Dean Marino

Clements High School junior Dean Marino performs during a previous community concert at Sugar Land Town Square. The 16-year-old will be hosting a hunger benefit concert at Inspiration Stage on Nov. 22. (Photo by L Frederick Hinojosa)

Many kids have aspirations of being music stars, and Clements High School student Dean Marino has already made headway into the music world.  He also harbors a passion for giving back to those in need or have helped him along the way.

So in order to showcase some of the music he has already released on several music streaming platforms, Marino is planning to host a local hunger benefit concert in Fort Bend County later this month. On Nov. 22, Marino will perform at 7:30 p.m. at Sugar Land Town Square’s Inspiration Stage as part of WhyHunger’s Hungerthon 2022.

Though many aspire to successfully create music, Marino has already seen more success than many of his school-age peers. He currently has 8 full albums/EPs on Spotify and other music streaming services such as iTunes, and is working on finalizing another album slated for release next month.  In 2021, Marino’s songs were streamed more than 1,500 times on Spotify – equating to more than 86 hours of listening – in 16 different countries across the world.

But though he has already had some success in releasing music, he said it’s that passion for service which truly drives how he lives and is the inspiration behind the Hungerthon benefit concert. Hungerthon is New York-based nonprofit WhyHunger’s annual Thanksgiving radio tradition that “educates listeners across the U.S. and raises critical funds to end hunger in America and ensure everyone’s human right to nutritious food.”

“A lot of people have a lot bottled up, a lot of emotions they don’t know how to express. I’m grateful that I have this outlet and self-expression which is truly mine,” said Marino, a junior at Clements. “And if you can create and you can use it for something larger than yourself, that’s even better. Now my music can help me do something more than just feel good inside.”

Marino has been writing and performing, he said, since he was 11 years old. His father is a songwriter with whom he has performed community concerts with at venues around Sugar Land and Houston such as McGonigel’s Mucky Duck.

From there, it has taken off and then some.

“There are a lot of people who actually know the words to my songs – sometimes better than even I do, which is really strange but cool,” said Marino, who put his first album on Spotify in seventh grade. “As the streams rack up, it’s really fun to watch. And I’m really lucky to have such a supportive environment.”

That support, along with a realization of the resources he has access to, Marino said, drives his innate desire to give back. Earlier this year, Marino performed a benefit concert at Clements on behalf of the school’s choir department, with proceeds going to the program after he said directors Janet Menzie and Robert Bogner have been significant influences on his music.

He has participated in Hungerthon virtually each of the last two years, he said, but being able to take part in the event – which raised more than $900,000 last year – in person this year is a special celebration for him. And those helping him bring it to fruition say they can see his pure heart in helping to raise money and mixing music with giving back to those in need.

“Since we started our program a decade ago, we’ve focused on nurturing the amazing talent that this community has,” Inspiration Stage founder and artistic director Mandy Seymore-Sensat said. “I’m thrilled to be able to provide a stage for Dean to bring his music to a supportive audience and I love that he is combining his passion for art with a heart for service.”

Marino joked that he spends more time in his production studio than his own room when at home, sometimes upwards of 25 hours a week between writing, producing, and recording. And many more hours, he said, have been spent performing at venues around the area.

Which in and of itself, he said, is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Always prevalent in his songs are the influences of his favorite artists such as Billy Joel, Elton John, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder and more. He dabbles in everything, he said, from jazz to funk to pop-rock - though noting jazz is by far his favorite - and previously won the Sugar Land Superstar singing competition when he was younger.

“I know I’m young and there are only a certain number of feelings I’ve felt, but it’s still up there,” he said. “…People don't necessarily know what I do or what it sounds like, per se – they just know that I do it. But when they hear it and you see the enjoyment on their face, it’s worth it.”

And when the love of music intersects with the ability to provide help for those in need? For Marino, that’s the icing on the cake.

“I want to do anything at all that I can to help,” he said. “And if I can do that while also doing something that brings me great joy, then it’s a true win-win situation.”

To see some of Marino’s work, visit his website at https://deanmarinomusic.wixsite.com/home. To buy tickets for the benefit concert, go to https://deanmarino.ticketleap.com/whyhunger/details.

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