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Lisa Gerstenkorn, voice instructor at music, sings some Fleetwood Mac for an engaged crowd. The SEK Symphony Orchestra played alongside local bands to play rock and roll. Robert Bustamante

Kansas Crossing Casino hosts ‘Rock to Bach’

An orchestra is often associated with symphony halls and black tie-events and can take music to the next level. 

The Kansas Crossing Casino, the Southeast Kansas (SEK) Symphony, and local rock bands, J3 and The Momma’s Boyz, came together to present Rock to Bach, March 29th and 30th, at The Corral located inside the casino. The concert showcased local talent backed up by a classical symphony orchestra. Directed by Raul Munguia, PSU professor of music, the concert featured a wide variety of classic rock ballads including “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin; “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd; “Rhiannon,” by Fleetwood Mac. 

“The GM had a crazy idea…to bring symphony and rock and roll together…” said Ryan Stewart, marketing director for Kansas Crossing Casino.  “…what better way to get Pitt State and the community involved than to bring the regional symphony together with Kansas Crossing?” 

This was the first collaboration between the SEK Symphony and Kansas Crossing Casino. Munguia said Doug Fisher, general manager of Kansas Crossing Casino, contacted him with the idea for the project last February.   

“I happily accepted…because I always strive to bring new people to the concert,” Munguia said. “This is something completely new for us. We’ve never performed here in Pittsburg with another organization outside the university,” he said. “Pitt State is actually the home of the SEK Symphony Orchestra, and we perform in a very classical style… but once in a while, we have fun, and this was one of those events.” 

Munguia reached out to students and local artists to join the collaboration. Two of those were Pitt State Gorillas, James and Andrew OrtolaniJamesan alumnus in fine arts, and his son Andrew, a sophomore in music and biology, are members of the rock band J3.  

“When the project was proposed to do a rock concert, the first band I thought of was a band that performs rock on a weekly basis,” Munguia said. “So (I called) J3 and some (guests).” 

The SEK Symphony and J3 had joined together on the PSU campus two years ago for the Christmas Extravaganza.    

“Then about a month ago (Munguia) said, ‘would you guys like to do it again at Kansas Crossing Casino?’” James said. “…and, of course we (were) thrilled to be a part of it.”  

Munguia said it was a great opportunity to attract an audience that might otherwise not be exposed to the diversity of the orchestra. 

“The idea behind it is a lot of people think that classical music is boring, that a symphony orchestra is boring… and you know I try to prove them wrong,” Munguia said. “I tell them that orchestra is actually fun, it’s actually entertaining, and you won’t go to a concert to sleep. You always go to have an experience. I always try to do that with the audiencehave an experience through music. 

Andrew added that he enjoyed the concert despite the nonstandard format for the performance. 

 “I think it went fantastic,” Andrew said. “You could see everybody enjoying themselves, tapping their feet, singing along… I know it’s an unusual concept for a concert, but nonetheless I think it went fantastic, and everybody enjoyed it. 

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