During the fall semester, it’s a common occurrence to hear the echoes of the Wabash Cannonball drift across the southern end of campus — the epicenter located in the World War I Memorial Stadium. It’s the Pride of Wildcat Land: the Kansas State Marching Band.
It’s also a common occurrence to see a steady stream of marching band members trickling down from McCain Auditorium to Memorial Stadium, carrying instruments small and large — the tubas can weigh in excess of 30 pounds.
But the stream of marching band members may be redirected in a couple of years, as a building dedicated to the marching band is in the works, Frank Tracz, director of bands, said.
“We’re working on getting a building, really working hard on that, and that should happen,” Tracz said. “That should be a no-brainer. That should go and we’re hoping that this happens.”
Tracz said the proposed space for the building is located in the northwest corner of Memorial Stadium, next to the Purple Masque Theatre. The available space totals in at 15,000-square-feet.
“We’re closer to it than we’ve ever been — getting approval to raise money,” Tracz said. “We’re waiting for them to do a cost assessment.”
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The building would consolidate the marching band’s separate storage spaces.
“It would save so much time for us,” said John Spare, senior in mechanical engineering and tuba section leader. “It would save so much space for McCain, to have [the] space that we take dedicated to something else. It would allow us to really consolidate our program, make it better, make it more efficient. I think it’s a great idea.”
In the program
The marching band has a variety of shows in the works for this season, including a tribute to the Beatles’s album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
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“Beatles is difficult. It’s fast-paced, it’s sometimes syncopated,” Spare said. “You have to really be paying attention to what you’re playing, but when you start to play it and get through it, it’s more of a rhythm. You can know what to play, how it sounds like and just have fun playing it.”
Other shows for halftime include a salute to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a tribute to Woodstock and an Avengers medley.
During band camp last week, the marching band put in long hours to learn and rehearse the shows.
“Band camp is a 12-hour-or-more day full of music and marching and pain, but complete and total excitement getting ready for the season,” said Jenna Dominguez, sophomore in music education and piccolo player. “It sucks, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Marching through the pain
Spare and Tracz also mentioned the struggle that comes along with being part of the marching band. Spare said the tuba section may be up at 3 a.m. for breakfast to fuel up for days when a game begins at 11 a.m.
Outside of game days, the band is still a large time commitment: members may rehearse for six hours a week with the whole band and put in additional time in sections or alone.
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And halftime shows don’t happen in one day.
“It’s just a lot of effort, a lot of energy, a lot of technique and know-how and understanding of music and movement,” Tracz said. “It takes months and months of planning. This just didn’t happen this week. We started this probably in May.”
At this point in the season, one week after band camp, the focus is on the details.
“It’s memory, memorization, you have to memorize everything. It’s precision,” Tracz said. “You know, somebody asked me one time, ‘are you ever happy [with] the way the band plays and marches?’ And I said no. I mean, they’re not paying me to be happy. They’re paying me to make it better. And of course they do some wonderful things and some great performances, but I’ll look at that and pick the film apart and find some things that we need to do better.”
Band of brothers and sisters
But throughout the long hours in the hot August sun in Memorial Stadium and the early game day breakfasts, there is a strong sense of camaraderie.
“This can become your family if you let it,” Spare said.
Dominguez said being part of the marching band is like having “450 best friends on the field.”
“I just love every single solitary second of pain and hard work that goes into it,” Dominguez said. “It’s completely worth it. Everyone here wants to be here and is having a great time. Whether you’re sweating or freezing, it’s always just amazing.”
Tracz said the culture of pride and friendship within the band is something that is “unusual” but “refreshing.”
“It’s reassuring,” Tracz said. “And it certainly gives me and a lot of people a lot of hope that the world can be a better place because of these people.”
And despite the struggle that it takes to get there and get through it, on the other side of the game day is pride.
“It’s difficult, but you look back on your performance that day or in the stands and it’s like a job well done,” Spare said. “You go home, you’re tired, but you’re just smiling because you feel so good about what you did.”