By: BOB SHIREK
Imagine a beautiful summer evening. You’re with your favorite friends & family, sitting in lawn chairs or laying on a soft blanket in a beautiful setting of hills and trees, sipping a soda, eating a hot dog, potato chips or ice cream…and enjoying the music of one of Fond du Lac’s favorite local bands.
Imagination is one thing, but this is real. It’s again time to grab your lawn chairs or blankets and head for Buttermilk Creek Park for those fabulous Monday evening “Music Under The Stars” band concerts.
“Music Under The Stars” is a series of concerts scheduled every Monday evening at the Buttermilk Performance Center, beginning Monday, June 16, and ending on August 18. Each week features a different band from the Fond du Lac or beyond. All concerts run from 7:00 – 8:30 PM. he Fond du Lac Area Musicians Association and the City of Fond du Lac sponsor the series.
Fond du Lac bands have been entertaining audiences free of charge since 1959 when Arch Adrian and his orchestra initiated the “Music Under The Stars” series. This long tradition of highlighting local musicians and bands has given area residents an opportunity to see, hear, and appreciate the musical talent that abounds in our city and surrounding area.
The first concert on Monday June 16 features an internationally known Wisconsin native, Steve Meisner and his band from Whitewater. Fond du Lac audiences will enjoy the music of one of the finest accordionists in the United States.
Steve is a multi-talented musician, entertainer, composer & arranger. He began playing the accordion at the age of 5 and has been earning a living in the music business since the age of 16. Steve’s family has a rich musical heritage and he is a second-generation full time working musician. His father, the late Verne Meisner, had a successful music career for more than 50 years. Steve’s brand of music is extremely versatile and appealing to a wide audience. He has made a name for himself by taking the music he grew up with from his father and adding his own imagination and feel. He has brought his brand of traditional American polka into the 21st century with a fresh spark & swing while retaining the roots of this music.
In Steve’s 36 year musical career he has performed with the nation’s top accordionists, polka icons & musicians including Myron Floren, Frankie Yankovic, Joey Miskulin, & Verne Meisner. He has amassed 21 LP/CD credits, 6 Single, and 7 Video releases with full production credits. He has performed nationally coast to coast, and internationally averaging 200 performances annually including performances at the Lawrence Welk Theater in Branson MO, Stardust-Monte Carlo-Hacienda-Orleans & Plaza Casino’s in Las Vegas. He was asked to record for and perform at the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mallin Washington DC. He and his music have filtered into television broadcasts and motion pictures including TNN’s Crook & Chase Show and more recently the ABC Network 4th of July broadcast of “In Search of America, a 4th of July Celebration” hosted by the late Peter Jennings and folklorist Nick Spitzer. He and his music are featured in the full-length motion picture “Chump Change” released by Miramax. He has been heard and seen on the film festival circuit including a short film called “The Pick Up Polka,” and has an original composition in the independent full-length feature, “Red Betsy”. Writer/director/actor Steve Burrows from Hollywood, California call’s Steve “the Mozart of Polka.”
Steve has received numerous awards and nominations including “Musician and Band of the Year”, “Favorite Polka Artist”, “Lifetime Achievement award” by the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Maryland Accordion Club, and in 2005 an “Honor Roll” induction to the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame. His original compositions are included on many best selling polka recordings and a Grammy nominated recording. He has many newspaper, magazine and textbook features and can be found in Wisconsin state libraries in both textbook and music categories. His recordings are used in preschool and kindergarten classes to teach the young, and in nursing homes to bring back memories of care free days of the good life for the old.
The second concert takes place Monday June 23, and features “The Downtowners,” a popular variety band organized 30 years ago as the house band at the Colony Supper Club (now Fat Joe’s) which was, for many years, a haven for live music in Fond du Lac.
“The Downtowners” band is a five-piece group specializing in Big Band sound, with an emphasis on a variety of music and styles. The band mixes old and new tunes into its show to keep the flow of music fresh and interesting. Their musical styles include country, jazz, Latin, rock-n-roll, polkas and swing.
Bob & Jane Shirek lead the band with a variety of instruments, including trumpet, saxophones, clarinet, flugelhorn, guitar and accordion. The talented rhythm section includes Dan Seidl on keyboards, Annie Wisner on bass, and Greg Kilmer on drums.
Finally, each musician is also a vocalist, giving “The Downtowners” their enormous variety of style and sound.
The June 30th concert will feature “Die Spiel Meisters” from Waupun.
The three-piece band has a niche for lively German music that stretches back to 1943 when the group’s leader, Carl Neuman first began playing polka, waltz and fox trot music on his concertina. Singing a song in German, followed by singing the English version is what makes their performance unique. Their concert will include many of the up-beat German tunes like Hidei-Hidei-Ho and the I Love To Dance polka.
Neuman leads the Die Spiel Meisters on the concertina; Don Kehrmeyer, also of Waupun, is the main vocalist and Gerald Krebsbach from Fond du Lac, plays the guitar. The group has traveled extensively throughout Wisconsin and other Midwest states doing polka tours. They have helped create and maintain the annual “Volksfest,” in Waupun and they also play at halls and festivals for many area events.
The Monday night concert line-up at Buttermilk include:
June 16 – Steve Meisner Band
June 23 – The Downtowners
June 30 – Die Spiel Meisters
July 7 – A Tribute to the Ron Harvey Orchestra
July 14 – Page Four
July 21 – Midnight Drive
July 28 – Evergreen by Request
August 4 – J. Harrison B. Band
August 11 – The Groeschl Band.
August 18 – Whiskey River Band
All concerts are free of charge. Freewill offerings help supplement the series and defray costs. The snack and refreshment concession stand opens at 6:30 PM.
In the event of inclement weather Monday evening concerts are held on Tuesday evening. More information on the “Music Under the Stars” concerts, contact program director’s Pete Runde at 921-2000 or Bob Shirek at 921-1167.