by Dennis Dalman
A free concert series dubbed “Swing into Summer!” will take place every Tuesday (except July 5) through July 26 from 5:30-7 p.m. on the grounds of the Sartell Community Center.
The series began June 7 with a performance by the Riverside Jazz Band. The next concert, June 14, will feature polka prodigy Nathan Neuman (for more on Neuman see story below).
Before each concert, concert-goers – if they so choose – can play lawn games, including a round of mini golf. The Sartell Lions Club will offer hot dogs, chips and beverages before and during each concert.
Next in the “Swing into Summer!” line-up, on June 14, is “Nathan Neuman’s Old Time One Man Band.”
Others on the summer schedule include the following:
June 28: Honey Tree.
July 5: No concert or mini golf.
July 26: An encore performance by the Riverside Jazz Band.
June 21, July 12 and July 19 are being billed as “Surprise!” concerts and will be announced later.
Often dubbed a “One Man Band,” Nathan Neuman, 27, of Waite Park, is regarded widely as a self-taught prodigy and polka maestro who can play multiple instruments that include concertina, accordion, trumpet, piano, guitar, drums and an instrument called a bandura.
The latter is Ukraine’s national instrument that sounds like a combination of zither, harp and piano.
Raised in Avon, Neuman attended Albany High School where he learned to play the trumpet. When he was 15, one day he was presented with a family “heirloom” – a concertina that had been passed on from generation to generation, which his great-uncle had loved to play.
Neuman instantly took to the instrument and soon found himself playing and singing polkas and waltzes with boundless joy and gusto. Two years later, at age 17, 10 years ago, he formed a polka band with school friends.
With astonishing speed, he learned to play one instrument after another, using instruction books and internet teaching programs. Like a human sponge, he soaked up musical styles of polkas and waltzes from countries that include Germany, Poland, Croatia, Czechoslovakia and Ukraine.
Having made Polish fans and friends online, he began learning Polish from them.
Neuman lives in Waite Park and is a member of St. Joseph Parish in that city. He gives music lessons and performs about 40 gigs each year at church bazaars, receptions, outdoor concerts and other events. He sometimes performs as a solo artist, other times with bandmates.
Neuman is also a recording engineer who records his own CDs, many of which contain songs written by him.
One of those songs, called “Pass It On,” won first place in 2020 from the International Polka Association. What inspired the song is the concertina that was passed on to him as a family heirloom and literally changed the course of his life.
In “Pass It On,” Neuman sings and plays an exhilarating, energetic ode to intergenerational connections, the passing on of good things from one family to another, keeping connections alive. In each verse of the masterpiece, Neumann plays a different instrument in breathless, jaunty polka rhythms that flow fast like a river of sounds.