, I want to bring the LAGQ.”

It took a few years!  The first time we brought the LAGQ was October 2004.  A lot had changed at ACGS!  The next time we brought them was when we hosted GFA at the Long Center in 2010.  They performed their amazing Don Quixote project with Phil Proctor in Dell Hall – right before we had Master Pancake Theater heckle the old Ralph Macchio class “Crossroads on the City Terrace” on a 40’ tall blow-up movie screen for 1,200 (uh, long story!) – and then they shared the stage with Pepe Romero and performed with the Austin Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Peter Bay.  Ah what a weekend!

And now they’re coming back to open our International Concert Series this Saturday night.  I hope to see you there!