September!

9/1/2011 Thursday 9:30 pm

What a ride I’m on!  It’s been a while since I wrote.  And isn’t it ironic that the times when I have the most to say are the times that I have the least time and energy to write!

Austin Pictures is rapidly approaching.  This project is huge!  Right now the kids are furiously finishing their paintings, the composer has written all but one movement of the guitar orchestra piece, and we’ve distributed the parts far and wide, the student filmmakers have engaged in their projects as well.  The office is buzzing like crazy – I’ve filmed five video features we’re about to start releasing including a monologue from me about the production overall, and interviews with the composer, with the Alamo Drafthouse’s Founder and CEO Tim League, Austin Symphony Orchestra’s Maestro Peter Bay, and the Miro Quartet (that one was filmed this morning!).  We’re in daily production meetings with ACL Live, the Alamo, KMFA, the various film folks, our event planner, Silicon Labs, and more.

The energy is incredible.

And then there’s our education program.  I shared this story with my board yesterday in an email:

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Dear ACGS Board of Directors,

Yesterday we had a meeting at the Juvenile Justice System with the Director of Fine Arts for AISD, our case worker at Gardner Betts, Travis and myself.  The conference room we normally meet in was booked, so we ended up in another room.  The case worker informed us that the room divides two parts of the facility and so kids might be escorted through during our meeting.

Sure enough, about 15 minutes into a terrific meeting, a guard knocked on one of the doors and the case worker waved him in.  He and another guard were escorting about 10 high school boys in a line.  When students walk at Gardner Betts, they have to keep their hands behind their backs – and the group shuffled in looking primarily at the floor.

Then they saw us, and, particularly, Travis.  It turned out that three of the boys have been in guitar class there.  They simply lit up!  It was a remarkable transformation.  A boy near the front wanted very much to stop and talk to Travis, and asked permission to do so – which was granted.  He told Travis that today would be his last day at Gardner Betts.  he had received his GED and would be moving to Houston and… could he please have a guitar to take with him? We have been giving instruments to the kids that successfully complete the program there.  He was proud, he was excited, and he really wanted to have that guitar.  He will, of course, be leaving Gardner Betts today with a guitar.  The other two boys in the back of the line are still there and are still in guitar class.  One told Travis excitedly about the new music he just learned, and said he just couldn’t wait to show Travis in class later on.

Our program will continue at Gardner Betts this fall as the only for-credit arts course ever at the facility.  I know now more than ever – firsthand – that the class is changing these young peoples’ lives. The UT School of Social Work is also compiling a study from this past summer – the data is compelling and should be available soon.

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Our program doubled this year.  Guitar programs opened in 26 schools for us last week including the Juvenile Justice System and also a new program at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  It’s now a daily occurrence that we receive requests for new curriculum subscriptions or some kind of guidance from someplace around the world.  We recently launched a redesigned curriculum site – check it out!

It seems like the next several weeks will be owned by Austin Pictures.  I hope it’s a wild success and that folks have a terrific time.  We have tremendous amounts of work to do between now and then, but it’s about the ride, not the destination, no?

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