Professor of music and conductor of the Southeast Kansas (SEK) Symphony Raúl Munguia conducted a three-day orchestral workshop for his native nation of Honduras.
Munguia’s workshop, taking place Jan. 3 to Jan. 5, was the first of its kind, and for the people of Honduras, an altogether unique experience, as the country currently has no advanced conducting curriculum at any of its institutions of higher learning. The workshop focused specifically on orchestral conducting, and even featured a live orchestra for the students in the workshop to work with and to get practical experience.
“Getting a degree in conducting in Honduras at this moment is impossible,” Munguia said. “There is no program that trains or educates students to be conductors. That’s the reason I decided to open this… to the musical community of Honduras.”
Munguia, as a native of Honduras, understands the musical and academic infrastructure of the country, and was trained as violinist before coming to the United States to continue his education.
“This is a kind of workshop that takes place all over the world, but in Honduras, it was not done.” Munguia said. “Every time I go back, students ask me if we can have a private lesson, if we can talk about conducting gestures, things that every conductor has to know. Because of that, I decided to do this event.”
Munguia said that he sees a lot of himself in the students he worked with during the workshop.
“It’s amazing. It’s so rewarding… I started because there was a need in one of the conservatories that I was teaching violin at… and I decided, ‘Well, I’ll do it.’ Sometimes to get that experience, you just have to jump in.” Munguia said.
Munguia has conducted the SEK Symphony for nearly six years and has performed a variety of repertoire with the orchestra.
“We ignore the vast training that a conductor needs to have. Even in the professional world, conductors don’t become conductors until they twenty to thirty years and these are conducting professionals.” Munguia added. “It’s about the knowledge you need of the repertoire and the knowledge that you need to have when you’re in front of professional musicians.”
Munguia was really impressed with the eagerness to learn by the students in the workshop.
“For me, going back and sharing my knowledge, it’s amazing because… they are like sponges. They write down everything I say.” Munguia said.
Munguia focused primarily on chamber music for string orchestra, including Antonin Dvorak’s “Serenade for Strings.” Some of the repertoire, Munguia said, the musicians had never experienced before.
“That’s the beauty of it. I have an expectation, they have an expectation, but we don’t know what we’re going to get from each other.” Munguia said. “We had time to mingle and have fun. Even the hotel where we stayed was a chocolate producer. It was a win-win for everyone. It’s all about discovery.”
Munguia said he viewed workshops like this as potential recruitment for Pittsburg State.
“I had a couple of people interested in coming to the (United States)… they asked me about the application process, what we offer as a (music department), and what they could get from it. Recruiting is always my main purpose.”
Munguia plans to host another workshop like this one in 2020 and also added the possibility of a conducting workshop hosted by Pittsburg State for local teachers, and musicians.