The search for a new music director took two and a half years, since Michael Christie announced in June 2011 that he would leaving. But James Ward, president and CEO of The Phoenix Symphony board of directors, says the thorough search was worth it and the wait is over. Native New Yorker and internationally acclaimed conductor Tito Muñoz has been appointed the new Virginia G. Piper Music Director of The Phoenix Symphony.
At age 31, Muñoz is already a seasoned conductor. He most recently served as music director of the Opéra National de Lorriane and the Orchestre symphonique et lyrique de Nancy in France. His prior conducting achievements include three years as assistant conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra and League of American Orchestras conducting fellow, and assistant conductor positions with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. He has appeared with symphony orchestras from Alabama to San Antonio, and will be guest conducting in France between now and September, when he will launch the Symphony’s 2014/15 season.
Muñoz is not a stranger to Valley symphony lovers. He was a guest conductor with The Phoenix Symphony for two seasons, bringing the audience to their feet with performances of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony, Schumann’s First Symphony and Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto featuring Concertmaster Steven Moeckel this past November.
Ward says Muñoz is the perfect fit for The Phoenix Symphony on many levels: He is an outstanding musician, an accomplished violinist in his own right. He is young and accessible, and that will help the Symphony maintain the momentum of the last three years. He has a heritage that is consistent with the Valley, and that is appealing as well.
“Tito is the anti-stereotype,” Ward says. “He’s one of us. He’s open, he cares about education and community outreach. He’s a wonderful guy on top of being a great musician.”
Life will change a little bit for him, Muñoz admits. One thing that will change is who writes his paychecks. In Europe, conductors are paid with public funds. Here, orchestras rely on fundraising. The two situations each come with their own set of issues, but Muñoz says neither is better or worse.
“It’s a different thing to be musical director of an American orchestra, and I’ve not done that before,” Muñoz says. “The Phoenix Symphony is quite a prominent orchestra, and I feel I’m ready for this. I have a lot to offer, and so does the Symphony.”
He is looking forward to his move to the desert, which is a definitely a new adventure for him. He was born in Queens and grew up in the city, his primary means of transportation the subway. “I’m personally looking forward to the new experience of living in the desert,” Muñoz says.
There won’t be too many surprises, but he says audiences can “expect some new things. I’ll probably have a little different repertoire. I’m working with some new composers and will bring some of their work to the stage.”
Ward says Muñoz is someone who can inspire the musicians at the greatest level, can help educate the community and broaden the audience, can help define “Symphony 2.0. Tito hit the nail on the head across all of those aspects.”
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