When Melissa Salguero received a call last December from an executive from the Grammy Awards, she was so nervous she was shaking. “Ok,” she remembers saying to cut through the salutations and break the tension. “Are you going to tell me something?”
In fact, he had called to let Salguero know that she was one of 10 candidates being nominated for the Grammys as a Music Educator of the year award. In January, it was announced that she won it.
For anyone who has followed Salguero’s career, the award comes as little surprise. Since she began teaching music at PS 48 in 2010, the tributes keep on coming. Last year she was selected one of the Bronx’s 25 Most Influential Women by the Bronx Times.
On May 9 the New York City Council recognized her with a special proclamation for her unique contributions to Hunts Point youth. Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. presented her with the plaque at City Hall.
When Salguero started at PS 48, the school had no instruments or music program, so she started a program from the ground up. Over the years, her students have gotten to participate in a number of public events that have helped raise the program’s profile, including an appearance at an MTV Dance-a-thon and an invitation to sing carols at Manhattan’s Viacom Building,
In her classes, Salguero mixes music, science and magic tricks to show her students how the three are connected. The grants and awards she has won go a long way to help ensuring that none of her students are excluded from the music program due to financial hardships, she said. One of her keys is to focus on engaging “hard-to-reach adolescent boys when they start to stray from school,” providing them a creative outlet. Nearly a quarter of the students at PS 48 came from homeless families this year, according to the education department.
A signature moment for the teacher and her program came four years ago, when thieves broke into the school and stole all of the instruments she had worked to acquire for the students. But when Salguero appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show a short time later to draw attention to the cause, the celebrity talk show host presented her with a check for $50,000 she had secretly raised to help replace the instruments.
What Salguero most proudly remembers about that trying time was how “the kids came (back to school) with lyrics after the break-in. My students expressed themselves through music.”