Minnesota Polka Project Collection, 1990



Philip Nusbaum, then Folk Arts Program Associate at the Minnesota State Arts Board, initiated and obtained funding for the project. James P. Leary, then working with the Wisconsin Folk Museum and a faculty associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted the field documentation, co-produced the recording, and wrote the companion booklet. Recording Engineer Jerry Minar of New Prague, Minnesota, produced a master tape of the individual tracks.

Project History

The Minnesota Polka Project was part of the Minnesota Musical Traditions Series, a joint effort between the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota State Arts Board. The project presented recordings of traditional music and interpreted them historically and culturally based on historical research and contemporary interviews of musicians.

In 1990, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota State Arts Board contracted with folklorist James P. Leary to research polka traditions, compile an anthology of polka music, and interview polka artists. Polka music was broadly defined to encompass polka, waltzes, schottisches, obereks, laendlers, and other dances. To study the polka traditions of German-American, Czech-American, Slovenian-American, and Polish-American ethnic groups, Leary interviewed 21 artists across the state.

The anthology of sound recordings, Minnesota Polka: Dance Music from Four Traditions, and its 20-page companion booklet of the same name, were published in 1990 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. The anthology features previously released musical performances from 16 bands. The booklet focuses on the ethnic influences of Minnesota polka music and Minnesota's polka industry. The book and sound recording may still be purchased through Folklore Village in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.