Mariel was born in 1988 in the California bay area, a humble home of musicians, artists, organic weed growers and LGBT rights activists. Some of Mariel's first memories were immersed in music. One 4th of July afternoon, the Austin family household was abuzz with party guests sipping beer as their children played in the back yard, The Cranberries playing on the stereo in the living room. On this afternoon, 3-year-old Mariel was in a daring mood and decided to steal a wooden spoon from the kitchen. She then ran into the living room and brandished the spoon as an electric guitar in front of a puzzled group of adults, her parents included. Once capturing her audience's attention she started striking her spoon like a brazen rock star and belted along to the chorus of "Zombie" by the Cranberries, coming from the living room stereo. Dad was quick on his feet and captured this spontaneous musical outburst on the family camcorder. The home movie is still floating around to this day.
Fast-forward about four years later.....by age seven Mariel's parents recognized her thirst for music and had signed her up for voice lessons through the San Francisco Girls Chorus (SFGC), a program in which her older sisters were already enrolled. From Gregorian chants and Chinese poetry to Balkan folk songs and Broadway show tunes, she had begun to sow her soon-to-be diverse musical palette. At some point in her training she discovered she had absolute pitch (also known as perfect pitch) and was further encouraged by her family, friends and teachers to pursue music. So throughout the years of elementary school Mariel had taken up piano, flute, clarinet and alto sax, each with newfound ferocity.
However, there was a slight blockade. Her interest—and ability—in said instruments were short-lived. Something about them didn't quite click with her. By ear she could easily pick up the songs her teachers taught, but once she got home and sat down with her written exercises and homework, she was once again marooned and sent back to square one. But...all that changed one evening when Mariel's parents took her to a concert by the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble when she was in the 6th grade. Not everyone knew this, but 12-year-old Mariel had made it a personal goal to get into the Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble once she reached high school, whatever it took. Little did she know that this particular concert would be a spring awakening.
It was a Sunday in April when Mariel's parents took her to see the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble at the Berkeley Marina. About halfway through the concert the band played Charles Mingus' "Fables of Faubus." And along came the famous opening line, featuring the baritone sax and bass trombone—the latter being particularly overzealous of his part. Alerted and awoken by this brazen sound she had never heard before, Mariel jolted upright and realized she wanted to be a trombone player.
The following year when she turned 13, Mariel started trombone lessons. Even though she had braces at the time, she diligently practiced her exercises and never turned down a solo in middle school band. After the braces disappeared, she began to write pieces for her jazz combo at Berkeley High School, where she graduated from in 2007. Thereafter, she studied Jazz Performance at California State University, Northridge, where she composed for the school’s Jazz “A” Band and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in 2011.
Shortly after graduating, Mariel started receiving offers to transcribe and arrange for various musical settings and genres. Eventually, contractors began asking her to play for television shows such as American Idol, The Voice, and NBC's Hollywood Game Night. During this time she realized she wanted to further her education and study jazz composition. So she began the grueling process of online grad school applications.