Dr. Matthew Hinsley: “Elephant-in-the-room” moment

June 6, 2013

Carolyn Schwarz, Executive Director, HAAM
spoke with
Dr. Matthew G. Hinsley, Executive Director

CS: Tell me about yourself and ACGS?

MH: I’m a classical guitarist!  I started playing when I was ten, I went to an arts high school, went to a music conservatory, and then got masters and doctoral degrees at UT – all in classical guitar.  I became fascinated by nonprofs in the arts in undergraduate school.  I was struck in several poignant occasions by the elephant-in-the-room common wisdom that it’s hard to make a living in the arts.  The experiences led me to ask “why”.  Over time it became clear to me that, in the classical music world, it’s the nonprofit arts organizations that are the missing link – through community service – between arts and commerce, and that’s turned into a lifelong passion.

ACGS has two main streams: Entertainment and Education.  We have 6 distinct concert series with events ranging from intimate to huge!  Everything from house concerts and Cactus Café shows, to giant multi-media deals at the Long Center of ACL Live that get made into KLRU TV specials!  On the education side, we build middle and high school guitar programs.  We have over 1,500 diverse kids in 30 area schools in for-credit courses including programs at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Juvenile Justice System.  At the core of the whole program is a big curriculum we designed that is online and not only powers our programs, but others all around the world!

CS: What’s coming up that we might want to see?

MH: Come see Andrew York!  He’ll be here June 22nd to kick off our Summer Series.  Andy is a Grammy-winner, a former member of the LA Guitar Quartet, and is perhaps the best-known living American classical guitar composer.  Plus he’s a great guy.  After Andy we have an amazing Brazilian Jazz Trio led by the spectacular Badi Assad on July 20th, and an extraordinary virtuoso, Pablo Garibay, from Mexico on August 3rd!

CS: Education is a big part of ACGS, tell me about it?

MH: Imagine that people have spent the last 100 years or so building smart ways to train and support high quality choir, orchestra and band programs in the US.  Nothing like that has existed for guitar.  So when we got into public school education and started to wrestle with the challenges of administering high-quality, rigorous programs that would deeply engage kids in expressive and progressive music-making, we found a simply enormous challenge.

I’m very pleased to say that we’ve met that challenge!  Our online curriculum is powerful and truly unique, and the results have been literally thousands of young people getting engaged in fine arts at a high level who would not otherwise have been involved.  It’s by far the most rewarding work I’ve ever been part of.

CS: What do you love about HAAM?

MH: What’s not to love?  Truthfully, I first got involved – I would say – through HAAM’s partner organization in mental health and addiction recovery SIMS Foundation as a member of their Artistic Advisory Committee.  We lost a friend, an artist, to mental illness, and so it’s an area about which I’m particularly passionate.

In a way it comes back to the thing that drove me as a young man to pursue nonprofs in the arts in the first place – the desire to help support artists in a world where their contributions are economically undervalued.  And one of the most significant problems with our culture of “struggling artists” is their lack of access to quality health care.  There’s nothing more important than your health!  So your work is heroic and I plan to support it in any way I can.  Bravo.