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Sara Mundy: The bravest shy person you’ll meet

Sara Mundy grew up on Shelter Island, graduated in the Class of 2009, and spent the next decade studying and living in New York. She traveled around the world for work, including a European tour with a pop band playing keyboard and vocals.

But when older sister Melissa went into labor at their parents’ home on the Island and gave birth to a son, Marshall, a day later on August 6, 2016, Sara was right there.

Having worked as a nanny for many years, Sara knew about taking care of infants. Experience with the process that connects gestation with a fully-diapered baby — that was another thing. “At first I thought it was the scariest thing I’d even seen, and then that it was amazing, Melissa is so strong,” Sara said. “I love babies, but I don’t know if that’s for me.”

She was born during Hurricane Bob, on August 20, 1991. Her father, Mike Mundy, is a captain on the South Ferry where he’s worked for almost 30 years, including on the August day when Sara’s mother, Rebecca, urgently needed to get to Southampton with the hurricane bearing down.

“She was very happy that the ferries were running,” Sara said.

The Mundys are a large, close family geographically and emotionally. Sara and Melissa were the first two of five, followed by Michael (Zack), Megan and Nathan. Rebecca has three sisters, and two of them live on Shelter Island. Mike has two brothers, one who lives here full time.

There are many cousins, and all are regarded as first in a family where no one is second or once-removed. When the clan gathers on Crescent Beach every year for the fireworks, a festivity that involves weeks of planning, at least 30 people come to a party that starts at sunrise, involves grills, and ends with the fireworks.

Sara graduated in a senior class with 21 others, at least three of whom are still on the Island, and all are expected to return for the 10-year reunion in August. “As a group we all really got along and loved each other,” Sara said. “Not too cliquey. A good size.”

Musical training started around 5th grade and included alto sax and piano lessons. She persuaded her parents to give her piano lessons by listening in on her older sister’s lessons with Uncle Pee Wee, (Alexander Mitchell) and obsessively reproducing every note until they had no choice but to arrange lessons for her, too.

Band teacher Keith Brace and chorus teacher Phyllis Power were important influences and helped Sara develop a lovely and versatile alto voice. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a music teacher, work in choral/band or if I wanted to perform,” she said. “I always loved to sing.”

She participated in the school musicals, including “Les Miserables” in the 10th grade, playing Fantine. “I loved all the songs I got to sing,” she said. “That production was really special.”

She went to The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, a two-year conservatory program in Manhattan, in October 2009 and graduated in 2011. Working as a nanny, and auditioning in New York for roles in musical theater, put Sara in an endless cycle of hope and rejection that could not be sustained. One day her roommate told her she thought Sara had the talent and temperament to perform in a band, and soon Sara was on Craigslist looking for a band that needed a new member.

“That’s how I found Starlight Girls,” she said. “It was one of the first ads I saw for a female keyboardist and back-up musician.”

She sent the band a video of herself singing “Over the Rainbow,” and soon was on Morgan Avenue in Bushwick for an audition, where everyone walking down the street seemed to be carrying a guitar. The band members came from a variety of musical backgrounds, their sound defined by the unique and specific voice of the lead singer. Sara, who loves working musically in a group, wrote and performed harmonies and played keyboard.

While continuing to work as a nanny for a supportive and flexible family, Sara toured with Starlight Girls, including to Texas for South by Southwest and a show in Budapest before an audience of 7,000 people. But Starlight Girls’ lead singer was ready to move on, and the band stopped performing together in 2016.

“I don’t regret any of that time,” said Sara. “It was mine to do whatever I wanted to do.”
She’s been back on the Island for over a year now, and began working at the Senior Center as assistant to the director a few months ago, determined to raise awareness of the many services they provide.

“The Senior Center is a special place that goes unrecognized,” she said. “Out here, if you need help, you will get help. We try to take care of everybody.”

This summer, Sara’s been singing three nights a week, mainly solo gigs at Isola and at the Halyard and Brix & Rye in Greenport. She teaches six piano students a week, in addition to working at the Senior Center five days a week.

Sara’s solo gigs show off her beautiful voice and the breadth of her repertoire — the Sara Songbook — but she has a strong preference for singing with other people. In March 2018 she and Southold native Isabel Alvarez formed the Island Bells, singing together as they have since they were kids. They’re performing on August 2 at the Winetasting fundraiser for the Senior Center, and on August 19 at Brix & Rye in Greenport.

“There is something about this place. I wanted to be here,” she said, and gestured to the mature trees that tower over the entrance to the Senior Center. “We’re sitting in a parking lot and … this is just beautiful. I felt like I needed to move to the city to have a performing career. Once I realized I could make it work and be home it all clicked for me.”

Lightning Round

What do you always have with you? A guitar pick.

Favorite place on Shelter Island? Crescent Beach.

Favorite place not on Shelter Island? Paris.

When was the last time you were elated? When Marshall was born.

What exasperates you? Rude people.

When was the last time you were afraid? I was on a flight with really bad turbulence. I was O.K. until I heard the flight attendant – who was about to retire after 30 years – say it was the worst they’d ever seen.

What is the best day of the year on Shelter Island? The day of the fireworks.

Favorite movie? ‘Arrival,’ with Amy Adams.

Favorite food? Roast chicken.

Most respected elected official? My grandfather, Alfred Kilb.