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America’s Bandmasters – Captain Christina Muncey, United States Air Force Band

SBO Staff • December 2021InService • December 18, 2021

Captain Christina Muncey currently serves as the assistant conductor of the United States Air Force Band in Washington, D.C., one of only 19 band officers in the Air Force.  She oversees the “Singing Sergeants” choir, as well as the band’s marketing, social media, and music production. Muncey’s first assignment was as assistant conductor at the Band of the West stationed in San Antonio, Texas. She obtained Bachelor of Music in Music Education and Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting degrees from Colorado State University and a Doctor of Musical Arts from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.

Muncey grew up in the metro Atlanta area and graduated from Walton High School in Marietta, Georgia. Excelling at an early age, she was a girl scout, all-state flute player, and served as the drum major at Walton. “Being a musician was not on my radar growing up” according to her.  As a young girl, she had aspirations of being a paleontologist and as she got into high school, she became interested in large animal veterinary sciences. Muncey’s senior class at Walton voted her “most likely to be a band director,” but she graduated with the intent of studying biochemistry and applying for vet school.

Colorado State University became her college of choice because of their nationally-known veterinary school and also because she was interested in living in Colorado. Muncey changed her major from biochemistry to music during her first semester as a freshman. She enjoyed the professionalism and curiosity of the professors in the music department and was able to take advantage of many performance and leadership opportunities. Upon graduation from Colorado State University, she taught band and orchestra in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. During this time, she started her master’s degree in conducting through Colorado State University’s summer program designed for educators, then switched to concentrate on the course of study full time. Muncey met Dr. Harlan Parker from the Peabody Institute during one of the summer sessions at CSU, and they began discussions of her becoming one of his students. 

After finishing her studies at The Peabody Institute, she began to research employment options. The Air Force was holding a conductor’s audition, so she applied. The opportunity to conduct and work with professional musicians was the primary driver for her as she considered this career path over academic opportunities. The wide variety of music and performances combined with the quick velocity of preparation continues to be a highly motivating and engaging part of our job. “It’s possible to be conducting Mozart’s ‘Gran Partita’ one day, and the next day be in the recording booth producing a Taylor Swift song with the rock band,” Muncey says. One of the treasures of this job is the wonderful diversity of music that she engages with regularly as a conductor in the Air Force bands.

Air Force band lead professional musicians and create diverse musical programs to reach a wide variety of audiences. Whether it is a local community concert, a performance for international leaders at The White House, or a ceremony that honors an individual, the responsibility is to understand how to provide meaningful connections for the United States as well as the Air Force to global audiences. The audition process attempts to assess a candidate’s creative ability, leadership, and communication skills.

Muncey’s advice for candidates preparing for the audition is to relax on the podium, have fun, and know that the musicians in front of you want you to be successful. Having an understanding of how professional musicians relate and communicate with each other is paramount. She also recommends attending professional rehearsals and concerts so candidates can observe the similarities and differences between professional and academic ensembles. As professional conductors, they also serve as music directors for ensembles that traditionally don’t require a conductor for rehearsal or performance. She recommends listening to many different styles of music to help expand your professional musical scope.

When asked what she enjoys about the job as an Air Force band conductor, Muncey cites people and places. “While the music we make is incredible and I’ve had the opportunity to give performances in amazing places and with amazing musicians, the best part of the job is the people.  I get to work with talented, hardworking, and dedicated people who are passionate about not only about the music, but also about everything that goes into being a member of Air Force bands. I also really enjoy getting to travel the country, and the world, and interact with the audiences who come to our performances.  I’ve heard so many great stories from the people I’ve met, and have had the opportunity to travel to parts of the country and world I never imagined I would.”

Captain Christina Muncey is one of many examples of professional conductors in the Air Force that began their career in music education. When Muncey was asked if she had any advice for people considering an Air Force band career, she enthusiastically said “Come to a performance, come to a rehearsal, ask questions, and come be our colleague!”

In next month’s issue of SBO, we will feature a musician from The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own.” 

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