Conductor Angelo Moreno, who leads string ensembles at Davis High School and Holmes Junior High, in addition to working with the Sacramento Youth Symphony, was honored in February by the California Music Educators Association with the Richard L. Levin Orchestra Educator Award.
Moreno did his academic work at UC Davis, where he was a conducting student of professor D. Kern Holoman, and an active violinist, performing with both the UCD Symphony and the UCD Baroque Ensemble.
“Angelo was a devoted, artist-level section principal with the symphony for his entire undergraduate career,” Holoman recalls. “He was a founding member of the Baroque Ensemble, taught by the violinist Michael Sand, and I remember the inaugural concerts of that group very fondly indeed.
“I was delighted when he became interested in our conducting degree, hoping to focus on Baroque styles of conducting ‘from the violin,’ as it were. And more delighted, still, when he and the Davis High Orchestra linked up. The rest is history.”
Margaret Neu worked with Moreno when he was a student teacher in the string music program in the local schools.
“I delayed retirement from teaching orchestra in the Davis junior high schools until the year 2000, hoping to find just the right teacher to take over the program,” Neu recalled. “When I met Angelo, I knew we had found that person. He spent the better part of a school year volunteering in my orchestra classes at Holmes and Emerson junior high schools before being selected to take over as conductor the following year.”
Neu added that “Angelo has taken the orchestra program to even higher levels each year he has been teaching. Angelo has big ideas that most of us probably would never bring to fruition. The founding of the Davis High School Baroque Ensemble is just one example. He has the enthusiasm, energy, willpower and ‘never say die’ attitude that go along with his musicianship.
“I hope the people of Davis realize how fortunate they are to have a teacher of Angelo Moreno’s ability working with their children.”
David Murphy was superintendent of the Davis school district when Moreno was hired.
“When we had a vacancy for an orchestra teacher, the stakes were incredibly high,” Murphy recalled. “Whomever we hired would be the program, because it is the teacher who makes the program. We were searching for an incredibly talented musician who was also a teacher who specialized in orchestral music — and who would nurture and inspire our students.
“We conducted a tremendous recruitment effort across the state and the nation. Angelo Moreno was one of those applicants,” Murphy continued. “He was incredible then, as he is now. His recommendations were stellar, his performances inspiring, his personality charismatic. Hiring Angelo Moreno was one of the best decisions we have made, and now hundreds and hundreds of our students are the beneficiaries.”
Hiram Jackson, the father of three children who have participated in the school strings program, remembers Moreno from their time together in the UCD Baroque Ensemble when both were graduate students.
“Angelo has always had a vision to reach out with the music program, to challenge students, to make them better citizens, and to create a rewarding experience for everyone,” said Jackson, a past president of the Davis Schools Orchestral Music Association. “During the state budget crisis of the past few years, it would have been easy for someone in Angelo’s situation to get distracted and frazzled when his work, program and job were all on the line. But Angelo kept his attention on the students and the program and survived it all.
“Now, the Davis High School orchestra program is four times bigger than when he first arrived. I’m really proud to see him get recognized statewide. He truly deserves this.”
Holoman noted the ongoing links between the UCD and school district music programs — the UCD and Davis High Baroque ensembles perform together annually, some DHS students perform with the UCD Symphony Orchestra, and so on.
“It’s certainly terrific to have good personal and professional linkages with the orchestral programs in town, the Sacramento Youth Symphony and all kinds of stepping stones to orchestral mastery,” Holoman said. “Our home-grown valley version of El Sistema” — the famed string music program in Venezuela that has produced phenomenal results.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.