If I were to tell you that one of the best bands in Geauga County consisted mostly of young musicians playing catchy upbeat songs, you may start to make assumptions about what kind of music they play. You probably wouldn’t guess that their musical style originated in the 1800s and is typically most popular with senior citizens.
Plenty of teens start bands; very few start polka bands. In 2003, 16 year old Jake Kouwe recruited a handful of fellow students and started a polka band after being told that there was no place for accordion in his high school’s marching band. Today, the Chardon Polka Band has established themselves as one of the area’s most popular musical groups.
The band’s lineup has undergone some changes over the course of nine years. But the style has never changed. They play polka, which has allowed them to gather a surprisingly broad range of fans. They are wildly popular at senior centers, but are just as loved at music venues and bars playing for much younger crowds. As expected, the shows that are geared at a younger audience tend to be a bit rowdier and out of the box.
Their first studio album, “Pirates, Women, and Beer”, was released in 2010 and really captures the spirit of the band. It’s a fun, sometimes humorous collection of polka splendor. The majority of the songs were written by Jake, but the album also contains their renditions of some classic polkas. The album is available on iTunes, through their website Chardon Polka Band, or in person at their shows.
As I mentioned before, polka is typically listened to by older folks. Jake Kouwe and the Chardon Polka Band have brought polka to audiences that would probably never have listened to it otherwise. They have managed to bridge the musical gap between young and old. Here’s to the Chardon Polka Band for single-handedly making polka cool in Geauga County and beyond!
Check out their video for the song “Free Beer Polka”, which was nominated for “Best New Polka” in the annual Cleveland Polka Hall of Fame Awards.
The Chardon Polka Band players:
- Jake Kouwe – accordion, vocals
- Paul Coates – tuba, bass
- Emily Burke – saxophone
- Mike Frankin – banjo, vocals
- Paul Magooch – drums