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The Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra
Raul Munguia - Artistic Director & Conductor

Common Questions

SEKSO Music Library:

The Fine & Performing Arts Center, scheduled to open Fall 2014

About the Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra


"The Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra has developed from humble beginnings. Originally organized in 1915, establishing the "College Orchestra" was Professor Walter McCray's first project.

"Miss Winona McLatchey directed the orchestra for the first two years with aproximatley twelve musicians under her direction. Miss McLatchey was a graduate of the Washburn music department and had continued her studies at Columbia university.

"The next two years saw the orchestra double in size under the direction of Miss Gabriella Campbell, a music graduate from the Teachers college at Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

"Professor McCray began directing the Orchestra in 1920 and by March 1929 (when McCray Hall was dedicated) the number of musicians had risen to 35. The Orchestra played at college assemblies and special events and a number of the players also took part in the 'Festival Orchestra'. Rehearsals were held twice a week."

The Collegio, March 28, 1929.
"McCray Organizes College Orchestra"

"The first public appearance of the Normal School orchestra was on April 28, 1905. The men's glee club was organized in the Fall of 1905. The band was organized in October 1909. Bawden also notes the first school song was adopted January 23, 1904. Not "Gold and Crimson," but probably a fight song for athletics.

"The following is a photo of what is identified as the first school orchestra, 1905. The faculty leader is Edwin A. Shepardson, one of the original five members of the faculty. Shepardson had charge of the "academic" subjects in 1903. Later, he became head of the mathematics department.

"C. Guy Hoover, the first director of the music department, came to the school in September 1908."

One of the earliest Normal School musical groups - 1905

A History of the Kansas State Teachers College of Pittsburg, 1903-1941, by William T. Bawden

The Festival Orchestra & Chorus

"The Festival Orchestra was organized in the fall of 1914 to accompany the Festival Chorus in the first presentation of Handel's Messiah. This organization now has a complete symphony instrumentation and the past year has appeared in all the leading cities of southeastern Kansas in a symphony program. It serves not only as a laboratory for our conducting and orchestration classes but gives the students an opportunity to play and study the best in music."

The Kanza,
1930. p. 186

"The Festival Chorus was organized in October, 1914, and has appeared as a part of the Spring Music Festival every year, singing the choral works of the great masters. In the fifteen years of existence of the chorus more than twenty of the great choral works have been sung. This organization has been a great factor in developing and bringing to the student body the best in music, and not only the student body has profited by this organization but its influence has extended over this state and surrounding states."

The Kanza,
1930. p. 187

McCray conducting the Orchestra and Choir, 1925

[note from back of photograph]

"The 1925 Elijah chorus. Conducting is Dr. Walter McCray.

Other participants in the Festival presentation include John J. Richards (first trumpet at extreme right of photograph), who was band master for Ringling Bros. Circus for many years; Rhetia Hesselberg (the University's violin teacher and concert mistress); and Gabriella Campbell (ninth from left in second row of women) who taught chorus at the University for many years. Marjorie Jackson is at the organ, lower left."

The Symphony Web Site

We hope to make your experience on the Symphony web site as enjoyable as possible. An effort has been made to separate content from style, so future updates will be smoother. Several new features have been adopted to ensure that the site is accessible, as well as interesting:

  • Extensive use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
  • An alternate Style Sheet that is a simpler, black on white approach.
  • Printed versions of each page are less complex, and uses the full width of the page.

Not only do we try to inform our visitors about upcoming concerts, we also like to present our them with a full range of educational Web resources. New music students, instructors, and seasoned musicians alike will find links to information supporting their interests.

Our companion blog site is designed primarily for our musicians, with up to the minute rehearsal schedules and tidbits targeted at players on a performance level. We do try to sneak in a bit of humor from time to time to see if anyone is paying attention. You may find something of interest there as well.

If you use browser toolbars, such as the Google Toolbar, you may be interested in downloading our Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra Toolbar. There are some standard links, such as our Current Season page, Musicians, Resources, and Archives. Another interesting feature is a RSS feed from the blog, and an online radio built in, so you could listen to a variety of classical music stations while you browse. Please give it a try and let us know what you think!

And, as always, if there are other suggestions you would like to make, please feel free to contact us using one of the methods at the bottom of this page.

Friends of the SEK Symphony

The Friends of the SEK Symphony was founded in the Spring of 1983 as a support group whose main function was to raise funds to augment those supplied by the State, and to attract attention to the orchestra in various venues. The primary movers and shakers were Carolann Martin, director of the Orchestra from 1977 to 2001, and Becky (Leota) Schwenke, who had joined the Orchestra (cello) upon coming to the area with her husband, the Rev. John Schwenke. Becky had been one of the founders and leaders of a similar group in the Chicago area where she and John lived prior to coming to Pittsburg in 1970.

By June of that year, a set of by-laws (approved by the membership and the University administration) had been adopted and the first slate of officers were put forward. Those nominated (and subsequently elected) were:

  • Rev. John Schwenke - President
  • Mrs. Eric Palo - Vice-President and Membership Chairperson
  • Dr. Milliard Laing - Treasurer
  • Linda Vollen - Secretary

Mrs. Allen Apier and Mrs. David Lane, co-chairpersons of the advertising campaign, were reported in a June 9, 1983 letter to the membership, as already busy working.

In the invitation to join the Friends of the Southeast Kansas Symphony (Summer, 1983), the founders listed the purpose and goals of the group:

  1. To provide more outstanding and varied soloists to play with the symphony.
  2. To attract more member players from other communities by offering remuneration for their transportation.
  3. To provide more attractive programs.
  4. To stimulate interest by the distribution of a brochure giving information about the concert season and sustaining memberships.
  5. To provide more attractive posters to advertise concerts.
  6. To support the Mid-America Youth Symphony so that young musicians who are advancing in the string program of our public schools will have another outlet for their talents.

This list was expanded as it was transformed into the official PURPOSES set forth in the ARTICLES OF ASSOCIATION (By-laws). Article II, Paragraph 5, Line 3:

  • To facilitate and enhance the performance and enjoyment of symphonic music as an integral part of the cultural environment of this geographical region.
  • To promote knowledge of, and interest in, the Symphony among the residents of the Pittsburg community and the larger Southeast Kansas-Southwest Missouri-Northwest Oklahoma area - to the end that an increasing number of community residents will participate in the life of the Symphony's listening audience, playing members, and members of this Association.
  • To serve as a channel of communication between:
    • The Community and the Symphony -in matters that will enhance the appeal of the Symphony to the Community, and the response of the Community to the Symphony - such as programming, time and place of the concerts, new activities to be undertaken, etc.
    • The Community and the University -in matters that will enhance their mutual efforts in behalf of the Symphony, its growth and development and excellence.
  • To assist with the details of management of the Symphony's operation in consultation with the Director of the Symphony.
  • To join with the University in mutual efforts to provide funding for the Symphony that will enable it to grow and develop, and enhance the richness and excellence of its musical offerings to the community and the musical experience of its playing members...

In the nearly 25 years since its founding, the Friends have consistently worked toward these goals through various fund raising projects, by creating scholarships, providing mileage to out-of-town playing members, creating advertisement, recruiting players, etc. For a list of current Friends board members, see our current Concert Season page.