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Polytechnic is Seeking New Experiences

Music and teaching are in Jose Moreno’s blood, which is probably why he chose to major in music education. When the Pomona native applied to the university while at Garey High School, Moreno imagined he would one day become a high school band teacher.

Five years later, Moreno says his experiences in the music department and performances across Southern California have changed his perspective. The classically trained clarinetist says he intentionally steps out of his musical comfort zone so he can succeed as a professional musician.

“When I first came to Cal Poly Pomona, I had a notion of what music was, but I never knew of all the possibilities out there,” he says. “During my college undergrad years, I’ve performed in many places. I’ve played for several directors and performed with different colleagues along the way. Each new experience is a learning opportunity. It’s important to keep those connections and never burn bridges; you never know when someone might call you for a music opportunity.”

Take the Cal Poly Pomona MIDI Ensemble, for example. For the campus’ electronic music group, Moreno played the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) hooked up to a sound module that can mimic virtually any type of instrument — flute, trumpet, synthesizer.

He also played jazz music for the first time at Cal Poly Pomona, joining the campus’ Jazz Band to diversify his repertoire. “I’m graduating soon, so I want to be prepared for any challenges that come my way. The L.A. scene is really competitive.”

 About two years ago, a friend he knew from elementary school messaged him about an opening for a clarinetist in Viento de Oro, a well-established Mexican banda that performs across Southern California. “My intention was only to help out for that one time and leave. I ultimately ended up loving it and staying around.”

Moreno is also part of an ensemble that’s introducing a relatively new style of music to campus. Working under Music Professor Jessie Vallejo, the group is experimentally fusing two traditional genres of Mexican music: mariachi and banda.

“It’s a unique fusion,” he says. “You have mariachi, which is really expressive, while banda is really loud and gets the party going. If there was a party, you’d have a mariachi midday and bring in the banda at night
to dance the night away. So bringing both together is really interesting.”

Directing a high school band is still on Moreno’s list of career goals, but that list has grown to include three new dream jobs: music conductor at a university, bass clarinet player for the United States Marine Band or a musician for a philharmonic orchestra.

Cal Poly Pomona’s polytechnic philosophy means that his future options aren’t limited to his past experiences or his current knowledge.

“We’re not just learning how to do something. We’re not just learning information. We’re learning to be more hands on,” Moreno says. “You see the drive that everyone has, students wanting to do more and branch out to do more. I love it because it means they are actually passionate about it.

“They’re here for more than a degree. They want to better themselves. They want to soak up as much information before going out into the real world. They want to bring their experiences to their future career, future students, future performances, and I think that is really special.”