Here’s another post from Matt Hinsley, director of the Austin Classical Guitar Society and major promoter of guitar education for children, in which he talks about another great proponent of youth guitar education, Matt Denman. I met Matt Denman at GFA in Austin a couple years ago and he is indeed one of the people to watch.
Oklahoma City All-City Guitar
Friday, February 3, 2012
We’re walking down the hall in the music building of Southern Nazarene University (SNU) the morning after Oklahoma City’s first-ever All City Guitar Festival and Matt Denman turns to me and asks: “do you want to meet the chair of our music department?” I say “sure”, and we take a right, walk past a smiling receptionist, and enter the chair’s office. I’ve met many chairs, of many kinds of departments, over the years, but I wasn’t expecting her to stand up smiling, with outstretched hand, and say to me: “that was a terrific concert last night, I don’t know how you fit all those kids on stage, but they sure played beautifully.”
Matt is professor of guitar at SNU, but he also runs the premiere high school guitar program in Oklahoma (Classen School for Advanced Studies, CSAS). SNU graciously hosted All City Guitar the night before, a high school function, and I guess I was pleasantly surprised that the chair of the music department had taken the time to attend.
She went on to say: “I’m delighted to meet you, Dr. Hinsley, and I want to say what a pleasure it was to see Austin Pictures last October – it was inspiring how you combined the kids with the music, art and film that evening…”
That’s right, Matt’s University music department chair had traveled from Oklahoma City to Austin in October, to see something his high school students were participating in. An even bigger surprise.
And then it hit me, as it so often has in the past: we’re talking about Matt Denman here. Though he would argue the point with me, and remind of his many struggles, and the countless times that things don’t go as planned, the fact is that Matt Denman inspires people. Matt has a magnetism brought about, I think, by his sheer passion to provide the greatest opportunities he can for the young people of Oklahoma.
It’s been remarkable to watch the CSAS program grow and thrive these last five years since I first met Matt. I’ve watched him bring his students to Dr. Michael Quantz’s annual Brownsville Festival every year, watched him bring his students to Austin for things like Austin Pictures and our annual Guitars Galore Festival. Every time I am in OKC, or see his students at a festival, the general level is somehow even higher than it was before. I’ve watched as his energy and direct advocacy has brought about rapid growth of new guitar programs (and new jobs for guitar players) in other Oklahoma City high schools. Matt’s students are attending major music conservatories, and he has even brought about an annual retreat with the Romeros for Oklahoma.
I think there is a lesson in all of this (more than one, no doubt!). Matt’s SNU chair was not the only surprising visitor at Austin Pictures last October. Before the show, which played to close to 2,000, we had a special school district reception on one of the mezzanines. I ducked my head in and immediately saw the Director of Fine Arts for the Oklahoma City School District. On a prior trip to OKC, Matt had taken me to lunch with her – so we knew each other. It turns out that she, also, had decided to make the 390-mile trip to Austin with Matt to see the show his kids were participating in!
So what’s the lesson? Matt invites people to join him. He asks people to be on his team. He welcomes them with a smile, and with humility that belies his many accomplishments. Matt makes positive things happen, and inspires people around him to help. The lesson, perhaps, is that we are stronger when our community supports us. Matt engenders good will by his actions and his words, and through consistent hard work and genuine warmth, he has brought members of his community together for his cause. I hope to learn from him, and I hope many others have the opportunity to do the same.
A reflection by Matthew Hinsley
Dr. Matthew Hinsley is the Executive Director of the Austin Classical Guitar Society. A graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the University of Texas at Austin, Hinsley has published two books: Classical Guitar for Young People, and, Creativity to Community: Arts nonprofit Success One Coffee at a Time.
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