Lorenzo, Volcano, Victoria

4/22/2010 Thursday 5:33 pm

Well, the Icelandic volcano was felt locally by me and the Austin Classical Guitar Society this past week.  We were lucky, actually, that our Italian artist – Lorenzo Micheli – was able to fly in last Thursday and play a brilliant concert for us last Saturday.  Unfortunately for Lorenzo, however, there was no hope of him going home on Sunday with the flight cancellations to/from Europe!

So our amazing board member (and board treasurer), Mike Fields, graciously set Lorenzo up with a hotel room for the week in downtown Austin, since his next available flight out was not until Sunday the following Sunday (a few days from now)!  Above you see a picture of me and Lorenzo at breakfast this morning at Austin’s Cafe Crepe on San Jacinto and 3rd – a great place!

As luck would have, we got a call from the Executive Director of the Victoria Symphony (near Houston) on Tuesday asking if we might know of an emergency guitarist to play the Aranjuez Concerto for them this Saturday.  It turns out that their guest artist, from Croatia, had become stuck in Europe!  So, with a quick call to Lorenzo – who played the Aranjuez just a few months ago, and basically can play anything anyway – we were able to help out the Victoria Symphony with their problem while giving our stranded Italian artist a bit of employment and something else fun to do!

It’s been pure joy visiting with Lorenzo this week, he’s a remarkably gifted musician, with an incredible intellect.  Great food for the soul indeed.

Leadership Austin, Tx Cultural Trust, Tx Young Masters

4/21/2010 Wednesday 8:22 pm

Another action-packed day today.

I was the lead-off speaker this morning at 8:45 at Zachary Scott Theater where Leadership Austin was hosting their final “Essential” class for 65 talented and diverse professionals in the Austin area.  Leadership Austin is an incredibly cool organization headed up by Heather McKissick.  They are at the forefront of getting leaders to engage with the community by learning about the way Austin works be it education, commerce, high tech, or, like today, the arts.

The morning session was devoted to “How Have the Arts Changed Austin?”  My approach was to give a quick overview of ACGS programming as a representative of the many fine nonprofit arts orgs in this town, and then look at the question form the standpoint of how the arts affect individuals.  To do this I focused on letters, emails and statements made to me from people who have been directly affected by our education outreach program: students, parents, alums, teachers, administrators, etc.  I even pulled statements students made during the massive social impact study the UT school of social work did last year.

It was a fun talk.  Carl McQueary – curator of art for Seton Hospitals – followed me with a discussion of Austin art history and the Louis Black – founder of the Austin Chronicle and co-founder of amazing Austin things like South by Southwest and the Austin Film Society – brought us home with an amazing series of tales and insights from his incredible life.

Speaking of film, as I was heading out, Karrie League, co-owner of the Alamo Drafthouse, was walking in.  She was scheduled to speak closer to the lunch hour.

But by then I was at the Four Seasons Hotel for the Texas Young Masters Award Luncheon hosted by the texas Cultural Trust and the Texas Commission on the Arts.  My young student Vincent won an award this year.  They are given every 2 years and carry a 3-time $2500 summer study stipend.  This year another Austin guitarist won – Vijay Meunier – who has been heavily involved in our school programs first at Lamar Middle School and now at McCallum and is a private student of Jon Dotson here in town.  I should say that my student Thales won the award 2 years ago, and Marco Villa, a then-McCallum student, won the award back 4 years ago!  This is a highly competitive interdisciplinary contest that is run statewide and we’re very proud of the strong Austin classical guitar showing.

Much more to say, but no time to say it!  Tomorrow begins with lunch with Lorenzo Micheli (yes, he’s still here thank to the Icelandic volcano!) then a 10am meeting with KLRU to discuss the summer documentary on the festival followed by an 11am with KUT also about the festival.

Leadership Austin

4/19/2010 Monday 9:47 pm

This Wednesday morning I’ll speak at a neat gathering of people who are taking a course through the amazing Austin community organization known as Leadership Austin.  I’m the first speaker of the day – at 8:45am.  I’ve got 20 minutes, and I’ll be talking about how the arts affect Austin.  A pretty big topic to be sure!  My job, though, is to speak from my perspective as the leader of a now mid-sized arts organization and, basically, to tell my story!  I like doing that.

So tonight I’ve been reflecting a bit on that.  The truth is that the arts affect our communities one person at a time.  As I’ve been thinking about what to say I’m reminded of the many letters I’ve received over the years.  Letters from former students, from patrons, from artists, from teachers we have trained and from staff members.  There is an amazing amount of great feedback that we’ve seen that represents only a small fraction of the people who are actually touched by art in its many forms.

Perhaps I’ll compile some statements between now and Wednesday.  Perhaps hearing from people in their own words will be compelling for those present!

What a weekend!

4/19/2010 Monday 8:22 am

Friday night Michael Fields hosted the ACGS staff, Lorenzo Micheli, and some friends at the great Austin restaurant Mirabelle.  This was following Lorenzo’s marvelous class from 3-6.  Saturday night was Lorenzo’s concert and it was magnificent.  What an artist!  I had taught that day from 9 to 1, and then relaxed a bit and practiced my little intro speech.  The speech focused on our upcoming festival, of course, pulling out some of the juicier bits like the Chancellor, the Mayor, the KLRU documentary, KMFA broadcast, the Alamo Drafthouse and, of course, free ice cream from Blue Bell!

I have been getting more than my fair share of positive feedback lately.  Its been an incredible gift to me for which I’m very thankful.  One of the people at dinner Friday night has a daughter who is studying guitar.  Her teacher is using my book and she apparently loves it.  He brought the book for me to autograph for her and we talked for some time about how she listens to the CD at night, and picks the pieces she wants to learn to play.  I have to say that I’ve had these exact comments echoed to me from other recently: one teacher told me about 3 weeks ago that since he’s started using the book, his students are practicing more without him even asking because they just like the music more than the stuff they were using before.  It’s incredibly gratifying.  Anyhow, the gentleman I met Friday night sent me, unsolicited, the following endorsement and I thought I’d share it:

“I strongly recommend Matthew Hinsley’s Classical Guitar for Young People.  I am the parent of an 8-year old who is in her 3rd year of classical guitar instruction.  The wonderful section of pieces in the book has served as a valuable supplement to the primary course material my daughter’s teacher uses.  The accompanying CD provided a welcome introduction to the collection and most importantly, motivation.  We played the CD as bedtime music and after just a few days, my daughter eagerly turned to the book to begin playing her favorites.  Congratulations to Dr. Hinsley for creating material that stimulates such passion for practicing.”

On Sunday, after a mediocre tennis day (grrr), I presented the final strategic plan to the board of the Texas Choral Consort.  Its been a wonderful 6 month process and I think folks had a great time.  It was my first time leading a long strategic planning process for another group and it was a great experience.  Again, just wonderful feedback including a lovely thank gift and a card that says: “Matt – Your help and leadership has been invaluable.  Thank you so much for the work you did – we hope to live up to the vision you helped us create.  Board of TCC”.

Then it was 3 more hours of teaching – – a UT student guitar major, a junior, who I’ve been teaching since he was 8, another UT student, electrical engineering major who is a freshman, who I’ve been teaching since he was 7, and a new student who is trying to learn guitar as her applied instrument she she can pursue a course of study at Texas State in recording engineering.  Its so fun to work with diverse and motivated people!

Glenda made an unbelievable meal last night, braised artichokes,  salade nicoise, prosecco.  Fabulous!

Lorenzo Micheli

4/16/2010 Friday 11:14 pm

Lorenzo Micheli arrived last night from Italy.  We had a nice morning together beginning at Fox 7 morning news where we did an interview with anchor Joe Bickett and Lorenzo played on TV, and then on to breakfast at Austin Java Company for breakfast tacos and coffee.  We had amazing conversation.  Lorenzo is a true musical scholar with an incredible performing life and hearing him talk about music is a rare treat.  His master class, from 3 to 6 today was simply unbelievable.  There was a priceless moment in the class when a student was playing a Castelnuovo-Tedesco Tarantella and Lorenzo began talking about C-T’s relationship with Puccini, about how C-T based tunes off of certain Puccini operas, then began to extemporaneously play examples from the opera and even sing the tunes from the opera… and then relate it all back to the specific quotation in C-T’s Tarantella.

Two of my students played in the class.  Thales Smith, who is a remarkable young player and will be heading off to music school in the fall, and also 12 year old Amber Pickett who is getting ready to compete at GFA here in Austin in June.  She’s doing great – I’ve known her since she was five!

After the class it was off to a fabulous meal with Lorenzo, some ACGS staff and friends hosted by our board member Michael Fields at Mirabelle Restaurant.  Co-owner Patrick Vilim had dinner with us – and he sat near Lorenzo so they could talk about Italy together!  Its been a magical evening.

Tomorrow I’ll teach in the morning and then its final prep before Lorenzo’s concert tomorrow evening.

What a great finish to an amazing week.  Highlights? Hmmm.  A potential publisher for my nonprof book asked to see the complete manuscript of my book yesterday – having reviewed the project proposal!  We had an amazing meeting at the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau yesterday and they are pulling out all of the stops in helping us do the festival right in June.  I had a fabulous call with a New York foundation that may want our help building guitar programs in public schools in NYC.  We had a great and productive conference call with the GFA about details for the youthfest.  Preliminary numbers show us way ahead on both ticket sales and registrations for the festival than festivals past – woo hoo.  Though there is much, much work to be done.  I spoke with VacationRentals.com about trading promotion for the festival.  And much, much more, I’m sure!

Sunday I’ll play tennis at 8, then I’ll prep to go and present the final strategic plan we’ve developed to the Texas Choral Consort board of Directors at 1:30, and then pick up teaching from 3-7.

So the bottom line is things are heating up, the festival is approaching, but there is still much to be done on other fronts including teaching.  Plus I’m staring at a schedule in the first week of May of 5 concerts in 6 days!  More on that soon.  Lot’s of speaking and playing on the horizon.  Its just the way we like it!