November and Beyond!

12/13/2011 Tuesday 8:25 pm

The big November highlight was Thanksgiving.  A glorious set of days with Glenda and our friends Mike and Linda making delicious food, watching my football for the year, and enjoying a chance to step back from it all for a little while.

Professional highlights were our presentation of Isaac Bustos on our International Concert Series, our Classical Cactus featuring flamenco player Juanito Pascual and Jay Kacherski, our Austin Guitar Salon featuring Alejandro Montiel at the glorious home of Frances and Robin Thompson, my talk for Austin District Music teachers Association, my trip to perform, teach and lecture at Texas State University, and my talk – two days later – at UT about community arts advocacy.

November is always a time of reflection for me.  I think a lot about what I’m thankful for, of course, I think about where I’ve been and where I’m going.  I have a tremendous amount to be thankful for in general, personally, professionally, in 2011, and beyond.  For sure one of the things I’m most profoundly grateful for is the continued opportunity I have been given to work in the arts world.  I’m so thankful for the amazing team I have at ACGS, my incredible board, and our wonderful supportive community.

I should also mention that we’re in the middle of a very successful fund drive.  Mike and Tobin Levy and the Meyer Levy Foundation offered $10K in matching funds to help with our end of year $40K matching drive.  We’re over $30K of the way there!  This amidst news of 3 separate grants of $50K, $25K and $10K that all were awarded in November – none of which we knew we would be receiving!  With this support, I am optimistic we will achieve our ambitious goals of the coming year.

So much has happened.  I wish I could chronicle the amazing people I’ve had the incredible fortune to meet these last six weeks – and the conversations that have been had.  But I’ll suffice with sharing this email sent to me by my director of Education, Travis Marcum, following a concert he led for the kids in our program at the Travis County Juvenile Justice System – a program, by the way, that will be the subject of a KUT radio story in the near future!

“Matt: I just returned home from our first performance with the new class at Gardner Betts tonight. It was truly inspiring. The students were absolutely terrified for their first performance. For most, it was the first time they had ever performed anything. They were all dressed up in slacks and button-downs with sweaters. We traveled across the parking lot to the courtroom and one of the students told me that this was the first time she had been outside in two months. We set up in the lobby first. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for children) was having a graduation ceremony for volunteers and we provided background music while everyone arrived. 50-60 people walked in, but chose to sit quietly in front of the ensemble and listen to the music.
We got at least a dozen ovations while playing “background music”. Then we went into the court room where Judge Byrne introduced us for a featured performance. The ensemble performed beautifully. Everyone in the courtroom, especially the students, was elated. The students took a bow, clearly filled with sense of accomplishment. They were proud, I was proud, Ena Brent and Judge Byrne, all of the CASA folks, and all of the staff were proud.
Afterwards, we all went to put up our stuff in the classroom and there were ice cream sundaes waiting for the kids. One of the students told me that she had not had sugar in five months. They were full of excitement and, for a moment, content that they had just done something beautiful. It was wonderful.”

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