WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — It’s a dream shared by many: having a successful band, playing on stage in front of a huge crowd that knows enough of your lyrics to sing along.
That’s exactly what Allan Moreno accomplished. He and his band, “Londs,” were rising stars in the world of Hispanic music, known across two countries.
“We went to the red carpet, to the Grammys,” Moreno said.
Based in Utah, Moreno’s big break came after an appearance on a show called “Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento
,” which can best be described as a Spanish-language version of “America’s Got Talent.”
Allan Moreno’s band appeared on the Spanish-language talent show, “Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento.”
The money, the fame, the music videos
— there can be little doubt that Moreno’s dreams were all coming true — until he walked away.
“They said, like, ‘We worked so hard for this, Allan. How you gonna quit at this time?'” he said.
All his dreams were put on the shelf — to teach mariachi music to a bunch of kids in West Valley.
“I don’t make too much money here, like from my band, but I make a lot of things in here,” Moreno said. “I make friends with the kids.”
“He first wasn’t sure that he wanted to work here, to begin with,” said Eulogio Alejandre, Principal at Esperanza Elementary. “He
said ‘I don’t know, I don’t play mariachi music. I’m a musician, but I only play the guitar.'”
Alejandre asked Moreno to just give it a try — see if he could teach the kids one single song. And now?
“We got 37 songs,” Moreno said.
Other teachers help Moreno teach the instruments he doesn’t know — and together, they’re responsible for a program packed with 200 kids.
“That’s where they feel successful,” said Melanie Broadhead, K-2 music teacher at Esperanza. “They may struggle in school, but they feel successful when they come to choir or mariachi. They love Allan, and his personality is such that he draws kids to him.”
Students sing a mariachi-style arrangement of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
The program has been such a success that the kids are already getting hired out for actual gigs around the area.
“In April, we’re going to play at the museum for the University of Utah,” Moreno said. “We’re going to be at the Bees Stadium, like a real band.”
The money the kids earn goes back to the school, which provides all the advantages they need.
“The school buys everything for them,” Moreno said. “They buy the accordions, they buy the guitars. The kids have everything in this school.”
They’ve created content for their own YouTube channel
, and Moreno’s even had a Grammy-winning producer visit the kids to help them in the recording studio — and with the help of other friends in the music business, Allan’s planning on getting them on TV in Los Angeles.
A student at Esperanza Elementary plays the trumpet.
It’s all done with one goal in mind.
“I show the kids the magazine that I was in, and I show them that they can be there too if they work hard,” Moreno said.
“In mariachi, I think I can make big accomplishments,” said Ismael Mora, one of the school’s accordion players. “I can become like one of the people I love, like Mozart or Beethoven.”
Ismael Mora, left, says his goal in playing the accordion is to accomplish as much as the musicians he loves.
The school’s principal says even for those kids who don’t make a career out of music, what they’re learning can be valuable.
“We want the vast majority just to have the experience of playing in a group,” said Alejandre. “I think that builds character, builds the willingness and desire and inspiration to move forward with whatever career they choose.”
For Moreno, this is about so much more than giving kids the fame he put aside. It’s about the entire reason he’s here.
“I heard that there was a shooting in the mall,” Moreno said. “I heard that it was Latino guys — Latino kids. So I worry about that. I think when the kids has like an instrument in their hands, they don’t have the chance to have a gun in their hands.”
A student smiles while playing the guitar.
That’s what got him here in the first place.
“I was playing in Utah, and when I finished, I was driving to my house, and I started to pray to God, like ‘What do you want from me? How can I give it to you?'” Moreno said. “After that, my wife called me and said ‘They’re looking for a mariachi teacher. You should go, and see if you can help the kids.'”
Allan Moreno teaches students alongside K-2 music teacher Melanie Broadhead.
And so, Moreno put aside all he accomplished. He had it all, and gave it all up — all for the chance to show a group of kids that finding happiness only requires that you work hard, and keep following your dreams.
“When they have a problem, they can go and play an instrument,” he said. “That’s what I want for my kids.”