Marianella Moreno was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and soon moved to England for the first five years of her life in the 1970s. Later, she returned to Venezuela to attend school and obtained a bachelor’s degree in mass media from Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas. In 1998, she moved to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in new media and telecommunications from Indiana University. She was the Internet Manager for the American Legion for over seven years, prior to her appointment as I.T. and Interactive Media Director at PAS. She has devoted her career to contributions to the growth of non-profit organizations through technology implementations.
Rhythm!Scene: How did you get started in music?
Marianella Moreno: I started music by playing the organ when I was four years old. Then, when I turned six, I enrolled in an intensive music program at Conservatorio de Música Juan José Landaeta until age 17, obtaining the diploma in advanced music studies and piano performance. The music school was my second home, since classes were daily and included six years of solfege, four years of harmony, two years of composition and improvisation, three years of music history, ten years of piano, and music calligraphy. It was very thorough and part of the world-known “El Sistema” program that was in its infancy at the time.
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
MM: My favorite instruments is the conga. Growing up by the Caribbean Sea, I recall the constant rhythms by the shore, played by the locals. To this date, Latin percussion is my absolute favorite, and the conga is just one of the many instruments I enjoy.
R!S: Who was your one of the strongest influences on your career growing up?
MM: My private English teacher. She was from London and had moved to Venezuela for a few years. She showed me the world through her eyes and always left me with the vision of leaving to explore and find my passions in any part of the world.
R!S: What was one of your most memorable student experiences?
MM: When playing the piano, my teacher would sometimes devote full lessons to talk about literature, philosophy, and about the future. It wasn’t all about playing what I had practiced, and that made my lessons far more meaningful. We could sit for hours talking and listening to music.
R!S: Who were key or memorable teachers in your education?
MM: There are too many to mention, but the ones that marked my path were Pauline Pallister, my English teacher, and current professor at the University of London; César Rangel, my piano teacher, and former renowned performer; Thom Gillespie, director and creator of the MIME program (Masters in Immersive Media Environments), who served as my advisor throughout my graduate studies.
R!S: What sort of activities are part of your job?
MM: My job involves multiple layers of responsibility. Setting the vision for the required tech infrastructure to support PAS programs, deciding the most appropriate technology that aligns business objectives with budget, providing technical support at different levels of the organization, and producing interactive exhibits for Rhythm! Discovery Center, as well as interactive applications to support membership, fundraising, and PASIC, for web and mobile.
R!S: What was your introduction to PAS?
MM: I found the PAS job in the newsletter distributed by the Arts Council of Indianapolis. It felt like a good fit when I saw the combination of technology and the arts. Working in technology can make you forget the arts quickly, and this was definitely the right fit for me and continues to be. I am very fortunate to be able to have the arts present, even though my job is so tech-focused.
R!S: What is one thing you wish all student percussionists knew about PAS?
MM: The vast amount of resources and all the doors that PAS can open for them.
R!S: What’s the first section you read in a new issue of Percussive Notes or Rhythm!Scene?
MM: This can vary. The cover story naturally catches my eye, but in general, I read these from cover to cover.
R!S: What is your most prized percussion-related souvenir?
MM: My house, over the years, has become filled with small items that people have given me at PASIC. I have a very special miniature drumset that was given to me one year. Another fun one that I ended up purchasing, and that my family always enjoys, is a large rainstick.
R!S: If you aren’t working at PAS, what are you doing?
MM: I enjoy the outdoors. I like camping, tandem bike racing, sailing, canoeing, and kayaking. I also spend time running and playing table tennis. Traveling is always on the list, and I also spend many weekends and evenings attending my kids’ sporting events. They are involved in tennis, soccer, and baseball.
R!S: What music or station is playing when you turn on your car?
MM: I don’t drive very often, but when I do, I find variety in my playlists: salsa, bossa nova, samba, jazz. Not a set station, unless my kids are in the car, in which case I would play the current hits station!
R!S: What’s the first app you open on your phone or first program you start on your computer each morning?
MM: Google Chrome, but to ease into the day, I use Momentum, which is an add-on that helps me set the tone for my day. It shows a nice picture from a place in the world and asks about your daily intention every time you open a tab in the browser. I also open Alexa, since I have an Amazon Echo, to help me set the mood for my day. WhatsApp and Twitter are part of this list to see what is going on around the world. I have lots of family and friends who live abroad.
R!S: If you could tell your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
MM: I would say to never give up or hesitate. The unimaginable is possible, and don’t ever let your dreams take a detour. Yes, nobody said it was easy, but it is never impossible.