Culture / Education

Celeb helps PS 48 land on its feet

From The Ellen DeGeneres Show

PS 48 music teacher Melissa Salguero reacts to her gifts on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in September.

Music teacher receives big gift on Ellen DeGeneres show

When she left the music room at PS 48 for spring break last April, music teacher Melissa Salguero did not suspect that when she returned, it would look much different. In fact, it would be barely recognizable. At some point during the week-long hiatus from classes, thieves broke into the music room, stole thousands of dollars’ worth of electronic equipment and either destroyed or vandalized much of what they left behind, including most of the program’s musical instruments.

In response, Salguero launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to replace the damaged or stolen equipment, but a few weeks into the campaign, the prospects for the continuation of the music program at PS 48 were still bleak. All of that changed with a phone call to the school from the producers of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” the daytime talk-show hosted by the comedienne. Someone who still remains anonymous brought the music room break-in to the attention of the show’s producers; they then asked Salguero if she would appear in a brief segment they intended to produce for the show. She gladly agreed, and they filmed in the music room on Sept. 4. She was told that the piece would air soon.

To Salguero’s surprise, she received another call.

“After filming for 12 hours I thought we were done,” said Salguero. “But they called back and asked if I was free to fly over to be in the audience of the show.”

But that surprise was nothing compared to the live taping on Sept. 9 in California, when DeGeneres pulled Salguero from the audience and onto the stage and presented her with not only a collection of new musical instruments — a drum set, a French horn, a trombone and many more — but also a $50,000 check from the online photo publishing company Shutterfly. The donation has since been used to purchase additional musical instruments, video equipment, and an upgraded security system for the music room.

The music program at PS 48 is called Education Through Music and Salguero explains the program’s philosophy this way: “Every single kid deserves music education. It makes a difference not only at school, but also out there in the neighborhood. The children are more whole. Music helps balance them and it gives them a different perspective and a different medium to express themselves.”

Donatella Braghieri

Melissa Salguero with her students.

There are currently 55 students enrolled in the band, and about 20 in the choir. The school has 900 children, but only fifth graders get music as part of their curriculum. Practice sessions for the band begin at 7 a.m. four days a week, and students are rarely late, according to Sandra DeJesus, who is the school’s parent coordinator and also the grandmother of two fifth graders.

Having mostly recovered from the music room break-in and burglary, Salguero’s challenge now, she said, is to bring more music to Hunts Point. She and DeJesus have reached out to middle schools and charter schools in the area to start a coordinated music program with them as well, with an added goal to incorporate the musical traditions of the different cultures found in the area.

Students have also been part of the recovery. They chose to channel their frustration in a creative direction and composed a song titled “Rising from the Ashes.” And on Sept. 27, the choir performed at the Back to School Festival at Riverside Park. Their selection — a rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” – was no coincidence.

“When they stole the instruments it was very sad,” said Angie Gonzalez, a member of the choir who said she spent weeks preparing for the Riverside Park performance. “But now we’re happy.”

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