Week in Review

2/27/2010 Saturday 8:30 am

Yesterday’s lecture was really well received.  It felt really great to be at the podium with such distinguished colleagues: my dear friend Dr. Cal Steeter, who is the Meadows Foundation Professor of Quality of Life in the Rural Environment at the UT School of Social Work, was there as well as my colleague Travis Marcum who is the director of education at the Austin Classical Guitar Society.  Dr. Streeter, who is about to depart to Geneva and go from there around Europe and Africa to sites he works with through the UT School of Social work, had overseen the social impact study that UT conducted on the ACGS ed program last year.  Travis Marcum, of course, is primarily responsible for implementing our program and schools and he and I collaborated for years to develop the curriculum in the first place.

We arrived at the convention with a plan to use a combination of powerpoint, DVD, and internet displays.  Its so funny how you can have a brief flurry of nearly complete chaos convert into completely smooth sailing!  I was responsible for the powerpoint, and somehow I had left off about 6 of Cal’s slides.  Fortunately they were based on images from the study he had completed, and I had the study on my computer – so we pulled the images we needed and titled them hastily.  Then we discovered that internet was not available – Travis wanted it to show our online curriculum in action.  So we tracked down the person who could help us with that.  We settled in the room for the presentation and had the usual connectivity issues with the projector and then were told that there was no audio option to amplify the DVD we wanted to play!  The fellow helping us with the AV said there was only one audio option for the room – a wireless microphone.  He took pity on us, however, as we tried in vain to hold the mic really close to the speaker on my mac while the dvd played, to amplify the sound a bit.  So, literally one minute before the lecture began, the lady returned with the internet code, the AV guy came back with the audio stuff, we had figured out the projector connectivity and the right slides were in the right places.  After I blabbed a bit about the history of the program, currents stats and vision, I just got to sit back and watch Travis and Cal take it away.  Great reception, and some good questions, and more people considering classical guitar as a viable choice to reach and engage diverse young people.

Backing up just a bit, Wednesday morning began at Jade Leaves – a tea house here in Austin I’m partial to for their incredibly peaceful environment – with a meeting with Janet Lande.  Janet volunteers for the Long Center and she wanted to do an interview for their newsletter about our upcoming international festival.  We talked for an hour before I realized I was late for my early lunch appointment at UT club with John Henry McDonald (on our board, and also known as the “Finance Guy” on News 8 Austin, founder of Austin Asset Management Company).  At lunch he introduced me to the Executive Director of the Austin Community College Foundation and we had a wonderful conversation including, in part, the beginnings of plans to help raise money to pay for students from our programs get to college to study guitar in the future.  UT club is always fun because I run into so many neat people like the director of the school of music, former dean of fine arts, and many more!

Thursday morning was similarly full, and began with 8am coffeee with ACGS treasurer Michael Fields.  Michael is an amazing force on our board, he and his wife Carol are dear friends, and he’s the kind of guy who will not only donate generously at a function, but then turn around and help you move chairs and sweep the floor afterward.  So we had a great chat about financial matters at ACGS and then it was off to KUT radio to meet Sylvia Carson, development director.  I’ve corresponded with Sylvia before, but we’ve never had the pleasure of meeting.  She is funny and warm, generous, and extremely creative and shrewd.  Its a remarkable combination, and I look forward to working with her, I hope, for a long time!  We were discussing, of course, the various ideas we have for collaboration in the run-up to the international festival here – KUT is a media sponsor.

Driving back to the office I spoke with Michael McGill who is putting together an arts panel day (April 21st) for Leadership Austin.  Michael and I spoke at the behest of LA’s director Heather McKissick – who is a dynamic force of nature! – and I readily agreed to speak at the event, details to come!  And speaking of radio, KMFA’s Diane Donavan asked me by email, when I got back to the office Thursday, if I’d show up to KMFA Monday morning at 9 to play and record and interview performance to air on Classical Austin on Wednesday night at 8!  So now I’m thinking I need to start practicing!  So… if you’d like to tune in – set your dial to 89.5 next Wednesday, March 3rd at 8PM CST, or listen online at KMFA.org!

Friday was the lecture, of course, so that dominated the morning.  But, unfortunately for me, I had no other distractions for Friday afternoon, which meant I had to limp back to my office, for one of the only times all week, and actually do some work!  April has been burning up the trail in so many arenas from follow up to last weekend’s auction, to prep for next week’s Duo Melis Concert, and students from around the US responding to Monday’s deadline to register for the youthfest in June as part of our international GFA festival.  Oh, and we’ve got two artists from Europe arriving Sunday to do 10 concerts in schools in five days this week!  So between those items, April had a stack-o-goodies for me to look at!

So, last word is: Duo Melis is amazing.  Watch them on You Tube here, and check them out next Saturday if you’re in Austin!

Lecture this Friday

2/23/2010 Tuesday 9:28 pm

Today it snowed in Austin.  This is a rarity!  It caused many of my students to cancel their scheduled lessons.  In other words… a snow day!  After the “weekend” I just had, with our Gala, rescheduled lessons Sunday and Monday being, well, Monday… I was not complaining about having a few moments this afternoon and evening to collect my thoughts.  And those thoughts quickly turned to a lecture I’m giving on Friday morning at the UT School of Social Work’s annual conference downtown at the Doubletree Hotel at 10:20AM!

I’ll be there with my ACGS colleagues Travis Marcum (our director of Education) and Jeremy Osborne (asst. director of education) along with my dear friend Dr. Cal Streeter.  We are there to talk about classical guitar as a way to reach diverse populations through music.  One of my favorite topics indeed!  I’ll do mostly overview about the history of our ed program, the inception of the curriculum, and program implementation and growth, Trav and Jeremy will talk nuts and bolts about the curriculum and teaching itself, and Cal will review the $20,000 social impact study we hired the UT school of social work to conduct on our program last year – that he oversaw!  I hope the session will be informative for those who attend!

Guitars Under the Stars and more…

2/22/2010 Monday 9:51 pm

This past Saturday night was our fifth Guitars Under the Stars education benefit gala for the Austin Classical Guitar Society.  Each year the event gets a little bit better, and this past Saturday most certainly continued our trend upward!  There is no question in my mind that its all about the people.  It’s our staff, our volunteers, our donors, our board of directors, our teachers, our students, our performers, and our guests.  These amazing people, combined with our institutional knowledge and a bit of vision, are what combine to make a great event.

Ly Barrett, attorney by day and event planner… by day also… lent us her considerable skills to give our event a polished look.  The theme for the evening was something I came up with, actually, “Something Special…”.  “Something Special” was an attempt to capture this year in the history of our education program as we have built and published a substantial curriculum product and are now serving more kids than ever with big plans on the way.  Between Ly, our ace designer Claudia Roeschmann, and ACGS’ tireless Administrative Assistant April Long, the event’s look and feel was built around that simple phrase and, of course, guitars and stars.

We continued our live and silent auctions this year.  We had more and better items than ever before.  Several board members and a fabulous volunteer Paulina Soenen, were responsible for the bulk of the items that did not come directly from staff and our institutional relationships that have been built over the years.  Our terrific auctioneer, Peter Remington, led us not only through the live auction with his good humor and generous spirit, but he even guided us in the preparation for the event.  This is our third year working with Peter, and I was pleased with myself that I remembered this year to chat with him far enough ahead of the event to actually put into place some of his great suggestions (in the past we’ve met right before the day, and he’s rattled off great ideas that I’ve not had time to implement!).

KMFA 89.5 gave us free promotion of this event, because its a charity event for our outreach program, Twin Liquors is a continuing sponsor of ACGS and Claudia Roeschmann generously donated her amazing talent to help us make the thing look good.  She even came up with a quick logo for the Something Special idea – it’s below.

The night itself ran like this: guests arrived around 7, the program began around 8.  I blabbed, interspersed with 5 fabulous performances, until about 9, and then Peter took us away with the auction.  The silent auction closed at 9:45.  My talk focused on Education and our giant international festival in June.  The performers were stunning.  Vincent Turner’s Koyunbaba had people jumping out of their chairs to applaud, Tom Echols’ Cappricio Diabolico was magnificent, and the McCallum High School advanced ensemble, under the direction of Andrew Clark, did a phenomenal private debut performance of Graham Reynold’s great new piece for youth ensemble currently titled Powerman.

So what are the lessons to take away from all of this?  Certainly for something like this there are a lot of moving parts.  From the food and the wine and the rentals and the lights and sound and performers and invitations, and countless other details, there is an amazing multitude of things to keep track of.  My advice to anyone considering a fundraiser like this is to ask for help from someone with experience.  An experienced, professional, paid event planner will handle nearly all of these details, but if you’ve got the budget to pay for one of those, you probably also have a lot of experience with high level events because those services do not come cheap.  For us, it has not been necessary to have one person own every aspect of the event, so much as it has been a democratic and open process with many hands making relatively light work.  As artistic and executive director, I set vision, pick artists, and choose content for the program itself, but what makes the event really sparkle is all of the contributions from the people I’ve mentioned above.

So the event was tons of fun.  We had about 100+ guests.  Tim and Karrie League were there, from the Alamo Drafthouse – our absolute favorite movie theater in the whole world.  They actually won Vincent’s concert and my concert at the live auction – I’m really looking forward to being involved in both of those!  Michael Barnes, the Social Columnist for the Austin American Statesman was there and has covered it already in his blog with some great pics!  Our friends John Henry McDonald and Louise Epstein were there – John Henry is on the ACGS  board (and owner and founder of Austin Asset Management Company) – as were their friends that they’ve recently introduced us to: Wayne and Lynn Morgan.  Its funny how the world works… we had a special event scheduled for March 13th, and the hosts had to cancel.  I was getting ready to cancel the artist who was scheduled to play that evening when I remembered that Wayne and Lynn had offered to host something.  So I asked them if they’d like to have some at their home in 3 weeks and – whammo – the event is back on the schedule!

…and that fast forwards us to today.  I just returned from the Morgan’s amazing west Austin home.  We were charting out the 3/13 event.  I can’t wait!  What else happened today?  Buckalew Media finished our TV spots that will air on News 8 Austin and KLRU in the run up to our festival.  The Long Center will also pop the 20 second spot into their rotation, so I trotted down to the Long Center today with a DVD of the 20 second spot and gave it to their PR person (Shaady Ghadessy) today.  I was actually on my way to meet with the Austin Children’s museum who are artistic partners for our children’s show presentation planned for June 26th – and we were talking about the details of our co-promotion!  In the car I then got the great news that KMFA’s Suzanne Warmack had secured a $5,000 sponsorship to pay for their live simulcast of our opening night of the festival.  And literally as I was reading that email, parked in front of Joe’s on second street, my phone rang and I got the news that a friend of ours had just donated $1000 for scholarships for kids to attend our youthfest at the GFA this summer.  The $1000, combined with the $2000 or so we made on Saturday in straight donations for scholarships, combined with the $1000 or so we made at the Strumathon two weeks ago, translates to free tuition for around 80 young people to attend out youthfest this summer.  So when I got home I made some calls to area educators, and one in Brownsville who I know has been trying to raise money, to let them know we’ll be able to contribute to their efforts to bring kids.

I was particularly struck by something our auctioneer Peter Remington said on Saturday night.  He said something like: “I work with a lot of organizations, but with ACGS and Matt, I really see where my money goes.  You can se it in the kids they serve and you can certainly hear it in the music those kids play.”  He was much more eloquent than that, but it was a great sentiment.  Today as I was calling teachers to tell them that I can send checks directly to help them bring kids to Austin for an unforgettable educational experience, I was reminded of that.  I was reminded of how directly the donations we receive are able to be converted, 100%, in meaningful educational and personal development experiences for diverse kids in our communities.  It feels really good.

Here's Claudia's Logo for this year's Gala

Austin Mayor, Lee Leffingwell will join us at GFA!

2/19/2010 Friday 10:42 am

I’m very pleased to report that the Mayor of our great city, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, will join us for the Guitar Foundation of America International Convention and Competition to introduce the symphony concert and welcome our international guests to Austin on Saturday evening, June 26th.  More at AustinGoesClassical.

City of Austin CD Release, Cake Balls and Guitars Under the Stars

2/18/2010 Thursday 9:22 pm

Glenda and I went to the release party for the Austin Music Volume 9 CD that was hosted by the Gibson Show Room on South Congress Avenue tonight.  The Gibson Showroom is a fabulous space with Gibson guitars lining the walls.  The three main rooms provide an ample yet cozy atmosphere for social gatherings like the packed house we experienced tonight.  We were invited by my good friend Rose Reyes who is in charge of all things music in relationship to the City of Austin and the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.  Glenda and I first met Rose when I was scheduled to perform at a city council meeting several years ago (it was October 11th, one week after my birthday).  Officially I was playing in honor of Austin Classical Guitar Society day – proclaimed that evening by then-Mayor Will Wynn.  Rose had set the appearance up and was our gracious host when we arrived at city hall for the performance.  That evening, the Mayor proclaimed October 11th “Austin Classical Guitar and Matthew Hinsley Day” which tickled me to no end, and since I have called family and friends on October 11th to ask if they are, in fact, properly observing “Matthew Hinsley Day”.

I had no idea at the time that the future would hold far closer connection for Rose and I, as Rose has since become one of my greatest advocates and guides in the preparation to host the Guitar Foundation of America International Convention and Competition this coming June.  The bottom line is, that Rose knows everyone in the music world, is an incredibly astute professional, with a huge heart, and tremendous energy, and I am incredibly lucky that she has chosen to shine her bright light upon me this year as we prepare for this great endeavor.

Surprisingly, a highlight of our evening was meeting Ellen Kinsey, co-owner of Holy Cacao – a place that sells cake balls from a trailer here in Austin.  I’ve often seen these cake balls at Taco Deli (where I go for breakfast tacos after tennis a few times a week).  But Cake Balls and breakfast tacos just never seem to be the right mix, so I’ve never tried them.  Tonight Ellen was standing next to a table of complimentary cake balls and I told Glenda as soon as we saw them, that I would not leave the party without trying at least one.  We had been eyeing the red velvet, but only White Wedding Cake Balls were available when we finally got around to making a commitment.  have I mentioned that these are cake balls that come on a stick?  Oh my goodness!  They are incredible.  I highly recommend them.  I have already begun brainstorming ways in which we can work in Cake Balls for our myriad upcoming special events (not to mention the convention).  Way to go Ellen!

Speaking of special events… We are two days away from Guitars Under the Stars – our annual gala in support of the ACGS Educational Outreach Program.  This week has been filled with securing, picking up, organizing and arranging displays and packages for our silent and live auction items.  We have the best-ever auction for ACGS.  We also have a terrific guest list, a great line-up of performances, and tons of amazing news to report about the ed program.  So I’m experiencing the now-familiar combination of excitement and butterflies that I’ve had for 15 years whenever I prepare to present a major event.  This one is going to be great, I can feel it, though there is much work left to be done.  Let me say now, though, that much of that work has been, and will continue to be, done by other people!  They include April Long, my assistant at ACGS without whom nothing would get accomplished, our number one volunteer Paulina Soenen, our dear friend Ly Barrett who has graciously donated her considerable event planning skills to this endeavor, and, of course, my wife Glenda who is the brains behind many of our creative ideas and, this week, has even gotten behind the wheel for us on numerous occasions to get supplies and last-minute auction donations.  Thanks to you guys, thanks to our donors and our board, looking forward to Saturday!