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The Fort Wayne Philharmonic auditions its first conductor candidate

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2008-09-10


Audiences at the Fort Wayne Philharmonic will see a few new faces behind the conductor’s podium over the next several months as the orchestra auditions for a new conductor (or maybe, strictly speaking, they’ll see a few new backs and arms). After a long selection process, the candidates on the short list will be leading the Philharmonic during a series of concerts that will allow them to demonstrate their skills with the baton.

All flippancy aside, it’s a pretty daunting job. As candidate Tito Munoz explains, conductors have to think about a lot of things in regards to the future of what an orchestra is. “Being a music director in America is such a crucial role, especially in smaller communities where the orchestra needs to have an actual presence in the community more than just being the orchestra,” says Munoz, who as the first candidate will conduct an “unplugged” concert at IPFW on September 11, and the opening concert of the season at the Embassy on September 20. “Education is key, outreach is key, and presenting concerts that appeal to the audience and are relevant to the audience and the community is key.”

Munoz’s resume is extensive. To give you the short version, Munoz is currently Assistant Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra, and previously served as Assistant Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. During the summers of 2004 through 2006, he attended the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen. He is the winner of the Aspen Music Festival's 2005 Robert J. Harth Conductor Prize and the 2006 Aspen Conducting Prize, and in summer 2007, he returned to Aspen as the festival's Assistant Conductor.

Like we said, that’s the (very) short version. And he’s only 25. “As far as professional conductor’s are concerned, I think I’m sort of at the bottom end of the age range there, but that seems to be sort of the trend these days,” he says. “A lot of orchestras are looking for younger, fresher talent, to sort of maybe revitalize a little bit of the classical music business.”

Munoz, a native New Yorker, trained as a violinist, but says he was bitten by the “conductor’s bug” at an early age. He attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Art (the school that’s the basis for the movie Fame) but really got serious about his conducting ambitions when he studied music at Queen’s college.

His experience with orchestras and classical musicians all around the country has given him some insight into the problems that many orchestras are facing these days. “Every community is completely different and every orchestra needs to respond to their community in a different way,” Munoz says. “I think one of the biggest problems I see with orchestras is that they try to compete with one another. Everyone wants to be one of these top five orchestras, or approach things like them, and you really can’t. There’s a certain place for every orchestra in their community, and it’s a matter of really going out and being a part of the community, being the face of the orchestra. You need to see what the community is all about, and figure out how the orchestra is supposed to be relevant to that.”

For more information, visit the Fort Wayne Philharmonic online at www.fortwaynephilharmonic.com

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