Zuniga nominated for Theatre Bay Area Award


Lilly Montero

Dr. Luis Zuniga poses at the piano. Zuniga was nominated for Best Music Direction for his work on “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” which included Los Medanos College students in its orchestra.

Spencer Batute, @batutie_

Dr. Luis Zuniga, Director of LMC Orchestra and Band, was recently nominated for an award for Outstanding Music Direction by Theatre Bay Area, one of the largest theatre service organizations in the United States.

The Theatre Bay Area Awards “are designed to honor excellence in professionally-oriented theatre produced throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Recipients and finalists usually list this recognition in their resumes and biographies, and it does carry weight in the Bay Area theatre community,” said Sunshine Lampitoc Smith, Communications Manager at TBA.

The ceremony took place Nov. 4 at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.

Zuniga was nominated for Best Music Direction, Tier III, for his work on “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” The nomination fell under TBA’s Tier III, a category in which the production abides by the Actors’ Equity Association requirement and operates on an annual budget below $400,000. There were 27 categories of nomination for the ceremony.

This show was also nominated for two other Tier III TBA awards: Outstanding Performance in a Principal Role in a Musical and Outstanding Direction of a Musical.

“Monty Python’s Spamalot” was put on by Pittsburg Community Theatre, one of the more than 300 production companies in cooperation with Theatre Bay Area. It premiered in September and October 2018 at the California Theatre in Pittsburg and the El Campanil Theatre in Antioch.

Zuniga’s peers and coworkers applaud him for the nomination and praised his work.

“It was a well-deserved recognition of his talents,” said LMC president Bob Kratochvil.

However, Zuniga’s performance was not the only reason this production was significant to the LMC community — the orchestra of this ensemble comprised entirely LMC band and orchestra students.

As a professor, Zuniga makes an effort to give his students chances to star in productions outside of class.

“I try not only to prepare students to have a career in music, but also to give them real-life opportunities,” he said.

One of Zuniga’s students, Isabella Bishop, auditioned for “Monty Python’s Spamalot” after being persuaded by Zuniga. 

“It was the best decision I’ve ever made because it introduced me to the beautiful work of musical theater,” said Bishop.

After “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” Bishop continued to work with Zuniga and is now working on her third production with him.

Another student of Zuniga’s, Lucian Baxter, performed as the lead keyboard in the orchestra for “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” Though one of LMC’s piano faculty was supposed to play lead keyboard, and Baxter was roled to play secondary keyboard, the faculty member wasn’t able to perform in the musical, and Baxter was pushed to step up to lead keyboard. Baxter reflected, “It was anxiety-inducing at first but ended up being a fabulous experience.”

Baxter has also collaborated extensively with Zuniga across many different productions. Since she started in the musical program at LMC in 2017, Baxter has been able to work with some of the best community theatre singers in the Bay Area, has built a firm professional network of talented musical theatre colleagues, and has been appointed several leadership opportunities as a result of the shows she’s done with Zuniga.

“At this point he’s a close mentor and friend as well as a professor, and we’ve built a great working relationship,” said Baxter. “He’s been one of the most influential people in my life so far, without a doubt.”

Zuniga reflected on his work with Baxter, “She’s kind of become my right hand. Whenever I’m not available, she’s my assistant.”

Though Zuniga did not receive the award for his category, he expressed positivity about the event, and Theatre Bay Area communicated that they are looking forward to seeing more of Dr. Zuniga’s theatrical work being recognized at future TBA Awards Celebrations.