Musical Inspiration

2009 Sacramento Music Educators Outstanding Achievement Award recipient Angelo Moreno

Angelo Moreno’s choice to pick up a violin was simple.

“My father always said that was his favorite instrument,” Moreno says. “That was the only reason why I really chose it.”

His decision would eventually parlay into a career that would impact thousands.

Moreno started playing the violin at the early age of 7, participating in musical programs throughout grade school and high school in his hometown of Napa Valley, Calif., and playing with the Napa Valley Youth Symphony and Napa Valley Philharmonic.

These years helped convince him that music was where his future lay.

“Growing up in the school music program and the high-school orchestra program, I met a lot of friends and had some great experiences,” he remembers. “[We] formed some quartets and had fun playing together, so I just made some special connections that motivated me to continue studying the instrument.”

Moreno attended UC Davis, because it was close to home, and because it was during an exciting time: the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts was just being built, and the school’s music program was expanding.

It was at UC Davis that he started to teach private lessons himself.

“It was sort of my first experience teaching young kids and young adults,” he says. “I started to learn the benefits … and the joy of passing along the tradition that I had been given musically by my music teachers.”

Moreno also participated in the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and the UC Davis Baroque Ensemble during his undergrad years. It was in these groups that Moreno met several mentors, including UCD’s orchestra conductor D. Kern Holoman, who inspired Moreno to attend grad school and become an orchestra conductor.

“[Dr. Holloman] took me under his wing for the two years I was in the grad program and was assistant director for the UC Davis Symphony,” Moreno says. “I continued my studies with violin and Baroque orchestra and grew more and more passionate about the process of making music.”

The summer that Moreno received his master’s degree in orchestral conducting, the Davis Junior High orchestra teacher retired and the Davis High School orchestra teacher resigned. Moreno stepped in.

“It was just the perfect place and perfect timing to make that all come together,” he says. “It worked out really well. In the last nine years, the orchestra program has grown over four times its size, and it went from one orchestra at two junior-high schools to two orchestras at three junior highs.”

Under Moreno’s direction, the Davis Joint Unified School District secondary orchestral program grew from a one-string orchestra at the high-school level into three orchestras comprising more than 140 students, with a brand-new orchestra in the Baroque style in the works.

In addition to his work at the public schools, Moreno was hired to conduct the Sacramento Youth Symphony in 2002—the same year that he received his teaching credential in music education from CSUS.

“I was hired to take on the academic orchestra, which continued to grow in size and in program,” he says. “It’s a nice relationship, because there’s a good connection between the Davis students and SYS, and it’s nice to see so many Davis kids support SYS and play there.”

In 2005, the CSUS College of Education presented him with the Teacher of the Year Award, and the following year, state Assemblywoman Lois Wolk honored him with a resolution from the California Legislature, recognizing his work in music education.

“He is a tremendous advocate for music in the schools,” says Amy Abramson, who has worked with Moreno for four years and is currently president of Davis Schools Orchestral Music Association. “I haven’t worked with anyone who has really shown so much dedication and enthusiasm. He’s so much fun. … He’s very inspirational. The level of the musicality that he brings these kids to is really outstanding.”

But just because Moreno is a renowned teacher who has impacted countless of his students’ lives, he still considers himself a student.

“I truly believe this is my calling in my life, and my mission as a musician is to give back to the next generation of students, and give back what was given to me by some of the great musicians I was fortunate enough to be mentored by,” he says. “But as a professional musician, I still consider myself to be a student of music. And I feel every year that goes by, these students teach me about the process of making music and how to improve it, and I am continually learning.”