Thursday, October 20, 2011

Saturday: Oktoberfest, German music!

Jeanne ZubeJeanne Zube and her band, Happy Music, will appear at the St. Raphael Festival on Saturday from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. during Oktoberfest. Come out for brats, sauerkraut, German potato salad and apple dumplings and enjoy the traditional German music.

Jeanne Zube started playing the accordion when she was 11 years old. By the next year, she had added piano and clarinet — at her mother's insistence. She was in the high school band in Cincinnati and loved it.

But when she was 19, her instructor told her mother she ought to put her clarinet in the closet and concentrate on the accordion. She was thrilled. Her instructor happened to be the president of the musician's union and he knew accordion players were in demand. It wasn't long before Jeanne was playing in various groups around town.

She enrolled in the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, majoring in clarinet and minoring in piano. but the accordion continued to be her instrument of choice. While she was a college student, she played local clubs, had 80 students she was teaching accordion and performed on a weekly television show.

Happy Music"I was getting about three hours sleep," she says. but she was young and energetic and the performing was more important than sleep.

When the College Conservatory of Music merged with the University of Cincinnati, Jeanne transferred to Mount St. Joseph University and continued to study music. She loved it.

It wasn't long before she was asked to play accordion with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, under the direction of Erich Kunzel. Working with the famed conductor was a thrilling experience. "He could get two hundred percent out of you," she says. She was asked to play solo parts in recordings by the orchestra.

It could be a grueling schedule, though. Sometimes there would be a rehearsal in the morning, a recording session in the afternoon and a performance the same night "After rehearsal, I'd go home and go to bed," she said.

Jeanne remembers when she was first introduced to German music. Her father had just died in December of 1989. The following January she landed a spot with the premier German group in Cincinnati, The Polka Dots.

She loved the music, though she found it a bit daunting at first. Traditional German music may change meters every measure and as a newbie she found a challenge to keep up. But she persevered and played with the group for many seasons, and continues to do so when she revisits her hometown.

Cincinnati has the distinction of the World's Largest Chicken Dance, performed each year at the Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati celebration. When the record was originally set in 1994 some 48,000 people participated. Jeanne has played with The Polka Dots at many Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati celebrations.

Today Jeanne Zube's group, Happy Music, performs at the Polish Club in Hudson, the Pinellas Park German Club, seniors dances and private parties.

The most requested song: The Chicken Dance.

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