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Dr. Jesse Henkensiefken, guest conductor, conducts a few different pieces during the PSU Chamber Orchestra preformance. Henkensiefken currently is Kansas Wesleyan University’s director of orchestras. Logan Wiley

PSU strings present solo strings concert

The PSU High String and Low String studios combined for a concert entitled “No Strings Attached.” 

Under the direction of Raul Munguia, professor of violin and viola, and Sunnat Ibrahim, professor of cello and double bass, students taking lessons in violin, viola, cello, and double bass and community members performed a concert featuring a variety of string only repertoire at the Sharon Kay Dean Recital Hall. The students and community members also play as the string section of the Southeast Kansas (SEK) Symphony Orchestra, which, in contrast to this concert, includes woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. 

“I’m at a moment right now where all my students are making progress,” Munguia said. “That’s one of the hardest things for a conductor is to program music for students that are very young and for students who (are) in graduate school… It’s a little tricky to find that middle point.” 

During the concert, the PSU Chamber Orchestra performed music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, Piotr Tchaikovsky, Carlos Maria Varela, and Edward Elgar, in varying combinations of players. 

“One of the challenges (about chamber strings versus a full orchestra) is my attention is all on them,” Mungia said. “When I have the full orchestra, my attention is to the woodwinds, the brass… the percussion. They feel concentrated on the whole time.” 

Munguia also said that his studio of violin and viola students has grown and each of his students has shown “commitment to the pursuit of excellence.” 

“It’s demanding, and you have to be on top of your game every rehearsal,” Munguia said. “That’s the challenge for them. For me, it’s to do as much as possible in one rehearsal.” 

The concert also featured a special guest in the form of Jesse Henkensiefken, professor of music at Kansas Wesleyan University. Henkensiefken conducted the program after an unconducted performance of the Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. 

“One of the biggest learning experiences is to have somebody else in front,” Munguia said. “He says the things I’m saying… It’s really nice for them (the students) to have that opportunity – and every musician should have that opportunity – to have a guest conductor, a guest speaker, a guest performer because music is music… and it’s nice for them to experience that.” 

The performance of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 was originally planned to feature Munguia on one of the solo violin parts but due to the weather on Friday, he had to make a last-minute switch to viola and asked his student Bryan Amor, junior in violin performance, to step in. 

“Showtime was 7:30 (p.m.), and it was around 5:30 (when) I felt my phone vibrate…” Amor said. “Someone had to step in, and it was me.” 

Amor also said that this was one of the first string only programs at PSU in a while. 

“I was very excited to we were going to finally put together a string program…” Amor said. 

Amor said that the experience of working with a guest conductor was “really interesting.” 

“There’s a different approach to patterns, gestures, cues (with a guest conductor), and the overall feeling of it… Dr. Munguia is very articulate with his beat pattern… we got to experience something more… especially with the reduced orchestra…. there’s a vast world of string-only repertoire.” 

Amor added that he encourages students who have never come to a chamber strings concert or an SEK Symphony concert to attend ones in the future, and that they’re “missing out.” The next SEK Symphony concert will be on Sunday, March 3 at 3 p.m. and will feature the music of Leonard Bernstein.  

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