PINT SIZE POLKAS
FEATURES CHEERFUL MUSIC FOR ALL AGES
“Just say please if you would like a coat. Say thank you if you’ve
received a boat.” Without music, these lines sound like a
children’s poem, but paired with an accordion it transforms into
an educational sing-along that kids can’t help but move to.
The desire to pair
informational lyrics with polka music so kids can learn in a fun
environment is the ultimate goal for Mike Schneider, commonly
referred to as Uncle Mike. Schneider will be performing his Pint
Size Polka routine at the Kearney Public Library on July 9, at 4
While some may think
of polka music as being something only their grandparents listen
to, Schneider believes that children offer a great platform for
“The kids have no
preconceived notion toward polka music or any kind of music. It
doesn’t matter to them what kind of music you’re playing as long
as it’s happy music, something they can get up and dance to,”
Schneider said. “I think that’s why the kids really enjoy Pint
Size Polka. They just hear that happy beat and they can’t help but
move around to it.”
Shawna Lindner, KPL
Youth Services Librarian, said that even though the music is
targeted at children, parents, grandparents or any adult will
thoroughly enjoy the show.
“We just like to
provide the opportunity for people to see a variety of types of
music. He’s very unique. I challenge anyone to sit and listen to
him and not tap your toes,” Lindner said.
This will be the
Wisconsin native’s first visit to Nebraska. On July 9 he will
first stop in Central City before coming to Kearney for his
afternoon performance. The children’s musician has an intense
summer performance schedule doing over 100 shows in nine different
states, but for Schneider this signifies the realization of a
“I love what I do
for a living. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to make this jump into
something I can make a full-time living at,” Schneider said.
Growing up near
Milwaukee, the Polka Capital of the world, Schneider fell in love
with music at a young age.
“My dad is an
accordion player, and as young as I can remember he’d pull his
accordion out and play it for me and that kind of planted those
early seeds of polka music,” Schneider said.
It was not until
Schneider was five years old and his parents took him to see
America’s Polka King, Frankie Yankovic that he decided he needed
to begin playing accordion himself. Since receiving the instrument
at six, he hasn’t missed a beat.
with the Mike Schneider Polka Band as a hobby while he made his
living doing freelance graphic design until 2006. Then, his at the
time girlfriend read an article about Mr. Stinky Feet, a
children’s rock musician, and had an idea that changed everything.
“I had seen the
reactions on kids faces at church festivals I’d played but I had
never made the connection,” Schneider said. “It really took my now
wife, Heather, to come up with that idea to make a CD just for
kids and I’ve been rolling with it here ever since.”
Even though the
presentation he’s giving at the library will be targeted at
children, Lindner thinks it’s a performance that no one should
“Adults without kids
are welcome as well,” Lindner said.
Lindner hopes it
draws a diverse crowd of all ages, and brings out some families
with children who have yet to be exposed to polka music.
Along with his
educational polkas about manners, personal hygiene and the
alphabet, Schneider will also be playing some more traditional
polkas and sharing his passion for the genre.
“With polka music, I
just love the happy beat, it’s the same thing that attracted me to
it when I was six years old, it was just that happy, uplifting
sound,” Schneider said.
- Cassie Kernick,
Kearney Hub Kearney,
Pint Size Polkas
squeeze in gig on Summerfest's last day
Mike Schneider heard Frankie Yankovic playing polka music for the
first time when he was five years old, and he says it was love at
"It’s no secret that
polka music is the happiest form of music on the face of the
earth," says Schneider. "My vision is to help families discover
the good, clean fun that you can experience with polka music."
Pint Size Polkas
consists of Schneider on accordion and longtime friend, Doug
Krueger, on banjo.
For numerous years
now, Schneider has brought polka to the little people via the
Summerfest Children’s Stage. We caught a close-out performance
this afternoon at 3:15 p.m.
My kids have
experienced polka music before at the Lakefront Brewery Palm
Garden Friday night fish fry, featuring the Brewhaus Polka Kings.
This was their first outdoor polka show.
We enjoyed it. My
kids are at the age – 11 and 10 – that I am skeptical about some
children's entertainment, thinking they will find it too babyish,
but so far, they don’t. They were very involved in the show –
pretending to be airplanes, doing the chicken dance, participating
in call-and-response songs.
Much of the show
reminded me of a polka version of Milwaukee’s folk duo, Fox &
Branch. Especially when Schneider performed "I’ve Been Workin’ On
Many kids were
called on stage to try on different hats, which were the segue
into various polkas.
Overall, I am not
really into "kids’ music." I think young folks should just listen
to music. The Beatles are a good place to start. So is classical.
But I know that the kids’ music genre has exploded in the past 10
years, and there are a lot of talented people out there cranking
out tunes and good times for the music-consumers of tomorrow.
Pint Size Polkas is
particularly good at this.
"I want to express
my sincere thanks to my wife, Heather, who came up with the
original Pint Size Polkas concept. Without her support and ideas,
along with our many family members and friends who provided their
input along the way, the success of Pint Size Polkas would not be
possible," says Schneider.
- Molly Snyder,
And a one, and a two...
Uncle Mike brought his accordion for “Pint-sized Polka" to the Le
Sueur Library recently.
Shhhh went out out the window at the Le Sueur Public Library on
July 15 when Uncle Mike brought his accordion for “Pint-sized
Maestro Mike mixed music with trivia, books and occupations,
giving his audience an opportunity to learn and dance to that
- Paul M. Malchow,
Le Sueur News Herald Le Sueur,
Column: Week kicks off with smiles and just
This column is probably going to sound like a Facebook post or a
lot of Twitter tweets strung together, but it does all fit into
the Optimist Creed, especially the part that says give "every
living creature you meet a smile." I want to tell you about my
July 4 holiday week.
It all started on July 1, when I traveled to the Portage County
Public Library in Stevens Point to watch "Uncle Mike Presents Pint
Size Polkas" by Mike Schneider of Milwaukee. About 80 youngsters
ranging in age from 2 to 8 years watched, listened and took part
while Uncle Mike played polka music for them. I've know about Mike
and his Pint Size Polka programs for a while, but this was the
first chance I had to watch him present his program.
You talk about giving smiles -- Mike smiles all the time. He is
upbeat, happy and a lot of fun. The way Mike was able to reach
these kids through music was amazing. Seeing the kids having so
much fun was the perfect start to my holiday week.
Then the rest of that weekend, including July 4, was spent at home
getting many things crossed off of the to-do list, and I was back
to work on Tuesday and Wednesday. My grandson Henry came to visit
on my days off during the remainder of the week.
Henry is the son of my son, Clay, and his wife, Christine. They
live in Minnesota, so that means Grandpa and Grandma Pufahl
haven't seen him nearly as much as we would want. We took Henry to
the concert on The 400 Block on July 6 and celebrated Henry's
second birthday July 7.
The birthday celebration found everyone smiling a lot. We were
smiling at Henry, waiting for that huge return smile from him. We
were smiling just watching him and all the cute things he did and
said. And I know that all the smiling made for a fantastic holiday
week for me.
- Charlie Pfahl,
Everest Herald Wausau,
Kids learn as they dance
BLUE EARTH - They did the "Chicken Dance" and the "Hokey Pokey,"
learned about lumberjacks and railroads, and found out bits of
Minnesota trivia, all mixed to the bouncy polka beat of Mike
Schneider, of Milwaukee, visited the Blue Earth Community Library
and Winnebago's municipal building Tuesday with his "Pint Size
Polka" show, which nearly 50 kids and a number of adults attended.
Flips-flops flew off in Blue Earth and grins stretched wide in
Winnebago as the kids danced energetically. Little ones barely old
enough to walk toddled among the dancers, watching the moves and
even trying some themselves.
On Thursday, Schneider will visit the Fairmont library at 1 p.m.
and the Trimont library at 4 p.m. The program is sponsored by the
Traverse des Sioux Regional Library System and is funded by the
Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. It is free and open to all ages.
Polka music started in the 1800s and moved west with the
immigrants, Schneider said.
"By the 1940s, polka music was almost as popular as Hannah Montana
is now," he said.
He played "Occupations, Jobs and Careers" in which he had one of
the kids wear a hat and the others guess who would wear such a
hat. When the kids guessed railroad conductor, Schneider played
"I've Been Working on the Railroad" and told them the first
commercially successful internal combustion engine locomotive in
the United States was made in Minnesota by General Electric.
That was something that Tyler Scott, 10, said he learned.
"I liked all of it," he added.
The best part for Terry Moore, 9, was singing "EIEIO" which
Schneider turned into a contest between the right and left side of
Schneider picked kids out of the audience to help demonstrate the
dances, like "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" and, in Blue
Earth, kids got a video lesson about how to dance the polka.
Malarie Scholtes, 11, liked learning the polka. Malorie Huber, 11,
and Julia Hanson, 11, said their favorite part was playing "Name
That Tune." Cassie Peterson, 11, liked the "Chicken Dance."
The girls said they learned things too.
"I didn't know the most popular airport," Hanson said.
"Who invented the first train engine," Huber said.
Scholtes and Peterson said they learned how to polka.
"I want it to be here next year," Scholtes added and the other
girls agreed, but Hanson had a request.
"I want him to play the accordion with a bass guitar and learn the
'Cotton-Eyed Joe,'" she said.
That's the kind of enthusiasm Schneider wants the kids to catch.
"I'd like to build a few lifelong polka fans in the process of
playing these programs," Schneider said.
He picked up the accordion at age 6 and was playing church
festivals 10 years later. He had noticed the reaction of children
to the toe-tapping music, but it wasn't until his wife, Heather,
suggested playing for kids that he considered it.
He promoted the show, got some TV exposure, and a librarian
called. His performances have grown from nine libraries to an
interstate traveling show that includes Minnesota, Indiana and
Missouri. Schneider has even been to Georgia. Although the
children down there have not been exposed to polka music, "they
loved it," he said.
"There are a number of benefits," Schneider said of the show.
Among them: Kids learn about the alphabet, numbers, occupations,
personal hygiene, some regional culture and, of course, polka
"I want them to have education they can take home with them and
develop a lifelong love of polka," he said.
- Jodelle Greiner,
Fairmont Sentinel Fairmont,
Kids will enjoy tonight’s Concert in the
Park, “The Pint Size Polka Band”
Tonight at Memorial Park Bandshell in St. James , Mike Schneider,
“Uncle Mike” and his “Pint Size Polka Band” will appear in concert
at 7:00pm. This is a concert with the kids in mind. “My vision is
to help children and their families discover the good, clean fun
that you will experience with polka music,” writes Mike Schneider.
“From Pint Size Polkas Volume One , songs like the Alphabet Polka,
the Number Schottische, and Tiny Bubbles in the Tub are sure to
create an environment that’s both educational and entertaining at
the same time, inspiring children to be excited about learning.”
of how he first heard polka music from America’s King of Polka,
Frankie Yankovic, “As a child the music’s bouncy beat drew me in,
leaving an impression that will last a lifetime.” Schneider
believes polka music is the happiest form of music on the face of
The Pint Size Polka Band travels have taken the group to such
places as Cleveland, Ohio for Tony Petkovseks’ annual Thanksgiving
Weekend Polka Party, to the Caribbean for a Polka Cruize,
Octoberfest in New Ulm, Minnesota, plus Summerfest and Rainbow
Summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The Polka Band has
received plenty of recognition, winning the Wisconsin Polka Hall
of Fame’s Horizon Award in 1997. The band has appeared on
television’s ‘s Today’s Daybreak Show and The Food Network for
Food Nation with Bobby Flay.
Ice Cream will be
served following the concert by The Friends of the Library.
Concerts in the Park are made available by a grant provided by the
Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council from the MN Arts and Cultural
Heritage Fund as appropriated by the MN State Legislature with
money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4,
- Wayne Fritzinger, St. James Plaindealer St.
Column: Suggestions on how to live the
I've been asked in the past to give people examples of some of the
tenets of the Optimist Creed.
For example, a while ago someone asked if you really had to smile
all the time in order to follow the tenet that says "to wear a
cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature
you meet a smile."
I had to think a bit before I answered, but I said something like,
"Yes. To follow it exactly, you would have to." At least whenever
you are around anyone else, you would have to be smiling.
Then I thought about it some more and decided that in a broad
sense, anyone would be following that tenet if they did things
that made people happy, even if it wasn't giving a direct smile to
someone. And a lot of people are doing just that.
The Green Bay Packers certainly made a lot of people happy by
winning the NFC Championship and the chance to compete in the
Super Bowl. What about others? Are they out there and, what are
they doing to follow that tenet, at least in a broad sense, by
making people happy?
One example I can think of is a man named Mike Schneider of the
Milwaukee area. Schneider is a musician and has his own regular
adult polka band, but he is also known as Uncle Mike of another
band, "Uncle Mike and his Polka Band." Uncle Mike's band plays
polkas for kids in libraries and schools mainly in southern
Wisconsin. They have two kids' polka CDs available called "Pint
Schneider says his mission is to provide an entertaining and
educational musical experience for children and their families.
Children of all ages can learn about the alphabet, numbers,
careers, the benefits of drinking milk, personal hygiene and even
a fancy new dance step or two. And by just reading the titles of
many of the songs you know they are educational. Songs like
"Scrub, Scrub Scrub," "Alphabet Polka" and "Please and Thank You."
No matter how young a child is, I'm convinced when they listen to
Uncle Mike's Polka band they become happy and begin to smile. I
gave Volume II to my 18-month-old grandson, Henry, and his dad,
Clay, tells me that when they listen to it Henry is all smiles and
even starts dancing to the music. And why not? With a snappy polka
beat, it is sure to put a smile on anyone's face, young or old. So
even without being there in person I'd say Uncle Mike is certainly
following the Optimist Creed tenet.
- Charlie Pfahl,
Everest Herald Wausau,
Just for Kids: Musician finds success
introducing polka music to a whole new generation
Ever since he heard his father play the accordion and later began
tapping his toes to the tunes of Frankie Yankovic and other polka
legends, Mike Schneider dreamed of becoming a polka musician.
Little did he know at the time, however, what trajectory that
dream would ultimately take.
Several decades later Schneider has found the audience for the
music he’s always sought to play, albeit in generations far
younger than he ever imagined.
Two years ago Schneider released his first CD, titled “Pint Size
Polkas,” and recently followed up that debut with the aptly-named,
“Pint Size Polkas Two: Dance!”
Catering the polka music he loves to the younger generation is
something he had never considered, Schneider said, and credits his
wife, Heather, for getting the ball rolling. She suggested the
idea after reading about a popular children’s performer known as
“Mr. Stinky Feet” and later watching the children’s show “The
Wiggles” with their child and seeing how popular the music-centric
“All of a sudden the wheels started turning in her head, she gave
me a call and said, ‘You know, you probably think I’m crazy, but
you should do a children’s polka CD,’” he said. “She had the name
and everything in that same phone call.”
Schneider freely admits that he was remiss in having not seen the
connection children have with polka music for himself until his
wife mentioned it.
“I’ve been playing festivals now for more than 15 years for the
seniors and the adult population and (had) always seen little
kid’s reactions – they always jumped around to the music and loved
it,” he said. “But I just never put the two together that I should
do a children’s CD.”
After gathering a collection on existing polkas and reworking the
lyrics – as well as creating original scores – Schneider released
“Pint Size Polkas Volume One” two years ago.
Promoting the first CD heavily, Schneider made the rounds to just
about every library in western Racine County last year as part of
the Story Wagon program and elsewhere around the Midwest,
performing the tunes it contained for the libraries children’s
“Burlington was one of the first libraries I ever played,”
His own love of polka music washed over him at a young age.
Schneider explained that his father, Paul, was an avid accordion
player and that polka music was a staple in the family’s home.
“Probably when I was 2 or 3, he’d pull the accordion out of the
closet and he’d play a little bit, which kind of planted the
seed,” he said. “When my parents took me to hear Frankie Yankovic
when I was about five, that’s what really kind of ignited the
After seeing and hearing the joyful noise that could be produced
by a squeezebox, Schneider was prompted to ask his parents for one
of his own.
“I convinced them within a couple of months to get me an
accordion,” he said.
A graphic designer by trade, Schneider continued to play polka
music in his spare time but began to question whether that dream
of becoming a published polka musician would ever become a
The reception of his children’s polka music – witnessed both
through positive sales of his CDs as well as seeing the response
children have to the songs when he plays them live – have
ultimately erased any doubt about where his musical career was
“That’s probably the biggest surprise,” he said of his newfound
career. “My goal has always been to perform music for a living,
but I didn’t realize how quickly it could happen.”
The novelty of a musician catering polka music to a younger
generation has generated quite a bit of attention for Schneider,
as he’s been featured on Chicago television stations several
“It’s a micro-niche market,” he said, explaining the popularity of
his music. “It’s something that’d never been done before and I
think that’s what’s made it really attractive to a lot of the
media places and also to the places I perform, because it’s such a
He has also performed both at the Wisconsin State Fair and
While the popularity of the polka is well-documented in the
Midwest, Schneider recently booked a 32-event tour that will take
him down south to various libraries throughout Georgia next year.
Besides the importance of having a toe-tapping beat, Schneider
carefully selects and crafts songs so that there’s some
educational value or an important message in each.
“On the new CD, I have brand new, original songs about personal
hygiene, manners and all kinds of good concepts that kids can get
good things out of,” he said. “Either I’m teaching them about
occupations, the alphabet or numbers because I really do feel it’s
important to provide a good amount of education with
It’s through listening to the music that the children are then
able to learn those specific lessons through a sort of osmosis
process, which, Schneider said, oftentimes is the best and easiest
way to learn.
“They’re enjoying what they’re listening to and they don’t even
realize that they’re getting educated,” he said. “When you don’t
know your learning, that’s when you’re learning your best.”
While incorporating some of his own creations on the CDs,
Schneider has also included some classic polka tunes.
“The Alphabet Polka is a perfect fit for a kids CD, but for some
reason it was written with adults in mind,” he said. “That thing’s
been around for 50 years and it just made a perfect fit.”
In some cases, using the tried-and-true polka tunes requires
Schneider to tweak the lyrics to make them adaptable to the
“Some of them are really not much of a tweak at all and with
others, I rewrote the lyrics completely,” he said.
In addition to providing clarity as to just how he was supposed to
apply his talent for playing polka music, the “Pint Size Polkas”
CDs have also provided Schneider with the hope that the style of
music will continue to be carried on by future generations.
“It’s been around since the mid-1800s and has gone through
different styles and adaptations, so it’s a timeless thing,” he
said. “If I’m inspiring a kid to enjoy polka music the way I did
when I was 5 years old and am planting those same seeds, you just
never know where it’s going to go.”
The positive feedback he’s gotten from parents and children who
have heard the music or purchased one of his CDs, Schneider said,
has encouraged him to continue making music that will likely
appear on future “Pint Size Polkas” CDs.
“I get feedback that really makes me think I’m moving in the right
direction here,” he said. “The response from principals,
librarians and event coordinators has been a fantastic thing.”
Among the ideas Schneider has tinkered with is creating a
Christmas CD for next year full of child-geared polkas.
In the meantime, his bookings and appearances slated for 2011 have
resulted in the music becoming a full-time profession for
While optimistic that there would be a market for his music upon
releasing his first CD, Schneider admits that he never fathomed it
would take off in the fashion it has.
“I had tremendously high hopes for it, but of course you just
never know,” he said. “I really had no idea and it (the
reaction’s) been great.”
As for what it is about polka music that captures the energy and
attention of children, Schneider said it’s the joyful nature of
the music that they can relate to.
“It’s just such happy music,” he said. “You can hardly go to a
polka event and not have a smile on your face.”
Schneider’s music can be purchased either by logging onto his
www.pintsizepolkas.com or can be
downloaded digitally through iTunes.
In addition to making appearances at libraries and other
gatherings, Schneider has also performed at children’s birthday
parties. Those seeking to book him for such an event are
encouraged to contact him via his website.
- Mark Dudzik, Franklin/Hales Corners Citizen Franklin
and Hales Corners, WI
This article also
printed in - Muskego
12.09.10 - Muskego, WI
Burlington Standard Press
12.09.10 - Burlington, WI
Union Grove, WI
Pint Size Polkas help Make-A-Wish
Through Christmas, Uncle Mike and his Polka Band will donate $2
from every Pint Size Polkas Volume One CD sale made to Wisconsin
Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin. Customers will be able to
download a free MP3 copy of the "Jingle Bells Polka" featuring
Uncle Mike and his Polka Band with their purchase.
Pint Size Polkas CDs and live performances are designed to
entertain children while providing education on concepts like the
alphabet, numbers, occupations, relationships, personal hygiene
and foreign language -- all through the happy sounds of polka
music. Uncle Mike and his Polka Band, from Milwaukee, have been
invited to appear on newscasts and talk shows on 17 major network
television affiliates in seven states.
The Wisconsin chapter of Make-A-Wish Foundation was founded in
1984, and more than 3,600 families statewide can attest to the
power of a wish. The chapter's field office, located in Appleton,
opened in 1996 to better serve children and their families in
northeastern Wisconsin. Last year, the chapter granted a
record-breaking 289 wishes.
Rapids Tribune Wisconsin
This article also
printed in - Marshfield News
12.11.09 - Marshfield, WI
- Stevens Point
12.11.09 - Stevens Point, WI
A Different View
On Tuesday, the McMillan Memorial Library provided another evening
of top-notch entertainment, this time, it was polka music for
children. Hosts Uncle Mike and Lumberjack Doug gave a good
performance of this jolly music on their accordion and banjo,
while children (and a few adults!) danced in the aisles. With
their Pint Sized Polka educational inserts shown on a video
screen, they taught the children about accordion manufacture,
polka history, and a little about lumberjacking. As with most of
our Library events, this was totally free, and this week's concert
is eagerly anticipated.
- David Farmbrough,
The Voice Wisconsin
Local polka fan,
bringing the music to a new generation
Ryan Krygier is the first to admit that when he goes to polka
concerts around Grand Rapids, most people in the audience are,
well, a little older than he is. At 33, he's usually the youngest
one there - unless you count the musicians' grandkids.
But Krygier, who is active in the local Polish community and also
writes a column for a publication called "Polka Times," is out to
Krygier works with junior kindergarten and kindergarten students
at Sacred Heart of Jesus School, where he is an unpaid staff
member. Recently he organized a special appearance at the school
by Mike Schneider, who is touring the nation promoting his new CD
for kids, "Pint Size Polkas."
Schneider has already recorded several polka CDs with the Mike
Schneider Band, and has won numerous awards in his home state of
Wisconsin. But "Pint Size Polkas" is his first foray into music
And his appearance at Sacred Heart last month was his debut
performance before an audience made up solely of pint-size fans.
Students in the school's junior kindergarten through third grade
attended the show, learning new steps to the chicken dance and
interacting with Schneider and the various props he brought along.
Schneider played all 15 songs from the CD, including "Tiny Bubbles
in the Tub" and a "polkafied" version of "I've Been Working on the
He also brought out a U.S. map to show the kids all the cities
where he'd stopped to promote the CD, taught them the German words
to the polka "Ein Milch," and let them try pushing the buttons on
"I wanted to do something that was fun for the kids, but at the
same time had educational value," he said.
Schneider said he had always noticed while performing that kids
just seem to like polka. "There's something about polka music that
lends itself really well to children, whether it's the message the
lyrics carry or the happy beat itself," he said. But it was his
wife, Heather, who came up with the idea of a polka CD for
children, he said.
The CD was released in November, so he has just started putting
together his show for children, he said. In addition to the music,
the show touches on subjects like the alphabet, numbers,
occupations, personal hygiene, and a foreign language.
But he also hopes to teach kids to embrace their talents and not
be afraid to share them with the world, he said.
Schneider was making stops throughout the Midwest last month to
appear on television and radio news shows. Krygier said he saw in
a newsletter that one of those appearances would be in Grand
Rapids. Although he had never met or spoken with Schneider, he
didn't hesitate to contact him.
"I said 'You're going to be 15 minutes from my school - please
come to my school," Krygier said. "What Mike Schneider has done
with his project is wonderful. He's trying to bring polka music to
the younger generation, which is what I try to do."
When he got up to introduce Schneider to the students, Krygier
told them exactly what was going on in his mind.
"I've brought something before you today that I love, which is
polka music, and the other thing I have my heart into is you
kids," he said. "I've brought together the two things in this
world that mean a lot to me."
- Sheila McGrath,
Northwest Advance Grand
Polka musician tunes kids into 'happy music'
Mike Schneider still gets goose pimples when he thinks about
falling hopelessly in love with the accordion and the joyous
sounds of polka music at the tender age of 5.
The occasion was a church picnic where America’s reigning polka
king, Frankie Yankovic, was holding court with his Baldoni
“The idea was I was going to go on the rides and my parents were
going to listen to Frankie Yankovic, but I got into the music tent
and heard the first note and I was hooked,” said Schneider, a
29-year-old Milwaukee area native. “That’s actually the day I knew
I was going to play the accordion.”
Largely self-taught, Schneider has been performing Yankovic’s
Slovenian-style polka music in public since middle school, and has
gone on to be considered one of the great hopes in keeping polka
alive. While he’s certainly up to the task, Schneider recently
realized there was a whole other market for polka music that he
had been overlooking, even though it was part of his own roots.
“I have played church festivals throughout the state for many
years,” he said. “I have always seen parents bring little kids
into the tent. Invariably, the kids will be jumping up and down.
They love the music, but I never made the connection to do a CD in
all those years, even though the answer was standing right before
Adopting the name Uncle Mike, Schneider recently released Pint
Size Polkas: Volume One, a 15-tune CD of what Schneider describes
as “the happiest form of music on the face of the earth.”
“I remember feeling overwhelmingly happy when I heard polka as a
child,” he said, “and that’s become our slogan – Pint Size Polkas:
We’re bringing happy back. That’s what it’s all about and that’s
what it was for me when I was 5. I still get tingles up and down
the spine thinking about it.”
But even though his polka roots go back to childhood, Schneider
said it was his wife, Heather, who came up with the idea of a
polka CD for children
“Well, yeah, duh…it was a great idea,” Schneider said. “About two
years ago while we were still dating, she gave me a call. The idea
came to her to do a children’s polka CD. In the same call she had
the title for the CD and everything. I was very grateful to hear
that from her.”
Assembling a children’s polka CD forced Schneider to think about
his own early love for the music.
“The project really did make me think about my own polka roots,”
he said. “In fact, one of the songs on the CD is ‘The Happy
Wanderer.’ That’s one of the first songs I remember hearing
Frankie Yankovic playing live. So remembering the feeling I had
when I was a kid, I want to give it back, either giving the kids a
lifelong love of polka music or just giving them a lot of fun and
The songs on Pint Size Polka range from polka favorites (Yankovic’s
“Whoop Polka”) to reworkings of children’s classics (“I’ve Been
Working on the Railroad”) to Schneider originals (“Parents Polka”)
to kid-friendly rewrites of adult polkas (“Ein Milch”).
“It was amazing to me when I first started this project how kid
friendly polka already was,” Schneider said. “It’s such an
inherently happy music that I think the children’s market is
perfect for it.”
And the response has been amazing, Schneider said.
“I heard from a daycare in South Dakota where they had to record
the CD to tape because every time they played the CD, the kids
would dance so hard the CD would skip,” he said.
Volume II is a couple years down the road, Schneider said, which
begs the question, when you are in a niche market such as polka,
aren’t you worried about becoming even more of a niche artist with
children’s polka music?
“I wouldn’t mind that niche,” he said. “I will continue to do
traditional polka as well, but the stronger a niche you can
create, the better off you’re going to be in the long run in terms
of selling product and making a market happy. I think if I’m
creating that niche for myself, that’s fine with me.”
You can order Pint Size Polkas at Schneider’s website,
- Jim Lundstrom,
The Scene newspaper Fox
Valley, Central Wisconsin, and Lakeshore editions
Start 'em young:
'Pint size Polkas' If you're
a polka fan looking for a stocking stuffer for the kids, there's
something new that may fill the bill. Milwaukee polka musician
Mike Schneider recently released his first children's polka CD,
"Pint Size Polkas Volume One" ($11.99). The 15 songs include some
that are educational and entertaining, such as "Alphabet Polka,"
"Numbers Schottische" and "Tiny Bubbles in the Tub." Others are
just for fun, including the familiar "I've Been Working on the
Railroad," "The Happy Wanderer" and "Hey Baba Reba." Schneider,
29, says he heard his first polka music at age 5, played by
Frankie Yankovic, "America's Polka King." He credits his wife,
Heather, with coming up with the "Pint Size Polka" concept. A song
sampler is at www.pintsizepolkas.com, where a video of "Jolly
Lumberjack Polka" may be seen as well. Schneider has traveled
throughout the Midwest and eastern Caribbean with his band.
- Press-Gazette Green
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