Editor’s note: We credited the wrong author in the original online article. The correct author, Sophie Lenkiewicz, is now correctly credited as the author. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.
It’s another night of marching band rehearsal and an assortment of band members rush to gather on Memorial Field. Daniel Smith, drum major of the band, said he watches as everyone finds their place, but in the distance a few stragglers arrive late, instruments in hand, out of breath after their trek from McCain Auditorium.
This scenario is one Kansas State University Marching Band members are all too familiar with, Smith said. According to K-State’s website for updates on the new band hall, K-State is the only school out of all 65 Power Five universities to not have a designated building for its band.
The lack of a designated building means the marching band currently uses McCain to store its equipment, Smith said. The band is also challenged with hosting up to 15 different sectional practices every week with only two available rehearsal spaces in McCain.
With the band reaching 400 members this year, Frank Tracz, director of the band, said there is a need for a larger facility.
“We were in McCain when I first started 30 years ago. The band was small enough that it could fit in there back then,” Tracz said. “By probably my third year here I realized the band was outgrowing McCain, so it’s been a long time since I started talking about a new facility.”
Because of director Tracz’s work and the contributions of several donors, the K-State marching band will welcome a new home later this year according to K-State’s website. The Tracz Family Band Hall is expected to be finished by the end of April 2023, Tracz said.
The new band hall will feature instrument and uniform storage, truck loading zones for traveling, a new rehearsal space for the band and Classy Cats, offices and other amenities. It is also located right next to the band’s practice field, Tracz said, something that will save the band time and money.
Erin Flax, clarinet player in the marching band, didn’t anticipate the inconvenience of not having a place to call home when she entered the program as a freshman.
“I expected a collegiate marching band to have a more sophisticated facility that could house its needs better. Not having that was a surprise to me,” Flax said. “But now there will be physical representation of the appreciation the band gets from the community. It feels great to get that recognition by finally having a space to call home.”
“It’s hard to understand. Everyone sees the band and says ‘well it’s there,’ but there is a lot that happens behind the scenes. It’s been a challenge,” Tracz said. “Now we will be able to spend more time on other things, and we’ll fill every minute.”
Founded in 1887, the K-State marching band turns 136 years old this year, and Smith said he believes it is about time the band claims a permanent home on campus.
“The band is becoming more recognized, and people are noticing the growth of the marching band and how big of an impact we have on the university. Now is a good time to see the band have a place to call home,” Smith, senior in music education, said.
Even without a designated band building, Smith said he believes the K-State band has reached these new levels of success through a shared vision.
“What we don’t have in facilities, we make up for in a sense of pride and community,” Smith said. “We all love K-State, we all love the game day atmosphere and we love to see each other succeed. It is something that is unique to us.”
While the new band building highlights the accomplishments of the band, Flax said she thinks it also serves as a reminder that up until now, the need for a band building has been left unaddressed.
“I feel like the music department has not always been prioritized,” Flax said. “I think we lack a lot of funding to make things like this happen. We just haven’t had the resources in the past.”
Despite this, the K-State band continues to play on, Tracz said, catching the attention of people across the state. Director Tracz said he traveled across Kansas to raise over $5 million for the new facility.
“There’s a lot of band alumni donors, but there’s also people who weren’t involved with the band in the past who were just K-State fans that have seen the band and wanted to support us,” Tracz said.
The building of the Tracz Family Band Hall marks both the influence of the band, and the contribution of donors, Smith said. He hopes that the marching band will continue to serve the K-State community.
“The donations really put into perspective how many people care about us and rely on us to give them a good K-State experience,” Smith said. “We want to continue to grow for them because they are the reason why we are here.”