The Bicknell Family Center for the Arts is a typical venue for performances, especially by string instruments. However, the string orchestra worked all day on the Bicknell stage for String Madness.
The PSU department of music held the String Madness workshop all day on Friday, Sept. 20 at the Bicknell. The workshop featured string players from three different high schools in the Southeast Kansas area, Pittsburg High School, Independence High School, and Riverton High School. The event featured a concert showcasing the work the students had done at 5:30 p.m. in the Linda and Lee Scott Performance Hall.
Director of the Southeast Kansas Symphony at Pittsburg State and professor of violin Raúl Munguía is primarily responsible for the organization of the event.
“It’s a way to reach out to the high school kids in the area..,” Munguía said. “These kids.., they come from all different districts, different places. They don’t know each other when they get here. By the end of the day, we’ve made great relationships, telling jokes and making fun…”
Munguía also said the workshops and concert serve as a recruiting tool for Pittsburg State University as a whole, not just for the music department.
“It’s a way for us to reach out and do some service,” Munguía said. “It really helps the directors in the area as well, and the students have the opportunity to see what we offer… We’re bringing them and they see the concert hall… It really helps us market the department…”
High school students participating in the workshop arrived at 9 a.m. for the first rehearsals in which, under the direction of Munguía, the students read through music they were to perform for the concert that night. Students played in a variety of styles, including music from the Classical period, an excerpt from the Planets by Gustav Holst, and pieces in a popular music style.
“… We have freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, so we have four different levels of players, so that’s what drives the repertoire..,” Munguía said. “I talk to the teachers because they know their students better than I do and they assign the parts they should be playing…”
Munguía also said that while it is a learning experience for the students, the workshop is also for the students to enjoy themselves.
“We’re trying to have fun,” Munguía said. “We’re trying to get the kids out of the classroom doing something they love which is playing their instrument and playing the music…”
Orchestra directors from the schools also sat in on rehearsals and provided feedback to students that were having issues, including Jami Kleinert, director of orchestras at Independence USD 446.
“We really get to come together,” Kleinert said. “From our schools, we don’t have large ensembles and when we come here, the students get the chance to play with other high school kids… String Madness gives them the chance to work with other students and other teachers and build relationships that they can carry through their musical careers…”