New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
University of Bridgeport (UB) alumna Melissa Salguero, who for the past seven years has taught music to children in the South Bronx who have so little—often not even a roof over their heads at night—has won the 2018 Grammy Music
Educator of the Year Award for her ability to inspire young people with harmony and song.
Salguero '15 won $20,000: $10,000 for herself and $10,000 for her school, P.S. 48 Joseph R. Drake
Elementary School. The school is located in one of the poorest districts in New York (more than one in five students is homeless), and Salguero's music classes and band rehearsals provide a creative outlet for kids under tremendous stress.
She is an alumna of UB's School of Education, where she earned a master's degree in music education.
"Melissa is one of the finest teachers I know. I was delighted when she chose to do her master's degree in the music education program, and it's been so gratifying to witness the recognition she's received," said Frank Martignetti, Salguero's former adviser and director of the Graduate Program for Music
Education. "I am proud to call her a colleague, friend, and former student."
Since the Grammys on January 28, she says strangers have reached out with offers of support. One donor gave a fresh new carpet for students to sit on when they play music. Someone else donated cork grease for trumpets and clarinets.
"It sounds silly, but that kind of gift takes weight off of my shoulders," says Salguero, who says she makes it a point to give back to those who have helped her.
She credits her parents for inspiring her love of music by giving her a Casio keyboard when she was young. Salguero eventually moved to Manhattan, where "music is in the subways, everywhere," and tried teaching. But even with a job at P.S. 48, she felt she needed a master's degree. So she applied to UB, and commuted two hours each way to take evening classes while she worked during the day.
"The UB program was amazing because it connected me with music teachers," says Salguero, who has kept close working ties with Martignetti and other students and professors from UB. "Frank has invited me to multiple opportunities to help other teachers, and that's very crucial to me. If it's just me working with my students, my impact is limited. But if I can help other music teachers, if I can inspire them and their students, then that's really far-reaching."
Music, she adds, provides an especially rich opportunity to teach all sorts of lessons. It's not unusual, for instance, for Salguero to incorporate science into her music lessons (she's turned bananas into keyboards). Early morning band practices, which are scheduled an hour before classes start at P.S. 48, teach kids about "the value of working hard." She's also brought her students to sing in Times Square—an opportunity to overcome fear, lift their voices, and be heard.
The Grammy Awards was not Salguero's first experience in the national spotlight.
2014, she was called to the stage on the Ellen
DeGeneres Show, where the daytime host surprised her with a stage full of instruments and a $50,000 check. It was a deliriously happy ending to a harrowing ordeal for Salguero and her students. Months earlier, thieves had smashed their way into the music room at P.S. 48 and took off with saxophones, horns, flutes, drums, and other band instruments.
The theft could have derailed the program, but Salguero was determined to use the crisis as a "lesson on staying positive." She went online to replace the instruments via a GoFundMe drive. Word of the fundraiser spread—families from the school pitched in and collected $2,600—and eventually made its way to Ellen, whose check enabled the school to replace all of the stolen instruments.
She also received the "Lincoln Center Teacher of the Year" award from former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2013.
"Oh, man!" Salguero laughs. "It's been a crazy ride!"
About University of Bridgeport
The University of Bridgeport offers career-oriented undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees and award-winning academic programs in a culturally diverse learning environment that prepares graduates for leadership in an increasingly interconnected world. There are 400 full- and part-time faculty members, including Fulbright Scholars, National
Science Foundation Fellows, Ford Fellows, and National
Endowment for the Humanities Fellows, American Council for Learned Societies Scholars, and Phi Beta Kappa Scholars. The University is independent and non-sectarian. For more information, please visit https://www.bridgeport.edu.