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.”
read more: Rising Young Conductor Tito Munoz Leads Omaha Symphony Chamber Concert