Behind the K-State bands is a man who has been instructing students at the university for 14 years. Now, that same man is nationally recognized for his contributions to music education.
The National Association for Music Education chose Frank Tracz, director of bands and professor of music, as one of 10 music educators in the nation to receive the Lowell Mason Fellows award for 2006.
“I’m very fortunate to get this,” Tracz said. “There are a lot of great people on that list. I’m not sure I belong there, but it’s pretty cool.”
According to the NAME Web site, the Lowell Mason Fellows program awards music educators in honor of Lowell Mason “for introducing music instruction to American public schools and establishing teacher training in music education.”
Anthony Pursell, assistant director of bands and assistant professor of music, said the award is like the Music Educators Hall of Fame.
“He is very deserving of this award,” he said.
Pursell described Tracz as aggressive and demanding but also said he is sincere and nurturing. He said he often tells students that while Tracz will demand a lot from them, he always gives twice as much of himself in return.
“He is by far the most personable and accessible professor on this campus,” he said. “Dr. Tracz is very collegial with other faculty members and will go out of his way to help, even if he is out of his comfort zone.”
Tracz said he has been teaching music education for about 30 years, and he has taught at all levels of education.
“I like the music aspect of it,” he said. “In high school, I had the dreams that a lot of kids do. I wanted to be a rock-‘n’-roll star. I wanted to be a drummer for the rock group Chicago.”
However, Tracz said he decided he liked music and teaching, so he put the two together and made a career out of it.
“I tell people this all of the time, but what I do for a living beats the heck out of working for a living. No question,” he said.
Tracz said he started his career in music education because he wanted to be a high-school band director, and at the time, he did not think he ever would be at the university level directing bands.
“It’s just one thing leads to another and opportunities present themselves,” he said. “You get a little lucky sometimes, and then all of a sudden you’re there. This is a premier job for me.”
Tracz said he has stayed at K-State because he likes the atmosphere created through the faculty, administration, staff and students.
“I’m a blue-collared kid from Cleveland, Ohio, and I like blue-collar people,” he said. “I like people who get up early in the morning, get the job done, work hard and live hard. And that’s what these people are all about here. They’re sincere, and they’re a good crop of people that are going to change the world and affect things in a positive fashion.”
Tracz also credits his tenure to President Jon Wefald.
“We all want to work for somebody that’s going to explain what needs to be done, support you and give you what you need to make it happen, and then let you do it,” he said.
After being involved with K-State’s music program for many years, Tracz said he has seen several changes.
“With the music department in general, I think the times have changed,” he said. “I think students have changed, and there’s a big turnover in faculty. There have always been good people here, but there’s some outstanding faculty here now that are attracting students.”
Tracz said the bands have changed because of what he calls the Bill Snyder syndrome.
“It’s a lot easier to recruit for a band when you know the band is going to go to a football game and they’re going to be respected, and they’re going to be liked and people are going to cheer for them and respond to them,” he said. “It’s a heck of a lot easier recruiting for those types of groups.”
Brad Regier, junior in music education, said Tracz has been his director for both marching and symphonic bands, as well as an instructor.
“I think he is one of the best motivators that I’ve ever been around,” he said. “He is extremely well organized as a professor, and he just knows how to get the best out of students that he’s around and that he conducts.”
Tracz said he has many favorite memories from his years at K-State, but he attributes his most memorable to a tour the band did last year in the South Pacific, where they played in countries including Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.