When Wyatt Smith enrolled as a student, he had no idea that while earning his music education degree, he’d get to play his trumpet alongside such greats as Doc Severinson of Tonight Show fame, or Dave Hickman, the leading trumpet pedagogue in the world, in Pittsburg, Kansas.

It’s rare that student musicians get to rehearse with or play next to the composer of the piece they’re performing. At PSU, it happens — from the Midwest Trumpet Festival in the fall to the Four State Music Festival in the Spring.

And last year, students and faculty in the SEK Symphony Orchestra got to play original works from composers Barbara York and John Ross.

Both are known internationally, and both call McCray Hall home: York is a staff pianist, and Ross is a professor of music.

“Our students can ask the composer…what would you like to hear? What parts of this section can be played louder or softer?” said director Raul Munguia. “Very different than when you’re working on a piece by Mozart – who do you ask?”