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Striking a chord
Grammy-winning music teacher inspires her Bronx students
When Melissa Salguero holds up a 33 rpm long-playing record, it’s a relic that none of her 3rd-grade students at PS 48 in the Bronx recognize.
Salguero is undaunted. She takes a piece of white paper and folds it gently into a funnel shape. Then she inserts a slender sewing needle so it sticks out about an inch from the funnel’s thinnest point. As she spins the record on a pencil in one hand, she gently places the needle on the record with the other. A scratchy voice and orchestra can be heard coming through the wide end of the funnel, which has suddenly become a megaphone for sound. Nothing is plugged in — it’s Exhibit A in Salguero’s lesson on the science of vinyl records.
“That gets them hooked,” she explains later. “I’m the tour guide, and they’re driving the bus. They want to know more, so next we’ll examine the grooves of the LP.”
For her exemplary blending of science and music instruction, Salguero won the 2018 Grammy Music Educator of the Year award. At the Grammy Awards ceremony on Jan. 28, she walked the red carpet and host James Corden singled her out in the audience.
Later that week, she was back at school. Television news crews have swarmed her Hunts Point classroom. “I saw you on Telemundo!” one student calls out to Salguero in the hallway.
The award came with a $10,000 check for the school’s music program and another $10,000 check for Salguero. Over the summer, she’ll also receive the actual Grammy award in another ceremony.
“The students are elated. They are so proud of her,” says PS 48 Chapter Leader Jeanette Cano-Lawson. “It’s great having her here. She’s very passionate about what she does, and she demonstrates that passion to her students.”
Salguero, who teaches music to students in grades 3–5, eagerly demonstrates another classroom show-stopper: bringing sound waves to life with pepper sprinkled on the bottom of a drum. She places her mouth on the rim of the drum and sounds a tone. The pepper particles scatter and create perfect concentric circles, making sound waves visible.
“I’ve learned so much from her,” says Regina Glamore, who is in her first year as a pre-K–2nd-grade music teacher at PS 48. “I arrived at the school last year, and I sat in on her class every day during my lunch period. And she’d sit with me during my class. Her patience and positive attitude really inspired me.”
The two teachers teamed up to create Salguero’s video application for the Grammy award. “I helped her with lyrics and directed her,” Glamore says.
Salguero also has assisted Ginat Kaplan, the school’s literacy coach, with Kaplan’s project, Children’s Voices. Students read a piece of their original writing, after which a student chorus sings a song selected by Kaplan and Salguero that is related to the student piece.
“By incorporating music, it really brings the whole thing together,” says Kaplan. “We’ve been a team for seven years — I always call her my creative partner.”
Salguero once aspired to be a high school band director, but an internship at an elementary school in Florida changed her mind. “I saw how joyful music was in elementary school, where the students develop their love for music,” she says.
During band class, Salguero is a taskmaster with her 5th-graders, checking student posture and reminding band members of the proper way to breathe and hold an instrument.
Trombones, trumpets, clarinets, saxophones, flutes and drums erupt in a cacophony of sound. She steps away from her keyboard to demonstrate technique on each instrument and exhorts the students to practice after school and keep striving.
“If you want to get better, you have to push yourself a little bit more,” she says.
That’s a message that has struck a deep chord in many of her students.
“I’ve had her music class since 3rd grade,” says 10-year-old Leah, who plays the trumpet and would like to be a singer. “I learned that if I work very hard, I can take this through life and learn more.”
Jacob, age 12, plays trombone in the band and is an aspiring rapper. He says Salguero is helping him to write rap lyrics and get his “beats” down.
“She motivates me and puts a smile on my face all the time,” Jacob says. “She’s like a second mom. Her class changed my life.”
What is your favorite back-to-school book for young readers?
Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes
The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn
Thank You, Mr. Falker, by Patricia Polacco
First Day Jitters, by Julie Danneberg
Total votes: 33