SEMINOLE — Frank Del Vacchio Jr., known affectionally by those who knew and loved him as Frankie D, knew how to light up a room. 

“He was the youngest, hippest 75-year-old you would have ever met,” said Gerry Cachia, his cousin, and owner of William Clare Entertainment.

A longtime Tampa Bay musician and accomplished guitar player, Del Vacchio was known for his funk rock sound.

“He was a telecommunications company owner, but his heart belonged to music,” Cachia said.

When Del Vaccio passed away from COVID-19 in 2021, the local music community felt the loss keenly, Cachia said. 

“He played with some of the top bands throughout the Tampa Bay area and became known as one of the premiere guitar players on the circuit,” Cachia said.

His talent made it easy for those who loved him to come up with a way to remember him, and for his legacy to be felt by younger generations.

Cachia and his business partner Kelly DiRoma put their heads together and created the Frankie D. Music Scholarship Award. They reached out to Seminole High School Band Director Gerard Madrinan to help them find the perfect recipient for the award. 

He didn’t have to look far. 

Warhawk Band Captain Dela Race was the obvious choice, Madrinan said.

The 18-year-old musician plays clarinet in the school’s symphonic band and saxophone in the jazz band. She is also an accomplished drummer, singer, and she dabbles with both the guitar and piano.

Race is a bit of a dark horse, Madrinan said.

“Normally, a band captain is someone who has been in marching band for all four years, someone who has been living here for three years before they get the title,” he said. “Dela is a unique case because she did not do marching band for four years. She was only in the symphonic band and jazz band. She joined marching band in her junior year. She made such an impression on everyone. She just gets here really early, she works really hard, she’s one of the last people to leave. But the biggest reason she was selected was her ability to build relationships with people. This is high school, and so there is drama in high school. Sometimes, the flag dancers get into a fight with the drummers, sometimes the saxophones are talking about the trumpet players. She can go to every student in the program, build a relationship with them. 

“You won’t find a single person in the entire band program or the entire performing arts program that has anything bad to say about her. She’s not a leader because she is John F. Kennedy or Winston Churchill. She leads by example,” Madrinan continued.

Race said she was honored by the recognition.

“He (Madrinan) said there would be some people coming in today about an award,” she said. “Honestly, it didn’t do it justice.”

Along with a commemorative plaque, Race also received $1,000 in scholarship money that she will use to attend St. Pete College and later the University of South Florida, where she will study music education.

“And then, she’ll take my job,” Madrinan said with a laugh.

DiRoma said that after meeting the young musician, she’s even happier Race was named the first recipient of the award.

“I think she is a perfect fit,” she said. “She reminds me a lot of Frankie D. That love of being on the stage and your dedication to it your relationships definitely remind me of him.

Cachia said Del Vaccio would be so pleased someone like Race is a part of his legacy.

“If he was here, he’d give you a hard hug,” Cachia said. “We’re honored that you are the first. I hope, God willing, there will be a hundred more.”