Offer homeschool students and other youth the opportunity to experience musical excellence in a creative environment and demonstrating musical understanding, artistry, achievement and confidence through passionate performances and collaborations with fellow singers, conductors, and musicians.
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.
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, a recent graduate from Texas State University, earned his Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting. A former public school teacher, Stephens was the choral director for Fairview Concert Choir. The 55 member SATB middle school choir was sponsored and developed by Stephens from scratch and quickly became a campus and community hit. Students performed for their local community on the Business Christmas Tour that included local business and nursing homes. They won multiple “I” ratings at district contests, “First” and “Best Overall” awards at national competitions, and were chosen to sing at the state music educator’s annual conference. The students also performed at the state principal’s annual conference.
Stephens also 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 Master of Music in Choral Conducting. For his master’s recital, Stephens conducted “Requiem for the Living” by Dan Forrest (chamber orchestra and choir). The 42 minute performance followed a composition for string quartet, “The Last Goodbye,” composed by Stephens.
Matthew enjoys teaching choir and writing, composing for choir and string quartet, and spending time with his children.
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.
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)
Something I absolutely love about SAAVA is how everyone is growing in their own experiences so you’re never scared to make a mistake. I’ve learned so much from participating in SAAVA. One thing specifically is music theory. When I joined, I knew almost nothing, now I can sight read with just a little time! Joining SAAVA was the best decision I’ve ever made in looking for ways to grow in voice and performance. (2019-2020)
“I can’t explain the impact Mr. Stephens had on my life without tearing up. At a sensitive time in my life where I felt unworthy and no good, Mr. Stephens believed in me, gave me confidence, and pushed me to succeed. He showed me the beauty of singing and how one can honor the subjects of a song by correctly expressing, not just mechanical notes, but the heart and soul of music. When I sang about love, I felt love. When I sang about God, I felt God. Mr. Stephens showed us music and taught us to see that music can show us so much more.”
My most wonderful memories of middle school are of all the times I was in choir. Our choir wasn’t just any regular choir, we learned more than just how to sing the words that were in front of us, how to follow along, and have rhythm. We learned life lessons, different languages, and we learned how to truly feel the music. We took the notes and the music off of a sheet and our teacher Mr.Stephens showed us how to not just sing the songs but how to express the right emotion and the stories behind them which made us understand. It explained our minds, hearts and souls. He showed a true passion for his students and for teaching choir and I’ll never forget the impact it has left on my life.