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United Methodist to do 'magic' for Disney

Justin Muchoney is congratulated by Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck after being named the first-ever Disney Parks "chief magic official."
UMNS photos courtesy of Justin Muchoney.

By Jacqueline L. Campbell*
July 3, 2008 | PITTSBURGH (UMNS)

As a church music director and Disney Parks' first-ever "chief magic official," Justin Muchoney wants to build meaningful relationships and help people experience the wonders life has to offer.

"Whether literally or figuratively, I love helping everyone believe they can fly!" says the lifelong United Methodist from Seven Fields, Pa.

"As Disney CMO, I’ll help everyone I meet remember what it feels like to believe in a dream come true," Muchoney says.

"The Disney 'magic'––like our faith––can be shared with people in an incredible number of ways, both large and small," he adds. "Each day I strive to understand that everyone I encounter may be in need of a warm smile, a friendly handshake or an ear to listen. Even people I have never met before and may never see again deserve to be treated with the same warmth and respect as my closest friends."

In late April, Muchoney, 29, emerged victorious in a four-week contest across the United States for the "Disney dream job." Online voting vaulted Muchoney into the top three after being selected as one of 10 semi-finalists from among 1,300 applicants through Careerbuilder.com. His initial support was based largely on a video shot at Ingomar United Methodist Church, where he works. A live competition determined the winner among the three finalists April 17-18 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

"Justin has a true passion for Disney Parks that came through online and during the in-park competitions," said Craig Dezern, Disney’s vice president of global public relations, in a press release.

‘You have the power’

Raised and confirmed at Ingomar Church, where he now serves as music and fine arts director, Muchoney will travel up to eight times in the next year to Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts to help create magical experiences for guests, serve as a goodwill ambassador and participate in special events.

He helped with the opening of Toy Story Mania at Walt Disney World in Florida in May and returned in late June from the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., where he helped with the opening of two new attractions.

In an e-mail to friends after the Anaheim trip, he wrote: "I am constantly reminded about the power of one person to make a positive difference in the life of another. I have the chance to work with and be around some of the most passionate and creative people I’ve ever met, and on each visit, I see them go out of their way to place someone else’s needs above their own or go above and beyond the call of duty to bring a smile to someone’s face.

"This is the magic that I hoped to witness and, in each instance, I realize that it doesn’t have to be contained to a Disney park," he wrote. "Please remember that you have the power to make someone’s day. Today, tomorrow, or all week––why pass up the opportunity to make a difference in the world?"

In a "job report" posted on Careerbuilder.com, Muchoney said working with Disney has been a lifelong dream. He first visited Walt Disney World as a 5-year-old, then returned as a high school student when his school marching band and chorus performed in a parade. After graduating from college, he became a high school band director and took 160 kids from Pennsylvania to play at Walt Disney World.

A big kid

Jami Pietrzyk, coordinator of children’s ministries at Ingomar Church, was thrilled when Muchoney won. "I am so excited … because now he can use his God-given gifts to share a whole lot of God's love and touch so many people's lives," she said. "It is amazing to work with someone who is so filled with the spirit! You can't help but feel the magic when he is around."

Pietrzyk said people are naturally drawn to Muchoney. "I think he connects well with kids because he has never forgotten what it is like to dream, imagine and play. He is still a big kid at heart," she said.

Muchoney connects the magic of "When You Wish Upon a Star" with the "Star of Wonder," said the Rev. Tracy Cox, associate pastor at Ingomar Church. "He has the ability to inspire people to reach for their dreams. He connects real life and the magic – and he truly believes that God is the true changer of lives."

Christian experience

Muchoney sees his job at Ingomar as a way to connect with and build up others. "Our churches, based on our belief in Christ, should be places where people see optimism, hope and endless possibilities. Once you’ve seen someone accept Christ, you know that there are no limits on what they can accomplish in life!

"On a larger scale, it is my supreme goal in life to create unforgettable experiences that draw people closer together. I aspire to build deep and meaningful relationships and to help people experience the awesome wonders life has to offer," he says.

"I try to dream up new events, experiences or even moments when the people I encounter can join together and share in a memorable, life-changing adventure. This is part of the awe and wonder of the Christian experience that I really want to see the church recapture."

Muchoney believes that, deep inside, everyone is a dreamer. "As Disney CMO, I’ll help everyone I meet remember what it feels like to believe in a dream come true."

*Campbell is a communications staff writer for the Western Pennsylvania Conference.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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