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Phoenix Symphony taps Tito Munoz to serve as music director

After a 2.5-year search, the Phoenix Symphony has a new conductor.

Tito Muñoz, who recently served as music director of the Opéra National de Lorraine and the Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy in France, will launch the symphony’s 2014/2015 season in September.

A New York native, Muñoz, 31, said he looks forward to his move to Phoenix.

“It’s a young, vibrant city,” he said. “The orchestra is a wonderful orchestra with a very high level of playing. The orchestra administration is really wonderful. The growth of the organization over the past couple of years is something to admire.”

He has been a guest conductor around the world, including twice here in Phoenix while the symphony was looking for someone to replace Michael Christie, who moved on to become the music director of theMinnesota Opera in Minneapolis.

At the time of his announcement in January 2012, the symphony expected to take about two years to replace Christie.

“I’m looking forward to great concerts and getting to know the Phoenix community,” Muñoz said.

Molly DeFilippis, who is on the symphony’s board and was a member of the search committee for the new music director, said Muñoz was very enthusiastic from his first encounter with the symphony.

“He wans to get involved with Arizona,” she said. “He’s more than willing to meet with patrons, donors, companies and community leaders in order to educate himself on how the Phoenix Symphony can become a leader in the revitalization of Arizona. We’re very lucky.”

Jim Ward, president and CEO of the Phoenix Symphony, said it took more than two years to find the right person for the job, but is satisfied with the decision.

“We finally got the right person for us,” he said. “We developed a profile that we felt would be conducive for our community andPhoenix Symphony. We had a lot of great candidates. Tito Muñoz is the candidate we feel not only fits that profile but will help take the Phoenix Symphony to the next level and represent this community in the best way.”

When Ward joined the symphony three years ago, he walked into a financially ailing organization. The musicians had taken a 19 percent pay cut in their salaries in an effort to help keep the symphony alive.

The year he came on board, the musicians were due for a restoration of their salaries while the symphony faced a $2.1 million structural deficit.

“We were unable to do that,” Ward said.

While other musicians across the country were conducting labor stoppages and symphonies were going bankrupt, the local musicians took another path.

“They forgave that restoration to give us the runway to perform a turnaround,” Ward said. “We restructured the organization and began that turnaround.”

Over the past three years, the symphony increased its revenue by 74 percent, tickets by 44 percent and contributions by 107 percent.

The symphony ended the last fiscal year with a $3 million surplus, which was used to pay down all its debt.

“We still broke even,” Ward said. “Basically, we have completed a turnaround and a stabilization of the organization. We’ve got musicians on their way back to where they need to be. With a new music director, we are poised to take that next step.”


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