SAAVA’s mission is to provide a forum for home school students and adult community members who wish to express, harness and/or refine their musical talent in a creative, fun, and friendly environment while improving music knowledge, artistry and self-confidence through concert, collaboration, and competition..

Education Based

Students in our choral ensembles learn vocal technique, sight-reading, music history, and music theory all in the context of performance excellence. Students collaborate with peers in weekly rehearsals to prepare for performances of a wide variety of artistic and cultural compositions.

Student Fellowships

Sponsored by local homeschool company, Essentials in Writing, this choral program seeks to provide homeschool students of the local community an opportunity to participate in a choral program that promotes leadership and teamwork. Students ages 14-18 who seek to develop leadership skills in the choral and group setting can apply for a Fellowship. 


Meet our Teachers

Matthew Stephens, Founder/Head Director

Matthew Stephens, graduate of Texas State University, earned a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting. Prior, Stephens was the founder and choral director for Fairview Concert Choir in West Plains, MO, a 55 member mixed middle school choir that performed for many community events by invitation. Students earned multiple superior ratings at district, state, and national competitions, and were chosen to sing at MMEA’s annual conference as well as the Missouri Principal’s Annual Conference.

Stephens served as Associate Conductor at Texas State University’s Men’s, Treble, and University Singers ensembles as well as Conspirare Youth Chorus in Austin while completing his degree. He conducted “Requiem for the Living” by Dan Forrest for his Master’s recital, a five movement work for choir and chamber orchestra.

Stephens founded South Austin Academy of Vocal Arts for the sole purpose of building a choir community among homeschool and private school students, giving them the same singing opportunities public school students receive; mainly choir concerts, choir contests, local and international choir tours, solo contests and opportunities, and the joy of a choral community.

Ivy Cantu, Assistant Director/Administrative Assistant

Soprano, Ivy Cantu received her degree in, Vocal Performance at Texas State University. Her roles include, Reporter in Ruffled Flourishes (world premiere), Venus/Juno in Orpheus and the Underworld, L’écureuil in L’entfant et Les Sortilleges, Lady Bird in Lady Bird: First Lady of the Land (world premiere), Mrs. Grose in The Turn of the Screw, Mother in Hansel and Gretel, 1st Lady in The Magic Flute, Mrs. Gleaton in Susannah, Queen Dido in Dido and Aeneas, and a soloist in Howl (world premiere). She made her debut with Alamo City Opera in their production of Maria de Buenos Aires (2016),Texas Concert Opera Collective in their production of Susannah as Mrs. Gleaton (2019), Austin Opera in their production of Everest (2019), and Local Opera Local Artists (LOLA) in Dido and Aeneas as the lead, Queen Dido (2019). She won first place in the Edward Baird Singer of the Year competition at Texoma NATS in 2018 and third place in the Meistersinger Competition at AIMS in Graz, Austria in 2019.

Miss Cantu had her own voice studio for two consecutive years of high school students at San Marcos High School in San Marcos, Tx.

Miss Cantu joins South Austin Academy of Vocal Arts as a recent graduate from Texas State University where she earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. As a second-year employee, she serves as the assistant choir director and administrative assistant. She is known for her bright spirit and encouraging demeanor.

Miss Cantu is also a theatre teacher at Christian Youth Theatre in New Braunfels, Texas where she teaches a Stage Makeup class for teens and a Musical Theatre for Kids class.

Steve Carlton, Accompanist

Steve received his B.A. in music, with a focus on jazz and classical piano, from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 2011. After graduating, he worked as an accompanist for the Central Coast Youth Chorus, San Luis Obispo United Methodist Church, and several high schools. In 2014, Steve moved to Austin to pursue additional opportunities in music. In addition to accompanying the choirs at South Austin Academy of Vocal Arts, he works with The Honor Choir in Bastrop, the Austin, Bastrop, and Del Valle school districts, and is the music director at KidsActing Studios in Austin. Steve also teaches elementary music at Good Shepherd Lutheran School in Bastrop. When not musically involved, Steve pursues his passions for cooking, bbq’ing, skiing, and painting.


SAAVA testimonial: Claire
SAAVA truly has no rival. From my first semester to my last, I’ve been absorbing everything and all I can from them. Because of that, I’ve learned musical techniques, how to be a confident singer and person. The energy and love shown in every rehearsal is unmatched. This is in large part due to our amazing directors but also a result of the kids that make up the choir. The friendship and love between students and teachers both in and out of the classroom makes SAAVA not just a choir but family.
SAAVA testimonial: Mae

SAAVA feels like the best family ever. I joined my senior year not knowing what to expect. I was nervous and self-conscious, but it took almost no time at all for those feelings to fade! The relationships I’ve made while being at SAAVA are some of the sweetest, closest, and most genuine ever. Even better, I’ve not just made friendships with the people in my vocal section, but with the choir as a whole! Mr. Stephens and Miss Ivy are extraordinarily extraordinary. They truly have a special gift of teaching this choir, and SAAVA is headed towards BIG things that I cannot wait to see. It’s all due to their devotion to and love for this choir! SAAVA wouldn’t be the same without them. I will never forget the friendships I’ve made at SAAVA; I’m certain they’ll last a lifetime. And I know for a fact that SAAVA is only going to continue to grow and gain more well-deserved recognition and success.

SAAVA testimonial: Ty

SAAVA IS THE BEST!! When you come to choir on Fridays, everyone is so happy, and it’ll light up your day! You learn so many amazing life lessons by going to SAAVA, and everyone there is a family. When someone new walks in, they’re immediately part of it. I’m so happy I get to be part of this choir family!!


I love SAAVA! There’s a great atmosphere of friendship and safety, great learning opportunities, and awesome music! Mr. Stephens is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. He is easy to understand and fun to listen to, but he also really knows what he’s talking about. I’ve learned so much during my time at SAAVA. Not only has he taught me how to sing notes on a page, but he’s taught me how to tell a story with them, put meaning and emotion in them, and sing them with a group of other people. What impresses me the most about Mr. Stephens though is his deep passion for music. You can see it and feel it when he teaches, and it’s contagious! I’ve always loved music, but he’s encouraged me in that love and multiplied it several times over. He’s made me a way better singer. I love being taught by Mr. Stephens and I love singing and just being with SAAVA! (2020-2021)


I love SAAVA! It is a great learning environment, somewhere where I can learn, help others, and sing my heart out! I love to sing, and with the help of our amazing directors Mr. Stephens and Miss Ivy I have really come to not just sing, but portray the message, by not just singing a song but by telling the story. Something I have learned in SAAVA is that it’s all up to us to make the choir better! I have been in choirs before but, something I love more in this choir is that there is a guy director. I like this because he understands how male voices are, and helps us to sing to our best abilities. This choir is awesome because we bond as a choir every time we see each other. SAAVA is the best choir I have ever been in. I love singing, learning, and making friends! I look forward to it every single week! (2020-2021)


I have been singing in various choirs for eight years now and, in all that time, I have never been part of a group like the Academy Singers Choir. Everyone in the room wants to be there, and the excitement and energy with which the students and director alike approach learning has allowed us to develop our skills, our confidence, and our community faster than I ever could have imagined. I have seen my own skills, and those of my fellow students, advance in leaps and bounds, and we have been able to create beautiful music because of that. I know that these skills, and the memories of this experience, are something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. (2019-2020)


What I love about SAAVA is that we are a fun and light-hearted family. Singing is of the utmost importance when we come together but just knowing each other and being comfortable is equally important. To sing in a comfortable and relaxing environment ultimately helps us as individual singers to grow and be more confident in ourselves and as a group. Something that I’ve learned that in SAAVA is that to be a good singer requires individual work and practice. Mr. Stephens encourages us to be individual musicians, practice, and better ourselves which makes all of us much better singers for when we come together and make music. What I’m most thankful for is the encouragement and love I’ve received from SAAVA. I wouldn’t be the singer and musician I am today if I hadn’t joined SAAVA and I’m so grateful for Mr. Stephens and Ms. Ivy. (2019-2020)


I love SAAVA! I have been able to learn so much in such a short amount of time, all while having so much fun I didn’t even realize I was learning! Before I joined I had little knowledge of music theory when applied to the vocal arts, and couldn’t even recite solfege backwards! Now I can read music and sing it confidently. I’m so thankful for the instruction that Mr. Stephens has given to me. He is the best teacher I’ve ever had, and his love for teaching has equally kindled a love for learning from me. He teaches complex concepts in a way that is easy to understand, and somehow makes it extremely enjoyable in the process! I look forward to practice every week. (2019-2020)


SAAVA is such a loving and welcoming environment to learn in.  Since day one, Mr. Stephens has always told us that it was okay to mess up, no one is going to judge you.  And he was right.  Whenever I messed up, I wouldn’t be mad at myself or think, “Oh, everyone heard that, and they’re going to be upset with me!”  If I messed up, I’d just smile and keep going.  If I ever needed help, I knew that I could just ask Mr. Stephens or Miss Ivy and they would give me the perfect instructions to fix my problem.  I have learned so much from SAAVA in just one year! I went from not knowing anything about reading music, and now I can sight read, write solfege, find rhythm in the music, and so much more!  What I’m most thankful for is that SAAVA provided a safe, fun,and  loving space to learn music in.  (2019-2020)


SAAVA has provided me with an enthusiastic community of singers and friends. In just one year Mr. Stephens has taken my group, The Academy Singers, from various different levels of vocal experience and taught us how to unite our voices to form one, beautiful melody. I have learned how to find middle c without listening to a piano, how to sight read music, how to sing in my head voice, and how and why we add emotion to music. Being in a choir where I can make the music I so enjoy listening to has been the highlight of my year. (2019-2020)