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2024 Yamaha "40 Under 40" educator Miguel Hildago

Miguel Hidalgo

Music Teacher and Music Director
Esperanza Academy Charter School
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Music Director Miguel Hidalgo takes his role as a Latino teaching at Esperanza Academy Charter School, which primarily serves children of color, seriously. “Being a role model for my students is extremely important to me. This representation fosters a sense of belonging and demonstrates the possibility of breaking down barriers and stereotypes,” he says.

At Esperanza Academy, the music program is part of the curricular majors track. “It goes beyond mere music appreciation to building skills that could set our students on a pathway to pursue a career as professional musicians,” Hidalgo explains. “Despite the challenges of working with orchestral and other instruments that require frequent maintenance, our students’ immense heart, passion and dedication prevail. We are excited to continue growing our small but highly spirited program.”

Hidalgo is dedicated to supporting his students’ academic growth as he strives to instill values, build resilience and empower them to believe in their limitless potential. “I hope these actions create a ripple effect, influencing the next generation to invest in their community and contribute positively to society as a whole,” he says.

Because he teaches students who have varying levels of musical skill and development, Hidalgo must constantly deal with changes in instrumentation. “To meet individual student needs, I simplify parts and rework arrangements to ensure inclusivity and accessibility. This approach fosters a supportive environment, allowing each student to contribute and grow, regardless of their skill level or chosen instrument,” he says.

Many of his students start playing instruments in the 10th grade, and Hidalgo works with them to fast-track their skills with consistent hands-on practice, focusing on foundational skills and gradually building complexity. By fostering a mindset that acknowledges the journey from imperfection to proficiency, he encourages students to navigate challenges and find joy in their musical growth. “I emphasize playing examples regularly, which helps them unlock the power of listening,” he explains. “When trumpets or trombones are struggling, I will play alongside them, even if I am not playing the instrument well. By doing this, I am encouraging them to explore and accept the initial discomfort of sounding ‘bad’ to reinforce the idea that mastery evolves through persistence.”

To foster camaraderie among students, Hidalgo encourages group collaboration and teamwork. “When the bands perform, I do not conduct the ensembles. I believe this pushes students to trust each other and emphasizes the importance of listening. This shared experience creates a cohesive bond, promoting interdependence and teaching them the value of collective harmony on and off the stage,” he says.