6/19/2011 Sunday 7:50 pm

On Tuesday last week I was in Dallas to give a talk about in-school guitar curriculum. When I arrived, this group was performing on stage. These kids were all in the giant, 72-person New Mexico All State Ensemble I conducted in January! Seeing them again, and hearing them play was super emotional.

While in Dallas I got to spend time with my dear friend and colleague John Truitt. John founded the amazing guitar program at Albuquerque Academy in 1972 - and is retiring this year. Congratulations John, you are an inspiration.

A few months ago Glenda and I finally went down to Juan in a Million here in Austin to try out their amazing breakfasts - and to witness Juan's famous handshakes. On both scores we were duly impressed! One characteristic of Juan's breakfast tacos, is that they come with a mound of eggy-potatoey goodness piled on top of each tortilla. Not sure what inspired us today - but we decided to make our own version! Glenda even broiled and peeled some Rajas which we sliced on top for garnish!

Hey, that's me! With our tacos this morning!

I also wanted to share a shot from our opening-night dinner at La Sombra. Here I am with Chef Julio introducing one of the courses. This was back on Monday night, June 11th - we were sold out with 90 guests, had a marvelous 5-course meal, and then were treated to an excellent concert by Isaac Bustos.

Cuba! Dallas and More

6/18/2011 Saturday 8:13 pm

…My newest guest-blog at Guitar Salon International!…

Cuba! was a huge hit last week.  Here’s a review… but it’s in Spanish… in Ahora Si!

We had two near sold-out shows on Saturday.  La Sombra provided an amazing reception, and Rene and Edel treated us to a simply magnificent set of concerts.  Cookbook author Lucinda Hutson was there, along with former Austin Mayor Gus Garcia, Mexican Consul Rosalba Ojeda, Univision Station manager Javier Ramis, Time Warner YNN’s Barry DeCrane, and many, many more!

Our highlight Sunday was dinner with Tim and Karrie League – owners of the Alamo Drafthouse – at The Backspace… hello delicious pizza!  Tim and Karrie were fresh from a roller-coaster national media blitz of attention following the Alamo’s screening of an unbelievably funny call from a patron who got booted from one of their theaters for texting during the movie.  Wow, if you haven’t seen it – check it out – I’ll link to the cleaned-up version here – though I recommend the uncut version!  Something like 3 million hits in 3 days for that video!

Our ACGS Membership drive launched Monday.  We need to kick our membership and donations into high gear to sustain the amazing work the team is doing right now in education – so here’s to hoping.  We got 15 or so new ones in the first few days with several $500 donors – for which I’m extremely grateful – so I hope the trend will continue!

Monday also held a wonderful lunch with Ut Butler School of Music Development Director Lauren Zachary-Reynolds.  She asked me to lunch to get advice on a giant event prospect they have coming up (hush hush).  But while we were there I bumped into MexNet’s Monica Peraza and well as Teresa Long (as in the “Long” Center for the Performing Arts)!  Then, as Lauren and I were finishing up, up walked my board member Penny Jamrack with our Cuban artist Edel, who she had been hosting!  So we had a wonderful visit.  In fact, during lunch I learned they’d be heading to dinner with my board president Michael Fields on Monday night at Fonda San Miguel.  Have you been?  Fonda San Miguel is quite simply one of the most remarkable culinary experiences I have ever had.  …and it’s only about 4 blocks from my house!  So after I finished teaching at 9 on Monday night, I went back over to join Mike and his wife Carol, Penny and her husband Bill, along with Edel, for drinks and dessert!

Tuesday began early, in the car, en route to Dallas.  I was to give a talk at 12:45PM at Booker T Washington School for the Performing Arts in Dallas for the Texas Music Educators Conference.  It was marvelous.  I was speaking about the work we do at ACGS building guitar programs in school – with an extra dose of detail about the curriculum we’ve developed.  It was well-attended and well-received.  I also had the special treat of seeing my friend and colleague, John Truitt from Albuquerque New Mexico.  John is one of the most wonderful people in the world – and he’s a pioneer of classical guitar in schools.  It was John who invited me to conduct in Albuquerque in January, when I worked with 72 amazing youngsters from around the State.  John had brought 10 of those kids to Dallas to perform in a select ensemble.  It was a remarkably emotional reunion for me, to see those kids on stage after they played.  John and I then had a marvelous two days together – along with my friend and former boss from UT San Antonio, Gene Dowdy – with whom I was rooming in the Fairmont Hotel.  John and I were also on a round table together on Wednesday morning, and I stuck around long enough to hear his talk on developing the New Mexico All State initiative, before heading home.  But John gave me an amazing gift before we parted.  He gave me a CD recording of the performance I conducted in Popejoy Hall at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in January!  I listened to it over and over again on the way back to Austin – with tears streaming down my face! What an amazing honor it was to work with those marvelous young people for those three intense days back in January.

I teach guitar on Wednesday evenings to the Chancellor of the UT System, Dr. Francisco Cigarroa.  Francisco is a terrific guitar player and I saw him Wednesday night!  It’s notable because this week he had requested an “Eyes of Texas” arrangement.  Inspiration struck on the drive back from Dallas and I managed to commit it to paper before he got here Wednesday night!

Thursday was crazy catch up mode from around 6-9am.  Then Chuck Lutke (my development director) and I met with the leadership of Austin Shakespeare to talk about a possible education collaboration.  From there I headed over to my colleague Klondike Steadman’s school where he asked if I’d teach a few master classes to kids in guitar summer camps he’s offering.  Amazing program and school he and his wife, Wendy, have developed – I’m always so impressed!

Friday and Saturday have been quieter.  This is good, because I managed to start feeling lousy in Dallas, so some down time has been welcome!  We had a wonderful dinner with our friends Daniel and Meleah at Clay Pit last night – but today we stayed in and made gazpacho – my dad’s recipe!

The next few weeks are big, big, big from a development standpoint.  I need to raise some money for our education initiative, develop all of the major components for promotion of our huge October 1st Austin Pictures project, and make major strides in our online training program work.  No more major events, thankfully, until July 16th.  In the middle, I’ll head to Georgia for four days for GFA.

Summer is here!

6/11/2011 Saturday 9:09 am

What a week!

Today is Saturday, June 11th.  At 4PM and 7:30 Pm we have two concerts to open our summer series: Pasión.  But let’s back up a bit!

Monday began at 5am with a trip to the Mexican American Cultural Center to play on the TV for YNN!  I dragged the Lyriko guys: Tom Echols and Steve Kostelnik to play with me!  Here’s two video clips from the TV story.  I had a wonderful lunch with Joe Williams, who is not only composing our piece for our giant Austin Pictures project in October – but will also be joining our staff at ACGS in the fall – hooray.  More on that soon.  Monday night was the sold-out kick-off dinner and concert for our Summer Series at La Sombra Bar and Grill.

Tuesday we had a wonderful meeting at Silicon Labs.  They will sponsor Austin Pictures!  More on that soon as well.  Wednesday began with a run down to KMFA where four McCallum Students were playing for a “kids producing kids” project that KMFA is running – they had asked us to provide some young artists for the show!  That was followed by one of my favorite parts of the whole week: a planning meeting with Tom Echols, Travis Marcum and Jeremy Osborne – and Chris Lee via skype – for our summer curriculum development plans.  It was incredible talking with those guys about our big summer plans.

Yesterday was fun, and included a trip to KUT where Rene Izquierdo played live on the radio.  Hear the show online here!  And last night we ended up with Rene, Edel, and some friends at North By Northwest in the Arboretum just visiting and having fun – today, as I mentioned above, is there concert(s) at 4 and 7:30.

I’ll try to get some pics from the week up soon.

Back in the Swing

6/4/2011 Saturday 9:39 am

Glenda and I just returned, Thursday, from visiting my Dad and Stepmom in Sedona, Arizona.  It was a marvelous trip.  Dad and Vicky have created a gorgeous sanctuary, and it’s one of those places I can go to feel rejuvenated, at peace, cared for, happy…  My grandmother, Jackie – who is 90 this year, lives up in Flagstaff and we made several trips to see her as well.  She’s not been terrific lately, but each of the three days we saw her she seemed to be getting a little stronger and on the third day I was able to bring my guitar and play a few tunes.  I played three tunes to be exact, after the first she said it was “pretty good”!  The second was “not bad”.  And the third, which she actually hummed along with, was back to “pretty good”!

We returned Thursday at 5:30, grabbed our veggies from the CSA we belong to at the Burnet Road Farmer’s Market, changed, and arrived at Uchiko by 7PM for dinner with our dear friends Gordon and Charmaine McGill.  For dessert we order this amazing concoction that including a berry-sorbet that had been dipped in liquid nitrogen and came out steaming-cold.  It was presented at our table by superstar chef and Uchi/Uchiko owner Tyson Cole himself!

Friday was a whirlwind.  After tennis early with my partner Mike.  I had an interview at 10 with Forrest Preece for a profile in West Austin News, then it was a shot over to Hoovers (not the restaurant) where I played an employee outreach concert and promoted our Latin Summer Series.  Then I had a fabulous 2PM taco lunch with an old student, Thales Smith, who has just completed his first year at UT as a guitar and plan 2 honors student.  He seems to be thriving and I’m super happy for him.  Thales won the 2006 youth division of the Guitar Foundation of American (GFA) International Competition and has gone on to do amazing things.  We went to Taco Deli’s new-ish location on Burnet Road next to Houndstooth (and Uchiko) where Taco Deli co-owner Eric Wilkerson happened to be there.  Eric had helped us out last summer when we hosted GFA in Austin and it was great to visit with him too!

Then it was phone catch up time: ACGS staff, a call with Barry and Gerald from from Jackson Mississippi who were looking for advice on starting a new arts nonprofit organization, several prospective students including the mother of a truly remarkable three-year-old boy who I’ll be seeing very soon.  And finally, after a nap, Glenda and I headed out to Mirabelle for dinner with my mentor Adam Holzman and his wife Carolyn.  Nothing there but big smiles and laughs for about 3 hours!

Here are some recent pics beginning before our trip out west:

Here we are with Ken Lewin and a small film crew in Bob Duke's office. This was before my trip to Arizona. Bob is one of my heroes, and he is a great mentor. He's a brilliant music educator, he founded the UT Center for Music and Human Learning, he wrote a magnificent book called "Intelligent Music Teaching", and he was kind of enough to sit and allow us to film several lengthy statements about quality music teaching for our giant ACGS Online Teaching Program project.

Also before our trip, we managed to catch up with our friends from the Miro Quartet, Daniel Ching and Sandy Yamamoto for dinner and a movie at their place. Glenda decided it was time for us to make an enormous Creme Brulee - to which everyone readily agreed. Here is a shot of Daniel's hands presenting the finished product!

Also before our trip, here's Joe WIlliams. He and I met at Houndstooth for coffee (where else?). We had big things to talk about including the piece we're commissioning him to write for Miro Quartet and massive inter-state guitar orchestra conducted by Peter Bay for our giant Austin Pictures project on October 1st (!) as well as a soon-to-be-announced new appointment for Joe at ACGS.

Here's Glenda on our hike up Boynton Canyon in Sedona last week. Big hike! Took us something like 3.5 hours. Absolutely gorgeous.

And here I am on the hike as well. We've just reached the top! One of the more exciting moments of the hike was when I nearly stepped on a big rattle snake. I've never seen one up close before. He rattled at me a bit (otherwise I wouldn't have known it was there!). And when I looked down I saw that it's tail was about two feet from my right foot. We scampered away and turned to watch it slowly slither away from the path. Oooo.