P.S. 48 wins $50,000 from national “Glee” contest


Music teacher Melissa Salguero teaching fifth graders a holiday song at P.S. 48 in Hunts Point. (STEVEN GRABOSKI / The Bronx Ink)

A two-minute video showing Hunts Point elementary students singing and rapping  in and around Public School 48 won one of three $50,000  grand prizes in the national “Glee Give a Note” contest on December 15.  The school competed with 396 other schools around the country.

“I cannot believe it,” said music teacher Melissa Salguero, who created the video in September in order to save the school’s chorus and instrumental music program from what looked like an inevitable budget cut. “It’s awesome. We went in with no expectations of how we were going to do.”

Salguero hoped to spend the prize money on repairing instruments and purchasing more resources. First on the agenda would be choral risers so that parents could see their children as they perform in the upcoming winter chorus.

“If we use the money towards the kids, the school will notice the quality of the program,” Salguero said. “If we do that, there’s a better chance of not being seen as a luxury but as a necessity.”

The Hunts Point School lost around $300,000 in the last round of mandatory Department of Education budget cuts, according to Principal Roxanne Cardona. The music program, which includes two music teachers supplied by the nonprofit Education Through Music, costs $97,000 a year. The principal worried that she would have to lose the music program when the school took another  3.3 percent cut this year.

The Glee Give a Note video competition gives the school a reason to hope otherwise. Sponsored by the creator and the company behind “Glee,” the competition offered prize money for videos showcasing musical talent in underfunded schools. Visitors of gleegiveanote.com voted on their favorites up until Nov. 8. Contest judges began choosing the victors soon after.

Creative Asylum, a marketing and design agency from Hollywood, California, came up with the idea for the contest. The agency combined the efforts of a nonprofit music association with Glee creator Ryan Murphy and 20th Century Fox, the company that owns the television show. Together, they offered $1 million to schools with underfunded music programs.

Though relatively new to the school, Salguero and Fox proved to be valuable assets to P.S. 48, located on Spofford Avenue between Faile and Coster Streets. The two teach reading music, chorus, band, and lessons for instruments such as the clarinet and the saxophone. “We have to fight to keep music here, not only to show the kids that it’s important,” Salguero said, “but so whoever learns about P.S. 48, they’ll see that music is important here.”

Some of the students said they understand how important music lessons have been. “I felt happy when we got to experience music in school,” said fourth grader Gianeé Martinez. “It was a little boring when we didn’t have something to hear or couldn’t play instruments.”

The winning video showed the fourth and fifth graders forming themselves into a “48” in their playground. They danced on the auditorium stage and performed a drum routine on its seats. At the end of the film, the camera showed one of the school’s music teachers holding a violin with a broken bridge. It then panned over a crate of old and worn out tambourines and maracas before it landed on a chipped piano and broken sound system.

In the middle of November, Bronx Borough Present Ruben Diaz Jr. sent a technician to fix the broken sound system. “I sent him the video and said he should vote for us,” Cardona said. “Hey, I have no shame,” she added with laugh.

Watch the video that earned P.S. 48 $50,000.

NOTE: This article was updated at around 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 after P.S. 48’s win became official. It now reflects the school’s victory.

Steven Graboski writes political and cultural stories from New York City. For future stories, you can follow him at @SJGraboski or subscribe to his Facebook page.

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