Even before he was named a quarterfinalist for a Grammy educators’ award, Jesse Espinosa has experienced a lot of highs during his tenure at Waltrip High School.
Being asked 18 years ago by the former Waltrip band director Charlie Stephens to come on board as assistant director was one. Becoming the band director himself eight years ago was another. Leading the Waltrip band as it played for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration was a highlight – as was playing two years later at the National Fourth of July Parade.
Then came his 2016 selection as one of 20 inspiring music teachers across the country by the Give a Note Foundation and 21st Century Fox as part of their “Music Education Idols” competition, followed by a succession of in-town performances for the 2017 Super Bowl.
The Music Educator Award, for which Espinosa was recently nominated, was established to recognize current educators in kindergarten through college, in both public and private schools, who have made a significant contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to maintaining music education in schools.
The award is a joint partnership of the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum, and one recipient will be recognized during Grammy Week 2021. Nine additional finalists will receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists will receive matching grants. Fifteen semifinalists will receive a $500 honorarium with matching school grants. The matching grants provided to the schools are from the Ford Motor Company Fund.
At present, the field has been narrowed from 2,000 down to 216 music educators from around the United States.
Espinosa first found out that he had been nominated when he got an application in the mail.
“It was pretty amazing to me,” he said. “I’m very humbled and just trying to work hard for the students and the school.”
Espinosa is now working virtually with next year’s group of band students.
“(We’re) still trucking along as normal as we can,” he said. “We’re excited that kids are still so eager.”
Espinosa said he has been a fan of band life ever since his mom encouraged him to join the band in second grade at Burrus Elementary because sports were not his thing. When Espinosa asked for a violin, they gave him a trumpet.
“The rest is history,” he said.
Espinosa got his bachelor’s degree in music performance and was a member of The Army School of Music for a time where among other duties, he was a bugler.
His son, also named Jesse, recently graduated from Frank Black Middle School and will join the Waltrip band in the fall. He also plays the trumpet.
“I’m eager to have him here,” Espinosa said.
Espinosa is appreciative of those who have always supported him and the band program at Waltrip, including parents and administrators as well as the larger community.
“The community around Waltrip is so giving,” he said. “I just want to give (whoever nominated me) a big hug and thank you.”