Miguel sitting at the keyboard): Miguel Hidalgo in his element in Esperanza Academy's music room. (Photo: Credit Sierra Guenst)

«For me, it is very important, as a Latino teacher teaching at a school that mainly serves children of color, to be a role model for my students,” MH

For over 130 years, Yamaha USA has designed products that enable musical expression for a wide range of artists, beginner musicians, garage bands, professional musicians, and even concert pianists. 

In 2021, Yamaha launched a program supporting music education called «40 under 40,» which recognizes and celebrates outstanding educators under 40 years old.

Miguel Hidalgo with his wife, Yulissa José. (Photo Letica Roa-Nixon)
Miguel Hidalgo with his wife Yulissa José. (Photo: Leticia Roa Nixon)

This recognition considers action, value, creativity, and growth. 

This year, Miguel Hidalgo, a music teacher, and musical director at Esperanza Academy Charter School, was selected. The esteemed educator oversees the band, choir, and string orchestra from ninth to twelfth grade. 

Mr. Hidalgo working with high school music students. (Photo: Credit/Sierra Guenst)

Miguel, born in Richmond, Virginia, to a Mexican father and an American mother from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has an older and a younger sister. His mother always told him his uncles were musicians, «but I didn’t show an interest in music; I was always interested in sports.» 

Mr. Hidalgo rehearsing with the Esperanza Academy band. (Photo: Credit/Sierra Guenst)

At age 12, a neighbor had a saxophone for his sister, four years older, who played the instrument in high school. Miguel asked to try it, even though he didn’t know how to play. Then, he began listening to records to learn and develop the sound of the instrument. 

Miguel sitting at the keyboard): Miguel Hidalgo in his element in Esperanza Academy’s music room. (Photo: Credit/Sierra Guenst)

His favorite saxophonists were Charlie Parker, Johnny Hodges, John Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins. Over time, a classical saxophonist gave him private lessons, where he learned the technical aspect of playing that sophisticated instrument. His passion for music grew, and he was accepted to Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied for four years with all his musical heroes, including Branford Marsalis, whose music he had listened to as a child. 

Esperanza Academy student cheers on his fellow musicians. (Photo: Credit/Sierra Guenst)

He then moved to New York City, where he looked for a one-bedroom apartment in Bushwick. After several months, he began playing on cruises. Miguel decided to move to North Carolina to obtain his master’s degree in jazz studies at North Carolina Central University. After finishing his studies, he planned to return to New York City but preferred to move to Philadelphia, a city he fell in love with. 

Esperanza Academy students practicing guitar in music class. (Photo: Credit/Sierra Guenst)

Interestingly, it was his mother who saw an ad for Esperanza and sent him the information, telling him to «apply for that job.»

Esperanza Academy student showcases her vocal skills at a school concert. (Photo: Credit/Sierra Guenst)

«Esperanza gave me the opportunity, and seven years later, I’m still here,» shares the distinguished teacher and musical director. 

One of the most difficult challenges was teaching students that jazz music is still relevant; but now, the young people in his class listen to Duke Ellington, one of the greatest jazz composers and leader of his own band in his time, which he led for 50 years and wrote thousands of compositions. 

An incredible flutist, a guest artist at Esperanza, came to work with Miguel’s students and nominated him for the Yamaha recognition. «It was unexpected for me, and she is responsible for this,» he jokes. 

Esperanza Academy student prepares to perform with jazz band. (Photo: Credit/Sierra Guenst)

Although Miguel still enjoys the music of his favorite saxophonists, he is now exploring the musical works of Argentine tango composer and bandoneonist Astor Piazzolla. 

For now, he is dedicated to teaching music and raising his newborn baby, Matías, with his wife, Yulissa José. 


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