Southeast Kansas Symphony at Pittsburg State University
Founded in 1915 by Walter McCray, the man for whom the music building at Pittsburg State University would be named, the Southeast Kansas Symphony at Pittsburg State University still is going strong 104 years later. With four major performances each academic year, our goal is to be an integral part of the culture of Southeast Kansas.
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2021-2022 Season

2021-22 Symphony Season | (Download pdf)
Holiday Extravaganza
Thursday, December 2, 2021, at 7:00 PM
Rising Stars
Friday, February 4, 2022, at 7:00 PM
2nd Annual Outdoor Concert
Sunday, April 10, 2022, at 5:00 PM
McCray Hall South Lawn 

Ticket Information

Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $5 for children and retired PSU employees. Current PSU students, faculty, and staff, with valid PSU ID, are entitled to free tickets. They may be picked up in person at the PSU Ticket Office or the night of the concert. All concerts are held in the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts, unless otherwise noted.

Supporters of the SEK Symphony are entitled to two free tickets for each of our regular season concerts.

Tickets are available online, over the phone, or at the door one hour in advance of each concert. Purchase them in person at the PSU Ticket Office in Room 137 of the Garfield Weede Building. 

Telephone orders must be paid using Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express. Please visit the Ticket Office website for more information.

View the Venue Seating Chart of the PSU Bicknell Family Center for the Arts.

For more inforamtion, email the PSU Music Department, call 620-235-4466, or email Raúl Munguia or call 620-235-4472.

The Concert Experience

Your First Concert

What can I expect?

Expect to have a great time! If you have never attended a live concert, you may not realize just how much fun it can be. To experience a live performance is beyond surround sound. The music may be surprisingly familiar, and to hear it live, and watch the musicians as they smile, frown, concentrate, and get caught up in what they are doing, can be a lot of fun!

Will I recognize the music?

You will be surprised at how much of the music sounds familiar, and you may have even heard some of the individual pieces before. Many of the works performed in a concert have been used in moves directly, especially older classics, and much of what you hear on screen today is based on themes or styles of standard composers. Television commercials use brief clips of classic melodies, and if you've ever watched a Bugs Bunny cartoon or the Smurfs, well, there you go.

Take Star Wars for example. John Williams is an accomplished modern day composer, but his writing style can at times sound very similar to the music of Stravinsky, Wagner, Richard Strauss, or Tschaikovsky. Can you remember the opening theme? The themes for Luke, Leia, or the "Storm Troopers"? What about the melody played to usher in the evil Darth Vader?

What should I wear?

Many people wear business casual clothing. Our Sunday afternoon concerts let you go from church, to a meal, to the concert hall. Just remember two things: come in what makes you feel comfortable because the clothing doesn't allow you to hear better — and the performers are the only ones who really have to dress up!

When do I arrive?

It's a good idea to come about 30 minutes early. You can view lobby displays, visit with friends, check your coat, and ask questions. Once seated, many people read through the program notes to get an idea of what they will hear, watch others coming in, and watch the performers as they warm up. 

When do I clap?

It's customary to hold your applause until all of the movements of a piece have been performed. This allows the audience and the performers to keep themes fresh in their mind, and prepare for changes into the next movement. When in doubt, it's okay to wait on others to clap. 

One exception is for brief applause at the end of the first movement of a concerto, which usually features a solo passage by the artist close to the end of the movement. Movements are listed in the program.

Coughs, Cameras, and Cell Phones, oh my!

These are a way of life today, but we hope you will be able to simply turn them off and enjoy the music. Those around you are there to relax and enjoy as well, so please be kind. You can guess how hard it is to pull off a wicked oboe solo with a straight face and proper embouchure when you hear a cell phone start in on the Macarena...

What's there to do at intermission?

Lots! You may re-read the program notes on the pieces you've just heard, or check the notes on upcoming works. Talk to the other audience members; some of them may be new as well and have the very same questions you do. Or, they may be veteran audience members with lots of answers for you. Don't be shy — everyone is there to learn and have fun!

Can I bring children?

The short answer is, yes, absolutely, the younger the better. After all, they are learning so much in their first years, and we would very much like to be part of it. Maybe they will be a future member of the Symphony, and here is where it starts!

Concerts can, however be a little bit too long to hold their attention. At about the age of six or seven, though, kids are beginning to show a real interest in the music. By this time, they have heard quite a few of the classics in commercials, movies and video games, and they get really excited to hear and see it live. You know what they can handle, and are the best judge. When in doubt, please choose seats toward the back of the hall next to an aisle. 

Our Children's Concerts are designed especially for children. We try to target various schools and age groups in order to expose as many children as possible to a live orchestra concert. We encourage children to get excited at these concerts and enjoy the enthusiastic reception we get!


Before The Next Concert

Check the program notes page for each concert, information is listed there as soon as possible, and is designed to give you basic information on each piece, along with links to biographical and historical background information. Listen to a public radio station, such as KRPS, offering the best in classical music, jazz and folk. And follow us on Facebook! You can find us at @SoutheastKansasSymphony.

Become a Friend of the Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra

Join us!

The best way you can help is to become a member! We welcome, and thrive on community participation. Many of our players have liberally, and literally donated decades of their lives in this endeavor. This has offered a continuity to the other performers.

Donate and Become a Sustaining Member of the Southeast Kansas Symphony.

Levels are:

  • Underwriter - $1,000 and up
  • Major Benefactor - $500 to $999
  • Special Benefactor - $250 to $499
  • Benefactor - $100 to $249
  • Special Patron - $60 to $99
  • Patron - $30 to $59

You will be entitled to:

  • Receive two tickets for each concert
  • Have your name on the program under the appropriate category
  • Be a voting member of the Symphony and attend the Annual Meeting

Make donations payable to: Friends of the Southeast Kansas Symphony. Your contribution is tax deductible to the full extent provided by law.

Southeast Kansas Symphony Endowment

Pittsburg State University and the Southeast Kansas Symphony worked together in the 1990s to establish the SEK Symphony Endowment and an account set up to ensure the Symphony's long-term financial future. For more information on how you may take part in ensuring the growth of this account, please contact the PSU Office of Major Gifts Development at 620-235-4930. Thank you for the generous contributions made to this effort so far!

Supporters of this Endowment are listed in our printed concert programs.



Meet the Orchestra

  • About the Friends of the Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra
  • History of the Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra

Board of the Friends of the Symphony

The members of the board of the Friends of the Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra for the current season are:

  • Rev. Mark Chambers, president
  • Dr. Raúl Munguía, music director & conductor
  • Mr. Richard Samford, secretary
  • Dr. Russell L. Jones, ex-officio
  • Mr. Joe Firman, BFCA Liaison & board Representative
  • Mrs. Carol Cook, board representative
  • Dr. Mickey Xun-Hartmann, board representative
  • Mrs. Jill Chambers, board representative
  • Mrs. Mary Swen Hotchkiss, board representative

Benefits and Activities

In the nearly 25 years since it's founding, the Friends have consistently worked toward their goals through various fund raising projects, by creating scholarships, providing mileage to out-of-town playing members, creating advertisement, recruiting players, etc.  Become a Friend of the Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra!

"The Friends" History

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) Schewnke, who had joined the Orchestra (cello) upon coming to the area with her husband, and 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 in 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-chairperson 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 Symphone (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 for the in the Articles of Association (by-laws). Article II, Paragraph 5, Line 3:

  • To facilitate and enhance the performance and enjoyment of the 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 activites 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 it's musical offerings to the community and the musical experience of it's playing members...


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."
1905 SEK Symphony members

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

1925 Elijah chorus-conductor Dr Walter McCray

[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."

Continue Your Concert Experience Outside the Concert Hall!

Southeast Kansas Symphony Orchestra  

Pitt State Violin/Viola Studios  

Pittsburg Chamber Music Festival  

PSU String Madness  

KRPS-FM Public Radio


For additional information, contact us or call 620-235-4466.