UST Music Alumnus Nominated for a National Music Educator Award
Alumnus Jessie Espinosa '06, is one of a pair of Houston high school band directors who are quarterfinalists for the Music Educator Award presented by the Recording Academy and Grammy Museum.
Former Student Nominates Him
Teachers know they make a difference in the lives of the students, but it is especially rewarding when a student makes it known. Espinosa, who has been band director at Waltrip High School for 18 years, was placed in the running for the National Music Educator award by a former student.
“Being nominated by a former student, means a great deal to me,” he said. “I don’t necessarily expect to win or worry about winning at all. If there is something I would ask for, it would be to receive this award to absolutely shine the light on my amazing students. Any vehicle presented to me to have the opportunity to highlight my students, I will take it. They deserve it, considering the dedication and hard work they put in every day. Too many of them live with hardship, so this award would be uplifting to them.”
He is among 216 music teachers nominated for the award. They were chosen from almost 2,000 submissions. The award recognizes educators "who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools."
A smaller field of semifinalists will be announced in September followed by 10 finalists. The winner will attend the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards and several Grammy Week events.
Espinosa’s Music Journey
His music career started in second grade when his mother encouraged him to join the band. The band director, Sammy Harris, put a trumpet in his hand and the rest was history. After high school, Espinosa took his first trumpet lesson from professional trumpeter, Luis Juarez '84, a UST alumnus.
“He and his wife, Gwen '84, encouraged me to attend UST following my time in the United States Army Band to finish my degree.”
Espinosa cites that UST helped shape him into the teacher he is today. “Before UST, I never had been in a setting where everyone was so kind, caring and helpful,” he said. “I have always remembered this and attempt every day to do the same for others. I also received so much individual attention which made me feel at home. It has by far been the best learning environment I have experienced. I strive to recreate this same type of environment in my band hall for my students.”
Espinosa earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance from UST and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Lamar University.
Espinosa’s Impressive Achievements
That foundation and the mentoring of many UST professors has helped Espinosa rack up an impressive list of achievements. He was chosen in 2016 as one of 20 music teachers across the country by Give a Note Foundation and 21st Century Fox as part of their Music Education Idols program. He was named 2020 teacher of the year at Waltrip High School.
“One of Jesse's accomplishments is his taking the Waltrip High School band to one of Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration parades,” former Chair of the Music Department Ann Fairbanks said.
“This was a very special moment and invitation,” Espinosa said. “Our marching band was asked to represent the State of Texas at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration Celebration for President Obama’s second term. It was a tremendous time seeing our community come together to help our underprivileged band program raise the money to travel to Washington D.C. Of course for many of the students at the time, it was their first time ever leaving Houston, Texas, much less imagining their first ever trip to our nation’s capital. To say the least, it was an unbelievable performance opportunity and travel experience for our entire Waltrip High School band program.”
Espinosa Shares His Teaching Philosophy
Espinosa works to instill a learning philosophy that he picked up along the way through many different mentors who came across his path.
“I make sure my students know to be coachable, understand ‘the band is bigger than you’ and to be a self-starter,” he said. “I start every school year with this lesson to help the students understand the great opportunity they have to be in a learning environment where it is ok to make mistakes as long as we learn from them. It is also important for them to understand the world around them is a big place, so they need to find a way to contribute in a positive manner. Finally, I expect them to take responsibility for what needs to be done, to take initiative. This philosophy has served the students very well during high school and beyond,” he said.