Small Business Saturday: Armstrong Community Music School - Greater Austin Moms

I was lucky to meet three fantastic moms when my oldest was just six weeks old. When the babies were about 4.5 months old, the four of us signed up for a Music Together class at Armstrong Community Music School. At that time, the babies just laid on the floor and listened to the music – the class was really for us. A chance to get out of the house, talk to each other, have some routine in those postpartum months. We spent about two years at ACMS and our time there will always hold a special place in my heart. Being immersed in music had such a positive impact on my daughter. I’m so thrilled I get to share a bit more about ACMS here on the blog. Enjoy! 

Welcome to Small Business Saturday! 

Thanks! We are Armstrong Community Music School, a non-profit community music school located in West Lake Hills. We have a fantastic women-led executive team:
•Liz Cass, Executive Director, voice faculty
•Dr. Rachel McInturff, Director of Finance and Administration, piano, composition, and music recording
•Sarah Beth Gooding, Director of Programs, piano and voice
•Heather Arnos, Director of Development

Our Executive Team along with myself, Bethany Ammon, the marketing and development coordinator and voice faculty member, Terry Muir, programs and administration manager and cellist, and a team of 4 registrars makes up the administration component of our school.

We are a small but mighty team, each of us a musician, and most all of us are on faculty here at ACMS. I think it is fair to say that we all love what we do as arts administrators, professional musicians, and teaching artists. Music is a career, a hobby, and a pastime for most of us.

In addition to this team of administrators, we have 40+ teaching artists who teach voice, piano, guitar, lute, cello, violin, viola, percussion, ukulele, flute, composition, sound engineering, early childhood music classes, and more!

Can you tell us a bit more about AMCS?
Armstrong Community Music School was founded in 2000 as the educational arm of Austin Lyric Opera. In 2012, we became an independent organization and moved into our main campus in West Lake Hills. In addition to providing private and group instruction at our main location, we currently bring music education to six other locations in Austin in collaboration with a wide range of established partner organizations. ACMS offers musical opportunities for all ages – from early childhood music classes to seniors taking their first piano lesson – and students range from beginners to professional musicians. 

ACMS has a 22-year history in creating free programming for populations who do not have access to the arts but can benefit from music’s ability to provide family bonding opportunities, healing, and creative expression. The majority of our free music programs are early childhood focused, utilizing research based national curriculum and training. These populations currently include child survivors of domestic violence and trafficking, teenaged parents, individuals with disabilities and their families, youth with Down syndrome, Spanish-speaking children and their families, and Veterans.

The ACMS standard of excellence in teaching and our dedication to partnering with our community has made us the heart of Austin’s music education community. ACMS is a member of the National Guild of Community Arts Education, the Trauma-Informed Care Consortium of Central Texas, and an invited member of the Andy Roddick Foundation Learn All the Time program.

In addition to the breadth of offerings and immensely talented teaching artists, ACMS is privileged to host musical artists and groups as well as other non-profits at our Westlake campus providing meeting, workshop, rehearsal, and performance space at little or no charge through our open-door policy. It is our pleasure to host stellar music organizations such as the Texas Early Music Project and musical artists as part of our school’s Artists-in-Residence program.

Our passion is evident in the commitment to our mission—that we can and actively do pursue excellence in music education and provide extensive community service.

Where do you see ACMS in the next five years?
So many things can happen in 5 years! At our core, service is our mission. In 5 years, I see our organization growing in service to support 50 more faculty members doubling our current faculty, adding at least 4 more full-time staff positions, and growing our free or low-cost programs from 17 to 25. In the next 5 years, we want to be confident that our entire community knows about our work and mission so that they can rest assured we are here to bring music into their lives for family bonding, healing, and creative discovery, and expression. Truly when you have music, you have community.


What do you love about having a business in Austin?
Having a business in Austin means getting to serve a dynamic and vibrant community that is hungry for arts engagement. Music is woven into the fabric of this city, and we accept the challenge of reaching people where they are, finding creative ways to engage the community, and offering accessibility to music. Because Austin is a hub for music and musicians, we have the joy and privilege of hosting such a variety of teaching artists who perform and teach many genres.

What are some of the biggest challenges you are currently facing within ACMS?
Running an arts organization is no small feat. One of our biggest challenges right now is reintroducing ourselves to the community, while nurturing our long-term relationships with our partner organizations and current students and families. Over the past 2 years, the pandemic taught us all the value of slowing down, prioritizing, and I think has changed our relationship with education at large. We are in a period of growth where we are seeing our enrollment numbers increase and we still have a long way to go. Music is a vital part of education and personal growth that everyone should have access to, and it is our mission to make it accessible to our entire community. To that point, we are often in multiple places at the same time—at our main location and out in the community like at Waterloo Park or Todos Juntos Learning Center, all of which require faculty, staff, and strategic planning.

Are there any programs or promotions happening now you’d like to share?
Enrollment for private lessons is constant throughout the year, and we have several sessions of early childhood music and group piano classes that we welcome families to explore.
The Music Together® program is one of our biggest offerings and we are currently enrolling for that. This is a series of mixed-age classes for ages 0-5 years old featuring music, playful movement activities, and instrumental jam sessions for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. The class offers a research-based, developmentally appropriate music curriculum with emphasis on adult involvement and entire families enjoying and making music together. A parent or caregiver must accompany each child to class. The Fall session runs for 10 weeks from Sept. 12 – November 19, and enrollment can be taken at any point during the session. New families are welcome to sample a class for free!

Is there something interesting you can tell us about ACMS?
We are the first music school in the world to be inaugurated by an opera company (Austin Lyric Opera in 2000)!

Does the ACMS team have a favorite coffee spot?
Trianon in Westlake fuels the school. Music doesn’t happen without coffee 🙂

And favorite local restaurants?
Marye’s Gourmet Pizza, Texas Honey Ham and Tiny Pies are some of our favorites! 

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