Alumnus sets the beat in music

October 4, 2017

            Juan Montoya, a 2009 University of Toledo graduate from Columbia, won third place at the Blue Danube International Opera Conducting Competition in Bulgaria in July, according to a UT press release.

            Montoya earned his dual master of music degrees in piano performance and orchestral conducting under Jason Stumbo, Lee Heritage, Michael Boyd and Rico McNeela.

            This competitive conducting contest is held every two years, with only thirty conductors’ applications accepted to compete. Winners are awarded vast notoriety and prestigious, coveted conducting opportunities all over Europe.  

            Montoya has already scheduled concerts in Egypt, Hungary, Romania and Serbia, with more being scheduled in the coming months.

            “I’m extremely excited and proud of him,” said Stumbo. “He was always a very eager student who knew what he wanted out of his education and took it seriously. At our private seminars, he came with his own class plans and questions. He knew exactly what he wanted to practice.”

            Stumbo said Montoya came to UT to study piano for his undergraduate work. Afterward, he immediately went into the master program for orchestral conducting.

            Shortly after leaving UT, Montoya lived in Malaysia, where he conducted orchestras, including the Bentley Repertoire Symphony Orchestra, served as a music lecturer at Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia’s largest public university, and was the music director for the university’s symphony orchestra, according to the press release.

            Montoya served as the assistant conductor for the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and was the music director of the Encounters Training Ensemble, both of which are located in the Dewan Philharmonic Petronas in the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur per the press release. While in Malaysia, he also worked with the Malaysian Ministry of Education, where he trained several high school symphonic bands throughout the country.

            “It’s awesome to see students that I know personally succeed in the ways he has,” said Laurie VanWormer, the music department secretary.

            “Juan is a truly gifted musician,” Heritage said. “Although conducting has been the focus of his career, he is also a talented composer.”

            Heritage said Montoya wrote pieces during his days at UT that were so good they were published professionally. Montoya’s “Baba” once won the annual UT concerto competition.

            Montoya was also awarded the golden baton for first place in the Concurso Internacional de Direccion 3.0 with the National Symphony Orchestra of Paraguay in 2016 and received the jury special mention at the second edition Black Sea International Conducting Competition in Romania in 2016.

According to the press release, Montoya is currently seeking his doctoral degree in orchestral conducting and opera at the University of Arizona under Thomas Cockrell.

            “This is just a beginning for him,” Stumbo said. “It won’t be long before we see him with an agent. He’ll be globetrotting.”

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