CHARDON, Ohio – Chardon Polka Band, one of the country’s leading modern polka groups, is bringing its music to children. The Cleveland-based group released a kids’ album, “Pony In The Backseat,” on July 10. The album consists of 16 tracks — half music, half dialogue — and it’s all tailored to young polka fans. Each track has a different topic, varying from pirates to fire safety, or goofy animals to making career choices.
It’s not your typical polka music.
“If you want to look at the polka heritage in Cleveland, it’s not always doing a lot to reach out to kids,” said Jake Kouwe, accordion player, singer and founder of Chardon Polka Band. “If you look at standard polka, 90 percent of it is about beer, which isn’t exactly what you want your kids to sing at school.”
Chardon Polka Band was inspired to create a kids’ album after playing at elementary schools in the last few years.
These shows have become a big part of the group’s tour schedule even though Chardon Polka Band found most of its success playing summer concerts and Oktoberfest shows in the fall.
When winter and spring arrived, the band found it challenging to keep a steady string of shows together. So, it started playing at elementary schools for hundreds of students. These shows incorporate both lively polka music and educational lessons, teaching children about instruments and music.
And Kouwe said that the performances give Chardon Polka Band some of its best audiences.
“We can go into a gymnasium and play in front of 400 kids. They’re all jumping up and down, happy to have your band there,” he said. “We love playing toward that audience. It’s a lot of fun.”
While “Pony In The Backseat” is an album geared toward these kids, there are some songs that parents can enjoy, too. Kouwe said one of his favorite songs on “Pony In The Backseat” is a parody of Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle.”
“We love that song, and we made that song about pizza,” said Kouwe. “It’s all about pizza, so kids will like it … and the parents love the song because it’s a ’90s song that they know.”
There’s also a cover of “You’ve Got A Friend In Me,” and a traditional polka song “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie.”
It’s all a steep departure from the band’s debut 2011 album, titled “Pirates, Women and Beer.” But it’s a welcome addition to the Chardon Polka Band’s discography for its ever-growing fan base.
“We’re very blessed to be able to do what we love to do every day, whether it’s to an elementary school or Oktoberfest, or an audience at a senior center, or people our own age in their 20’s and 30’s at Oktoberfest drinking beer,” said Kouwe. “We love making music for people.”
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