~ By Kaitlin C. Meier, student writer for the College of Arts and Humanities

Congratulations to Michael Gutierrez, choir director for Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District. Gutierrez, a 2013 music education graduate from Fresno State’s Department of Music, was featured in a recent Education Matters segment.

Education Matters is a weekly segment aired on KSEE-24 from the Fresno County Office of Education focusing on what’s going on in classrooms in various school communities. Gutierrez was featured in one of the segments as part of the Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District choral music program that is making a difference in its students’ lives.

When Gutierrez joined the program three years ago, it included one middle school and one high school, but has since grown to three middle schools, with an additional high school choir being added next school year.

“Having grown up in Selma, I was excited to teach in a farming community because I have a good understanding of where these kids are coming from,” said Gutierrez. “My biggest goal here was inspiring the students to feel comfortable singing and also to make their experience a good one.”

Much of the passion that Gutierrez involves in his teaching derives from the skills he attained during his time at Fresno State.

“Michael was a fantastic student at Fresno State. We knew he was a real talent in music when he was studying here,” said Dr. Anthony P. Radford, associate professor of music. “At Fresno State, he learned about voice and expressing himself through his music and, like all of our graduates, sang a 30-minute solo recital.”

It is his experience in the Fresno State music program that Gutierrez credits as an inspiration for the work he is doing now:

“The largest impact Fresno State had on me was how the music department has a deep sense of community,” said Gutierrez. “Music is inherently a unifying activity, but a major focus of the music program is the emphasis that all students of music are part of a larger family. That atmosphere has become my goal here in Firebaugh as a result of that experience.”

Gutierrez expressed that the unified aspect of the Music Department has been beneficial to his teaching in knowing that he can call on a fellow graduate or professor for feedback or to visit his students to help them develop their musical abilities:

“The main thing that has provided me with continued success is when I reach out to my professors and mentors for insight and advice,” said Gutierrez. “I’m instilling that concept into my teaching. I want my students to know that they can reach out to me for help and support, be it musical or something else, even when they have graduated and moved on from my program.”

This dedication to music and to his students is an example of the type of work that is featured on Education Matters and shows why Gutierrez has been successful in developing the choral program in Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District.

“His enthusiasm for music is contagious as evidenced by his success in Firebaugh,” said Radford. “He is a very focused and determined young man, while always being generous and kind to everyone. I honestly believe it is his kind, sincere love of music that makes him successful.”

To watch Gutierrez’s Education Matters segment, click here.