By: Gail Obenreder
“The arts have so much to do with sharing and storytelling. Listening and empathizing with the experiences of others is so critical to the creative flow of any artist.”
Tenor Isaí Jess Muñoz grew up in Orlando, Florida. Then, it was “a magical place,” with Disney World just a few miles from his home amid the orange groves and Universal Studios adjacent to his performing arts high school. Orlando is still one of the only cities in America that strongly supports the arts in public schools, something seminal to the singer’s trajectory and career.
Muñoz’ immigrant parents filled the house with Latin American music, folkloric and popular. His father plays several instruments, and his mother came from a singing tradition. But it was a grade-school outreach visit by young artists from a local opera company that transformed him. That day, he heard “the ethereal sounds of classical singing. I was hooked!” Muñoz ran home and told his parents that he wanted to be an opera singer. He soon found himself a child chorister in Puccini’s Tosca, onstage with famous baritone Sherrill Milnes, and he stayed in the opera company’s youth program until college.
Muñoz studied voice first at the University of Cincinnati Conservatory, then at Manhattan School of Music and Stony Brook University, where he received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Voice Performance. He lived in New York City for 12 years, where his career began to burgeon, and after four years teaching at Indiana Wesleyan University, Muñoz moved to Delaware in 2016 to join the faculty of the UD School of Music.
As well as directing the School’s Opera Workshop and serving as professor of voice and opera, the Hockessin resident is also president-elect of the National Opera Association of America, capping a 20-year relationship with the organization. Muñoz has a busy performing career, appearing regularly with orchestras and in opera houses nationwide. But one of his most rewarding projects has been focused on “illuminating vocal music currently underrepresented in performing and teaching canons.”
“III. “Jo Et Pressentia Com La Mar” from Combat del Somni, a song cycle in the Catalan language by Frederic Mompou (1893-1987),” 2021
Full length: 8 minutes 6 seconds
Work sample: 1 minutes 3 seconds
voice part: tenor
“”Oh! Quand Je Dors,” a French Mélodie by Franz Liszt (1811-1886),” 2021
Full length: 4 minutes 50 seconds
Work sample: 4 minutes 50 seconds
voice part: tenor
That exploration resulted in the January 2021 release of his 14th audio recording. Titled Visca L’Amor (Long Live Love), the highly praised collection features Muñoz and pianist Oksana Glouchko – his wife and longtime artistic collaborator – performing beautiful but overlooked repertoire, much of it sung in Catalan. The duo is planning two more recording projects of other never-before-recorded works by Catalan and Mexican composers. The singer is also deeply committed to arts policy issues and earned a 2019 certificate in nonprofit management from UD’s Biden School of Public Policy.
Amid a busy professional life, Muñoz works to achieve the balance required of “most performing artists who also teach.” One of his greatest joys is spending time with his three children, carving out time to explore with them. “If it interests them, it interests me. My world is beautifully flooded with so much to see and to learn from them.”
Honored to have been named an Established Fellow, and grateful for the support it affords, Muñoz plans to use his award in those upcoming recording projects that “strongly reflect my commitment to aid in broader dissemination of important yet underrepresented Iberian and Latin American vocal music.”
The pandemic “certainly took a toll on the field of singing,” and each day brings new challenges. Like most music professionals, Muñoz quickly acquired new equipment and skills for recital recordings, livestream concerts, and virtual teaching. But he feels that “we are emerging stronger, rising above this time of hardship to come together, help each other and create a brighter future.”Fellowship Home
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