Manhattan Municipal Band creates harmonious sense of community

A trombone section performs at the Manhattan Arts Center for a charity event. (Archive Photo | Collegian Media Group)

Through sweltering practices and performances, members of the Manhattan Municipal Band, under the direction of Kansas State band director Frank Tracz and assistant directors, work hard to bring the community lively performances on Tuesdays at the Band Shell in City Park.

Since its establishment in 1920, the Manhattan Municipal Band has performed concerts for Manhattan. From Memorial Day services to concerts in conjunction with youth music camps, the band has served as a unifying force throughout its lifetime.

“There are close to 100 members in the ensemble who are community members of Manhattan and K-State students,” Alex Wimmer, assistant director, said. “Music has a way of bringing people together, despite your occupation or past experiences or what’s going on in your life, everyone can lose part of reality just for a time through playing it.”

The rich tradition, history and membership of the band creates valuable opportunities for musicians young and old throughout Manhattan.

“You work your whole life to learn a craft, and you want to be able to do that for the rest of your life, and this is an opportunity to do that,” Wimmer said.

Longtime members Janet and Dean Armstead have been playing with the Manhattan Municipal Band for 37 years. The couple were both music majors at K-State and met in 1968, the first year women were allowed in the K-State band. The two still perform together today and said they enjoy the chance to maintain their skills.

“It’s one of the few intergenerational activities that you can really enjoy,” Janet said.

Dean said he appreciates being able to relax with the band.

“It’s a great break from everyday activity,” Dean said. “It comes at a good time of the day, we finally get a chance to wind down.”

The band has a diverse group of people who come together to perform, so finding time to prepare with so many different people is difficult.

“We get one rehearsal on Monday night, so we have to be pretty efficient with our time,” Rod Manges, assistant director, said. “We play an average of 13 pieces that we’ve played in years past. But there’s new people in the band who haven’t seen it before, but we plan ahead. It’s a bit different every year.”

Manhattan Municipal Band performs on Tuesdays, leaving a very short window for practice before the show.

“[The turnaround] is fairly standard in the music community,” Wimmer said. “In this ensemble, we’re lucky to have community members who have played music their whole life. There are times where we feel pretty good going into a concert, but there are also times where it’s exciting, it’s exhilarating because the music is challenging, but that’s music, that’s life.”

For newcomers, joining the band can be difficult since there is limited time to prepare for the performances.

“This is my very first year, and I got involved because I was going to be here over the summer,” Mackenzie Webster, junior in music education, said. “Playing with the municipal band is really fun and it’s a good way to keep playing over summer, but going through all the music as quickly as we do is one of the biggest challenges.”

Their hard work does not go unappreciated. Community members come week after week, finding shady spots under trees or sitting on their favorite bench to watch the band perform.

“The way the community appreciates it is great,” Manges said. “I’ve had people approach me in the grocery store downtown and say they appreciate our concerts, and that means the world.”

Hi there! I’m Leah Zimmerli, community desk co-editor, relentless optimist, and lover of big and small dogs. I’m a junior in political science and journalism from Overland Park, Kansas. I hope to bring you pieces that challenge you, that broaden your mindset, and help you learn more about your K-State community.