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Tito Munoz: Rising young conductor leads Omaha Symphony Chamber concert


 

Here’s a mini-profile of the highly regarded symphony orchestra conductor Tito Munoz I did a couple years ago for El Perico newspaper.  The piece appeared on the eve of an Omaha Symphony Chamber concert he led.  I interviewed Munoz by phone.  He couldn’t have been nicer.

 

 

 

 

 

Tito Munoz:

Rising young conductor leads Omaha Symphony Chamber concert

©by Leo Adam Biga

Originally published in El Perico

 

At 27 Tito Munoz is riding a fast track in the classical music world’s conducting ranks.

This guest conductor for a Jan. 8 Omaha Symphony Chamber strings showcase recently completed a three-year gig as Cleveland Orchestra assistant conductor. He’s just been named music director of the Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy in Lorraine, France. In addition to performing its own season, the symphony accompanies the Opera national de Lorraine.

Speaking by phone, Munoz, a New York City native of Colombian and Ecuadorian heritage, acknowledges he’s come far in a short time.

“Things have moved very fast, yes,” he says. “I think it’s like anything, it’s a combination of perseverance and mind set.  And a big part of it is luck actually — of having the right opportunities presented at the right time and having the right experience level to really get the most out of them.”

Growing up he was not exposed to classical music until middle school. When an older cousin began violin lessons, Tito studied too.

“Something felt really right. I really took to it, and the teacher really saw that right away and he was the one that recommended me to this Juilliard music advancement program,” says Munoz.

By the time Tito saw his first live orchestra concert, he was hooked.

“It was very memorable for me. All of a sudden I was seeing what that really is, and I was able to latch onto something. Before I had started the violin I don’t know if I would have appreciated it as much as I did then.”

The free Saturday Juilliard program targeted Latino and African-American students.

“I really appreciate it without a doubt because it was the beginning of everything for me. It gave me these really wonderful opportunities. It is about exposure, it is about giving access. ”

He borrowed the full orchestra score of West Side Story from the Juilliard library to help inform a production of the play at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.

“I was concert master of the orchestra. The conductor of the show saw that I was taking initiative and that I was interested. He gave me some opportunities to do rehearsals and then eventually he let me conduct one of the shows.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Munoz continued showing initiative at the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College, and summers at the French Woods Festival in upstate New York.

“I wanted to learn more, I wanted to know more, I wanted to be more prepared, and I loved it, it was just something I enjoyed doing.”

Conducting became his niche.

“For me that actually has more to do with leadership then anything else. Being in charge and taking the responsibility and being that person, that one sort of pillar, I enjoy that. I knew that’s where my passion was.”

He says he made the most of the flexibility and freedom Queens College offered: “I made it my own and took as much I could from it.”

Advanced training came at the prestigious American Academy of Conducting in Aspen, Colo. and the National Conducting Institute in Washington D.C., where he studied with masters like Leonard Slatkin. He made his professional conducting debut with the National Symphony Orchestra in 2006. That same year he became assistant conductor of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.

Today, he guest conducts across America and Europe.

His Spanish surname brings offers of conducting Latin concerts, and he says while “there’s certainly lots of Latin music I love doing and I certainly come from a Hispanic family, that doesn’t mean I do Latin music better than anybody else. I like to think I just do music well, whatever it is.” He doesn’t want “to be pigeonholed into that kind of genre and only be called for those sorts of things.”

The Omaha Symphony concert he’s conducting does include music by a Spaniard, Manuel de Falla, along with works by Riegger, Dvorak and Haydn.

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