Through: D. Scott Fritchen
Dr Frank Tracz sits in a chair which faces a large Bill Snyder painting across the room in the corner suite on the fifth floor at Bill Snyder Family stage. Tracz, who since 1993 has been a Kansas State Music Teacher and Band Manager, tells the story of his favorite legendary football coach.
“I remember one time we lost in a big rainstorm and Coach Snyder came over to the group while we were playing the fight song as the team ran off the pitch,” said Tracz. “My assistant grabbed my shirt and said, ‘The coach is coming over here. “I thought, ‘Uh-oh, what have we done?” He came over and thanked us for being here. He said, “We’re going to be better prepared next week. Stay with us. “I said,” Coach, did you hear the band today? We stank too. We’re going to train hard and we’ll be back next week. ”He laughed, hugged and sent the group kisses.
“Coach Snyder is the reason. I was in the Ohio State squad when Woody Hayes was there. I remember that kind of dedication. When Snyder arrived he set the tone for everyone. I learned a lot from him. Which football coach comes in and shakes hands with the group director? There is a sincerity that is unusual. His famous tilted purple notes from the left hand that we get all the time? We have them framed and now they’re faded. But what I mean is this stuff goes the tone of it all. I give Coach Snyder 98% credit for this group. He won games football, the kids wanted to be here and we had fun in the stands. “
“And now we get a house, a building for the band. I can’t put it in words. It’s amazing.”
On December 15, the Kansas Board of Regents approved K-State’s request to name its new music hall “Tracz Family Band Hall,” made possible by a donation from Ward and Brenda Morgan, who supported a variety of programs. at K-State. in track and field at the McCain Auditorium at the College of Business Administration. Ward graduated from K-State in 1993 with a management degree. The love for the K-State Marching Band inspired the Morgans, who live in Manhattan, to donate to the Music Hall project and name the Music Hall, which will be located on the northwest side of Memorial Stadium.
Morgan’s donation, along with other philanthropic backers, will fund the renovation, which is expected to begin in spring 2022 and be completed by the end of the year.
“We had a lunch with the Morgans and then I gave them a tour of the facility,” Tracz said. “That’s when they told me they were going to do this. I gave Brenda a hug and said, ‘Morgan Band Hall is going to be the best building on campus. We are. let’s take care of it. ‘ She said, ‘That’s not the name we want to give her.’ When someone tells you that, you don’t know how to react. They put your name on a building for screaming out loud. I still can’t catch it. Probably when I see him, he’ll knock on the house . In time, I gave her a hug and didn’t know what to say. How do I say thank you to something like that? “
Since Tracz arrived at K-State in 1993, the pride of Wildcat Land, the marching band has grown steadily to include 400 members, including classic cats, color guards, twirlers, a drum line, cat groups, a volleyball group and a pub crawl group. The Pride represents K-State, the city and community of Manhattan, and the state of Kansas each year at home games, parades and festivals, as well as alumni, charity and community events.
More recently, Pride received the 2015 Sudler Trophy, the most prestigious award for a university band, which recognizes excellence and innovation. The Sudler Trophy is awarded to a single college group every two years.
In 2016, Wabash Cannonball was recognized by ESPN as the greatest pre-game tradition in the Big 12.
Pride is scheduled to leave Manhattan at midnight on January 2 and arrive in Houston around 3 p.m. It will make its presence felt at the TaxAct Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium, like so many bowl games before.
“I tell the children that you are going to have an experience that you are going to love and hate, you are going to sweat and freeze, you are going to be in pain, be happy and sad, but when it’s over you will miss it”, said Tracz. “I tell rookies all the time, ‘These will be the best years of your life.’
“It’s a success story just like football that needs to be told. With the new building people are really realizing what we have. It’s a very good program. My goal here is to keep it that way. The new one. building is another. a solid pillar for the program. “
Another important friend of Pride of Wildcat Land was famous alum Eric Stonestreet, who graduated from K-State in 1996, won two Emmy Awards as best supporting actor in a comedy series for his role as Cam on Modern Family, and who walked into K-State Campus to surprise the marching band with their Christmas present – a large custom van truck – on December 23, 2017.
“Eric Stonestreet’s truck is loading as we talk,” Tracz said, pointing the football field at the polished silver and purple truck with the words “The Pride of Wildcat Land” written on it as it spoke. a large gold trophy on the back reads “2015-2016 SUDLER TROPHY”.
“Eric is a great fan of the band,” Tracz says. “I met Eric when he was a waiter at Applebee’s many years ago. He told me he was a drummer. Anyway, he became a big band fan. He was coming back to play with it. the drums section. After we played a winter game, we didn’t have an overcoat so we were frozen, and he called that night and said, “Where are your overcoats?” I said. : ‘We don’t have the budget for this.’ He made a big donation with the chairman and now we have winter coats. A year later he called in January and said, “How’s your Cat Band drums?” He gave us a new drum set. DW, which is the Rolls Royce of rock and roll drums.
“Then one game, just as the stadium (renovation) was done, Eric was there and said, ‘Why did you bring that ugly yellow truck to this beautiful stadium? He told me to design a truck and two weeks later Eric came with his mom and dad and drove the truck with a police escort to All Faiths Chapel at 11pm before leaving at midnight for the ball game. tape truck and then I saw that it was Eric driving the truck. She’s an amazing person. So this is the Stonestreet Truck. This is what we call it. We even call the coats Stonestreets. “
Tracz pauses again.
“It’s an incredible story,” he says. “Amazing things are happening here that are not happening anywhere else.”
A music room was apparently the only ingredient missing. A brochure titled “A New Home for the Pride of Wildcat Land” is a quick eight-page introduction to what will become their new world. K-State is currently the only homeless Power Five conference school designated for the marching band. There is no place for the group to rehearse, store equipment, and prepare for performances. Instruments, uniforms and other materials are scattered in several buildings around the campus. The renovation of the northwest side of Memorial Stadium will bring the group together in one location, providing members with a safe home that will save them time and money.
The group room will include offices for group staff, an indoor rehearsal area for the group, stylish cats, color guards and twirls, a location for equipment, instruments and uniforms, and then members of the group will be able to go directly outside and rehearse on the grounds of Memorial Stadium.
“Over the past year, I’ve learned about the effect we’ve had on some people and some institutions, and you don’t think about it,” Tracz says. “When I got here in 1993, I didn’t think I would last a year. I was coming home from soccer games on Saturday and my wife wanted to unpack the boxes on Sunday. I told her to wait. I was’ It was difficult. like any start, but i always had a really good work ethic and i’m the guy who thinks if we lose 21 points with 4 minutes left we’re still gonna win the game. hope.
“I learned that the things I grew up with, hard work and persistence, pay off. I also learned a lot about people. I also learned how to raise funds and how to recruit. learned how to set up systems and how to be organized, efficient and keep squeezing the onion until there is no more blood in it. I learned how to get the most out of things. J learned that success comes through hard work and persistence. I learned a lot from the people here, Snyder being one and Jon Wefald being another. I learned that there are a ton of good people here and people who care and notice what we are doing.
“I learned about the family. You spend a lot of time here. My family understood and respected it. We sacrificed a lot. Or that we have been at home as a family. It’s not whining or complaining It’s just factual It’s a sacrifice.
“We all make decisions, and it was worth it to see this thing through.”
The Tracz family will not be reunited this Christmas in order to be cautious of the threat of COVID. Frank and Geralyn will stay in Manhattan. Jessica, a former marching band star twirler, is married to one-year-old Caden and lives in Kansas City, and Carly, who played bass in the Cat Band, is married and also lives in Kansas City. Kelley lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is an oboe professor at Concordia University and plays in an orchestra.
“My son-in-law had COVID the day before Caden was born,” Tracz says. “He didn’t see his son until two weeks later. They’re very careful, so we’re all.”
“Right now I’m doing a ton. There are a lot of building donors across the state. I’m going to take a tour and see them. We had a banquet a few weeks ago with donors there- down. We gave them some pictures. Our group members spelled out the names of every donor on the football field. Some of those donors couldn’t make it to the banquet, so I’m going to go downstairs and give them their pictures and some hugs and say thank you.
“I mean, I can’t believe people did this for us.”
If there is one photograph that is dear to Tracz’s heart, it is one that Snyder used in his new autobiography. Snyder stands outside the steps of the Vanier Family Football Complex in December 2018. He is rocked by members of the marching band. They are joined by the Classy Cats, the Cheerleaders and the Color Guard. Three tuba bells spell out “WE” “LOVE” “YOU”. The fanfare spills over into the parking lot.
“I surprised him,” Tracz says. “I walked into his office that day and he said, ‘Young man, what are you doing? I said, ‘Coach, you have to put on your jacket and come with me.’ He came out and I said, ‘Coach, there are people who want to say goodbye to you.’ The whole group was there and played. It was the least we could do.
Rising from his chair in the fifth-floor corner suite inside the stadium where it all began, Tracz walks over to a counter, unrolls the paper from a clear glass mug, and presents it to a visitor. . The cup features a miniature design of the northwest side of Memorial Stadium.
The mug reads, “Welcome Home.”