(B.A. Business, ’02)

My dad planted the early seeds of polka with his accordion. Those seeds grew with the introduction of a live Frankie Yankovic performance. From that day forward, I just had to have an accordion. I've been playing professionally since 1996, with my successful venture into children's music beginning in 2008.

Official websites:

Pint Size Polkas (polka music for kids)

Mike Schneider Band (polka music for adults)

Social media:

Facebook – Pint Size Polkas

Facebook – Mike Schneider Band

LinkedIn – Pint Size Polkas

News story links:

Media coverage of Pint Size Polkas – 25 videos

Photos:

Pint Size Polkas

The Mike Schneider Band

Videos:

YouTube – Pint Size Polkas

YouTube – Mike Schneider Band

Music:

Pint Size Polkas song samples

Mike Schneider Band song samples

Albums:

  • “Live on the Mollie B Polka Party!” (DVD/CD, 2013)
  • Pint Size Polkas Volume Two: Dance! (CD, 2010)
  • Pint Size Polkas Volume One (CD, 2008)
  • Accordion Artistry (CD, 2008)
  • Live! (CD, 2006)
  • A Stretch of the Imagination (CD, 2004)
  • Polka Visions (CD, 2002)
  • The Pursuit of Polkas Lost Frontier (CD, 1998)

 

Self-described style:

Polka!

Instruments/vocals:

I'm primarily an accordion player, but play all the keyboard parts on my recordings, too. For better or worse, I also sing.

Performance groups:

The Mike Schneider Band and Uncle Mike (that's me!) and his Polka Band, a.k.a. Pint Size Polkas.

Notable collaborations and performances with accomplished musicians:

In the polka field, one of the biggest names was Verne Meisner. He was one of my early influences, and I had the privilege of performing briefly with him on several occasions. I also played a few jobs with 1989 Grammy nominee Gordon Hartmann out of Madison, as well as Jeff Winard out of Milwaukee. Jeff spent 25 years playing with America's Polka King Frankie Yankovic. For the most part, though, I've worked under my own name since 1996.

Influences/mentors:

Frankie Yankovic, Verne Meisner, Joey Miskulin, Jeff Pecon, Bob Timko, Joe Fedorchak, Eddie Rodick, and many, many others. If you recognize any of the names beyond Frankie Yankovic, congratulations – you're a polka fan, too!

Favorite band/musician/composer:

For accordion, it's Joey Miskulin. He's the best I've ever seen in person hands down. He's best known now for his work with Riders in the Sky. For composer, there was a guy by the name of Bruce Berger who played piano with polka bands in Cleveland. He wrote some great stuff! Anything by Doc Lausche and Johnny Pecon also is usually great.

Favorite song:

I get this question all the time and it's one of the toughest for me. I like a lot of songs and it's hard to pin down one favorite. I just hope I'm playing the audience's favorites! Actually, one piece that I've never played but really, really like is Dvorak's Symphony Number 9 conducted by Leonard Bernstein. I've listened to so many versions of the song, but Bernstein's with the New York Philharmonic is the best. It's on Spotify – check it out!

Pieces with a special backstory:

Actually, the story behind Pint Size Polkas in general is kind of interesting. Having played for church festivals since 1996, I had noticed that kids like polka music. It's just happy music! But I never made the connection to do anything about it until my wife Heather called me out of the blue one day to suggest I record a children's polka CD. This was in 2006, and we weren't even engaged at the time. I tend to be a little skeptical of new ideas, but this one struck me and I ran full speed ahead with it. I released the CD in 2008 and got on various TV news programs throughout the country to promote the new album, including the CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, Penn. A librarian out there saw me and emailed to see if I could play for her library that summer. That started the snowball of library and school shows to follow; I've done around 650 Pint Size Polkas shows since then! So I owe my wife and Mary the librarian in Pittsburgh a lot of credit!

Biggest musical feat so far:

Being able to make a living doing what I love, doing something practically everyone – even including one Sister at Stritch (I decided to attend anyway!) – told me could not possibly be done.

Awards/honors:

  • 2011 Honor Roll Award, Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame
  • 2009 Band of the Year, Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame
  • 2007 Exceptional Achievement, Wisconsin Polka Music Awards
  • 2007 Recording of the Year, Wisconsin Polka Music Awards
  • 2007 Distinguished Service Award, Wisconsin Polka Boosters
  • 1997 Horizon Award, Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame

 

Earliest music memory:

Two important ones stick out: first, my Dad getting his accordion out of the closet to play for me from time to time. And, second, my parents taking me to a church festival on the south side to hear Frankie Yankovic perform. I was just supposed to like the rides. Little did they or I know that would be a transformational day in my life!

Memorable/favorite gigs:

The old Rainbow Summer at the Marcus Center's Peck Pavilion in 1999; Summerfest every year since 2009; the Flagg-Rochelle, Ill., library every year since 2009.

Day job:

None since the end of 2008. I thank God every day!

Future goals:

To continue playing polka music for a living until the day I die. Plus I want to take my wife and kids to Disney World within the next couple of years!

Stritch music memories:

I was DJ of the "CSU Polka Hour" on the HIVE 90.9 FM, and also a co-DJ for a show called "Polka to Death" with Jim Aitchison. I'd play a polka song, he'd follow it up with a death metal song. It was quite the hoot!

Ongoing connections to Stritch:

I don't get there often. However I did play for a fish fry there about a year or so ago. Hope to get back there again in the future. The campus renovations look great!

Memberships:

Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame, National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame, former NARAS/voting member of the Grammys until they removed the polka category.

Upcoming gigs:

Pint Size Polkas schedule

Mike Schneider Band schedule

Final comments:

Just a few shoutouts to Bill Stevens and Cheri Frey-Hartel and Drs. Pravin Kamdar, Terry Steele, and Terry Roehrig – some of my favorite teachers while I was at Stritch!