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SEK Symphony prepares for new orchestral season

The SEK Symphony is revving up for a brand new season of music with a new name. 

The Southeast Kansas Symphony at Pittsburg State, formerly the SEK Symphony, will present a series of concerts featuring guest artists, special celebrations, and world premieres of new music. On Oct. 17, the Symphony will invite back heldentenor and Pitt State alumnus Robert Dean Smith for an evening of operatic tenor music. Then, on Dec. 3, there will be the annual Holiday Extravaganza featuring many guest artists such as the J3 Band, the Bells of the Balkans, Rebecca Endsor, and professors of voice Patrick Howle and Lisa Gerstenkorn. The Symphony will accompany singers on stage on Feb. 14 for the PSU Opera Theatre’s production of “Cosi fan tutte.” There will also be a new music concert featuring music composed by living composers and even the Kansas premiere of “WubWubWub” for violin, clarinet, and orchestra. Finally, the Symphony will close their 2019-2020 season with a children’s concert, dedicated to educating young people about the symphony orchestra. 

“Every year I say this, ‘This is the most exciting season yet,’ but this time I really mean it…” said Raul Munguia, professor of violin and director of the Symphony. “For me, the orchestra just keeps going up and up and up…” 

The Symphony will also perform at the Kansas Music Educators’ Association (KMEA) conference on Feb. 28. The orchestra was selected by a blind audition committee and according to Munguia, it’s an “amazing opportunity.” 

“The fact we are going to be playing at the KMEA conference, that says a lot..,” Munguia said. “I’m really excited about it, because I’m so proud of the orchestra…” 

In conjunction with their season opener, the Symphony will also travel to Kansas City and play at the Kauffman Center. 

“He (Robert Dean Smith) has become one of the most go-to performers in the world,” Munguia said. “He’s always performing with the best orchestras…” 

Smith attended Pitt State for his bachelor’s, Julliard for his master’s and began singing all over the world shortly thereafter. 

The Oct. 17 concert will take place during Homecoming Week, which Munguia said he wanted to hold a “theme concert” with Smith “coming home” again. 

“This is an initiative by the symphony board to promote the ensemble in the region,” Munguia said. “The SEK Symphony has the status of a regional ensemble. That’s why we’re not called the Pitt State Orchestra or the Gorilla Orchestra… In my seven years here, we’ve been to Missouri, we’ve been to Oklahoma and now, we’re going back to Missouri… Kansas City is a great cultural city, lots of the arts there.” 

Munguia also said that the Symphony’s season serves as a recruiting tool for Pittsburg State as well. 

“It’s an opportunity for us to show the orchestra to high school age kids,” Munguia said. “I’m doing a lot of that. I’m promoting the concert with the school teachers that I visit and providing comp tickets to them and I hope that these kids will consider Pitt State in the future not because somebody gave them a brochure, but because they came to a concert and saw a world class performance.” 

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