As a father, a teacher and a musician, Angelo Moreno has a lot on his plate.
However, the Davis music educator has found a way to make all of them work. He bridges his passion for music with a respect for the importance of family and relationships.
“My job is my lifestyle,” Moreno said. “In order to create something that is notable and that people appreciate, it takes time and effort, and that commitment is something I’ve learned to accept and thrive upon.”
That commitment has led to numerous accomplishments. While leading the orchestral music program in the Davis public schools, he created the first and only Baroque Ensemble in public schools across the United States. For all his accomplishments, Moreno has been nominated as a quarterfinalist for the first-ever Music Educator Award, to be presented at the 2014 Grammy Awards.
Raised in a musically enforced environment and influenced by great music mentors and conductors, Moreno always knew that the arts defined his life.
“(Music) became more than just a hobby; it was more of an extension and what I identified myself as,” Moreno said.
Amanda Rackerby, a Davis Schools Orchestral Music Association member and orchestra parent, recalls the clear change in her daughter’s musicality after she became Moreno’s student. Starting in seventh grade, her daughter was almost last chair in the second violins. With Moreno’s guidance and encouragement, however, she climbed to the first violin section in one of the DHS ensembles.
“His expectations of the kids are high, which has created a competitive environment that pushes the students to excel and take pride in the music they produce,” Rackerby said. “Some people have described Mr. Moreno as demanding and intense. However, my daughter thrives and enjoys working with him. … She feels good working hard to get those polished, professional results Mr. Moreno demands.”
Moreno understands that the most crucial learning tools that stem from music go beyond the orchestras. They are the connections children make for themselves developmentally: how to find discipline in their life, how to be committed to a team and how to set goals for themselves and follow through.
One aspect that sets him apart from many other teachers is the role family plays in his music programs. With two daughters — Giavanna and Dchenin — avidly playing orchestral instruments (Giavanna plays in the college symphony, and Dchenin is in the Baroque Ensemble at DHS), the Moreno family has integrated music into their lifestyle.
“It’s been a really unique experience as a father to watch my kids enjoy playing a string instrument in orchestra,” he said. “Growing up, they were surrounded by music all the time, so it was natural for them to want to study music.
“It’s great to be able to play music with my kids and see them grow as musicians and young adults. But they also have to deal with me because they live with their orchestra teacher — I know when they’re not doing their homework.”
DHS junior Claire Wiebe also has felt the effects of Moreno’s support. Taking private lessons from him as well as playing in the DHS Symphony Orchestra, she has been selected for the California Orchestra Directors Association All-State Orchestra for the past two years, which she credits to her music teacher.
“He’s really knowledgeable about music, funny and a great teacher,” Wiebe said. “He works incredibly hard for the music program and is always fundraising with DSOMA and keeping the orchestra going.”
For Moreno, his real gratitude goes to the community. Considering it validation that his investment and time is even notable outside of Davis, Moreno believes this is an award he can share with all the community.
“For me, it really is a trophy for the program: All the hard work that the parents have brought to the music program, the students that are always dedicated (and) trying to make this the best program it can be, the community of Davis — without their support we wouldn’t have the program at all,” Moreno said. “It’s a trophy that I can share with all these invested entities that make us great.”
Having won Downbeat magazine’s Student Music Award for the Best Classical Ensemble at the high school level, and recognized by the California Music Educators Association as the state’s Richard L. Levin Orchestra Educator honoree for 2012, Moreno’s teaching methods have been universally praised.
When asked how he does it, Moreno simply smiles modestly.
“The secret to my success is being passionate about what you love,” he said. “When that becomes an occupation, it’s almost impossible to fail because the things that you enjoy the most are what you get to do every day, and get paid to do it!
“Beyond that, though, is the huge amount of support I get. Davis is just a very unique model community that allows this sort of musical excellence to take place.”