For our ACG Fall Fund Drive, we’re sharing stories on our Changing Lives Storyboard of ways music has changed our world, and how our community helped make it happen. Consider supporting ACG today!

Fourteen years ago, Austin Classical Guitar recognized the need for an improved system of school-based guitar education comparable to established programs in choir, orchestra, and band. Three years later, we launched Now used internationally by hundreds of teachers serving tens of thousands of students, “” is a comprehensive teacher resource that includes a searchable library of original, pedagogically-sequenced ensemble literature, sight reading, and audio and video tutorials, all espousing a powerful core educational philosophy of “expressive, beautiful music-making from the very first day.”

We’ve been talking to teachers around the country – and the world – about how they use our curriculum. The following is a spotlight on Héctor Vázquez, a guitar teacher in Puerto Rico.

Héctor Vázquez was working on his Bachelor’s in Guitar Performance when he became a Teaching Assistant. Although performance had always been his focus, he began to notice that teaching was improving his own guitar skills. This led him to the realization that to be a good player, you must know how to teach.

He started his Master’s in Tallahassee, where he expanded his teaching experience by doing private lessons, leading a full studio, and directing a seminar. After completing his degree at a school back in Puerto Rico, he began to work at the Fundacion Musica Y Pais, and eventually led the guitar orchestra in his local conservatory.

The Fundacion brings music to schools lacking arts education as part of its Música para Todos (Music for All) initiative. It describes itself as an organization that “advocates for the democratization of access to music education as a citizen right. As part of that vision, we offer a varied platform of programs and initiatives to provide children and youth of Puerto Rico – regardless of social class or socioeconomic status – the necessary opportunities to discover, train, develop and express their musical talent.”

“We were only in two schools at the beginning, and none of the students had their own guitars – they had to borrow them,” Héctor recalls. They gradually expanded their reach, and now the program supports over 1,300 students in 20 projects located throughout Puerto Rico.

I still perform, but teaching is what keeps me on my toes.” 

Héctor believes his role is to help students progress smoothly and quickly. He works with guitarists between the ages of 8-60, and is grateful they all appreciate the thought he puts into instruction.

As he began to teach in more group settings, Héctor was frustrated by a lack of resources for guitar educators. He thought that a straightforward, effective progression for classroom guitar education did not exist.

“Teachers often start students with chords, which is really hard! My thought is, why are we making this so difficult? Guitar is a polyphonic instrument. Students should start one finger at a time.”

He began to research a good method for ensemble use.

“I remember it was really hard for me to play chamber music at first because the guitar is such an independent instrument. So I wanted to find a curriculum where students could play their own parts independently while also listening for other’s music. That’s when I found”

“I like GuitarCurriculum because it starts with melodies and open strings, meaning you don’t have to switch strings, which is one of the hardest things for a guitarist. The curriculum begins with very simple techniques and well-composed music to teach difficult concepts.”

In the fall of 2017, Héctor subscribed to and planned to start using it with his students.

Then Hurricane Maria hit.

As a Category 4 Hurricane, it was the worst natural disaster to affect Puerto Rico on record. Most of the island’s infrastructure was destroyed, the vegetation was obliterated, and much of the population was faced with a humanitarian crisis due to flooding and lack of resources. The storm wiped out the entire island’s power grid, causing millions to lose electricity. Almost 3,000 people were killed.

Luckily, Héctor’s community survived largely unscathed.

“The Conservatory opened after a month, but it had no power until December.”

“The foundations of our buildings and structures were ok, but we lost power.  That meant we had no internet, which meant I had limited resources, and I could only access the Curriculum from my phone. We charged phones in our cars. We did have generators – plantas – which powered fans to keep us cool, but that meant we had to fight against their noise when we played guitar.”

Once the power was restored, Héctor was able to fully embrace all the resources in It was January, and his students were almost a semester behind. This fall, he began the Curriculum with his new students from the very beginning. He says it’s working very well.

“As an educator, I wish to improve the culture of music and guitar from the ground up.  I take great pride in teaching in my home country. I wish to teach all musicians, despite their goals, most importantly to support the art of the guitar in the genres they like, and to create a wide-spread appreciation for the art and instrument. “

“Minor Waltz” by Travis Marcum, ACG’s Director of Education
One of Héctor’s guitar classes performing with a handbell choir as part of the ‘Musica para Todos’ initiative.