Assembling an Ensemble: Manhattan’s first community symphony to perform in May


Manhattan did not have a community symphony until Rachel Dirks, director of orchestra studies, decided she would remedy this issue by creating the Manhattan Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Bell, graduate student in music, said.

“[The symphony] started this semester within our advanced conducting group of myself, a few other graduate students and Dr. Dirks,” Bell said. “It started as a class project, and it turned into a reality.”

Dirks said she wanted to create a space where Manhattan musicians of all ages could get together and explore their love of music.

“We began by developing our vision for the ensemble: a true community orchestra for musicians from K-State and the greater Manhattan communities,” Dirks said.

From there, Dirks said she and a group of graduate students, including Russell Clark, graduate student in music education, began working on recruitment.

“We have created a website, an Instagram and a Facebook page,” Clark said. “We are up to 35 musicians already, which is fantastic.”

The Manhattan Symphony Orchestra accepts anyone regardless of musical ability, Dirks said.

“There is no audition, but we do ask for a recorded performance to gauge musical ability, so we know where to place you within the orchestra,” Dirks said.

Bell said the symphony’s purpose is twofold. 

“One, to create a space where people in the community can play and perform in a low-pressure, fun environment,” Bell said. “And two, to provide music to the community.”

The orchestra will hold its first performance, “A Night at the Movies”, at 7 p.m. on May 21. 

“The next step is for us to really solidify a space for performance,” Clark said. “We are thinking about having our performance on the Anderson Hall lawn if we can get that snagged.”

Clark said he believes people in Manhattan are ready to support the musical community.

“I moved here from Lawrence, and the community there really supports local art,” Clark said. “Coming out here, I was curious to see how that would translate, and there’s good support of it here, too.”

Bell said he believes the arts are an important part of any community.

“In a sense, a person puts all their experiences into making something, and another person draws on their experiences in perceiving that,” Bell said. “I think the arts connects people.”

If you are interested in joining the Manhattan Symphony Orchestra, visit its website at