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Slovenia trip was a success! - July 3, 2014

Here’s a recap…
Dušan Hedl was there to greet me at the airport – walking out of Ljubljana’s airport I thought, “Wow – I really made it! This place is beautiful!” We immediately drove to Postojna, to meet Aleks Rutar of Rutar accordions. Rutar was nice enough to let me borrow an accordion while I was in Slovenia. We met at one of Dušan’s offices where he had some of his books published. We met with Aleks for about an hour, and after trying both accordions he brought, I chose the 4/4 tone chamber model with 120 basses – the quality of their product was superb! Then it was off to Ljubljana to spend an hour or two seeing the major sights in town. I had my first beer in Slovenia at a nice pub close to the center of town – Union! Afterward we left for Maribor, and I enjoyed all the views along the way. We drove through Maribor and saw the town festival setup which lasts for three weeks, but was empty due to inclement weather. I settled in at my accommodations Tuesday evening, and thought “Wow, I’m not really feeling jetlagged!”
Day two in Slovenia allowed me to sleep in a little bit – Dušan brought me to the office of Akord Records, and headquarters of Subkulturni azil Maribor. The offices were empty because June 25th is a holiday in Slovenia. After seeing the offices, it was off to meet Alfi Nipic for lunch. I first learned of him as a kid listening to my dad’s Avsenik records. Mr. Nipic is a true gentleman and it was a pleasure to meet him – he gave me a copy of his 50th anniversary concert CD/DVD package. After lunch it was off to the studio – Studio Na Meji as they call it – and Misa and I began a marathon of three days of recording!
The recording marathon continued on day three in Slovenia – we spent close to 13 hours in the studio! The day went by quickly as we recorded song after song, stopping only for a lunch that Dušan prepared. We spent some time Thursday evening working on a couple of Doosan’s songs that I played accordion on.
Day four began the stretch of the busier days while I was there – we started in the studio around 9am, and spent eight hours recording and working on new compositions. Now it was off to Zgornja Velka to perform for the Ujemi ritem sveta – DOMA, a folklore festival right in the center of town. I provided the closing musical entertainment for the evening which was a lot of fun! It great to see the audience smiling and clapping along as I sang in English.
Saturday, day five was extremely busy – in the morning I had three performances in Maribor – at Grajski Trg, Glavni Trg, and Vodnikov Trg. Many people were out and about enjoying the beautiful weather and walking around and shopping at the markets. In the afternoon it was off to Jeruzalem in Ljutomer since we were graciously invited to Aleks and Janja Rutar’s wedding party – they got married back in March and threw a party now – and they sure know how to party! Their house at the top of a hill surrounded by vineyards was a sight within itself, and the crowd of at least 200 people eating, drinking, dancing, and playing music. There was a sound system setup and I played a few songs later in the day. Bands that showed up were playing while walking up the street to the party, walked up the stairs and right onto the stage continuing to play! It was so cool! At the party I got to chat with my friends from Navihanke – Tanja, Sonja, and Tamara – who then invited me to their gig Saturday night in Selisci. We arrived in the small village of Selisci after a couple detours, to find a huge crowd of over 1,000 people enjoying the music of Navihanke. The band and I spoke on their first break and coordinated the couple tunes I would perform with them during their last set – Na Golici and V Dolini Tihi. It was an honor and a privilege to perform with these five very talented ladies!
Sunday morning Dušan and I went to check out the Maribor flea market – all kinds of goods for sale. Then in the afternoon of day six, it was off to Dolina Pod Brlogo for Radio Pohorje’s music festival, where I was one of about 20 musical acts that performed. A crowd of about 800 people filled the rustic building, which part of is built over a pond! I had the chance to speak with some of the other musicians and radio personalities, and we both look forward to future meetings!
Monday was the first day I had some downtime, so my last day here I headed to Ljubljana to check out some more sights and pick up a couple souvenirs. Dušan and I met TV producer Sebastjan Artic at the Rutar party Saturday. Sebastjan invited me to come to TV Golica for a live appearance on their music show Monday night! I arrived at the studio early, and met Sandra and Martina, who quickly arranged for me to appear on Folx TV which airs live in Germany and Austria since I was there! Thanks again to Ziga, Martina, Sandra and the whole production crew. It’s amazing to see folk music have their own dedicated TV network – something we don’t have in the USA.
Tuesday morning, I left Ljubljana airport very early for my trip home. I spent most of the 16 hour trip reflecting on how lucky and fortunate I am to have this opportunity to bring my “style” of music to a whole new audience! I’m thankful for every day I can pick up my accordion and “go to work”.
It’s not work when you love what you do!

Johnny Koenig Signs Deal with Akord Records; Three Releases Planned - February 4, 2014

Johnny Koenig has spent most of his life involved in the music business. His professional music career is reaching a new high with the recent signing of his first recording contract. Koenig is going back to the roots of his musical background, and signed with a label in Slovenia – Akord Records.
The 25 year old New York City native, now living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has been performing professionally since the age of fifteen. Influenced by his father, he first picked up the accordion at age five and received instruction from a private teacher. In 2007, Koenig released “The New Kid In Town”, his debut CD which received attention from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame.
“One day while sitting in my office, I got a call from an international phone number”, Koenig said. Attributing it to a wrong number, Koenig brushed it off and continued to work on songs for his next release. “I then received a couple emails from Dusan Hedl in Slovenia telling me he’s interested in my music”. Johnny was told by Dusan Hedl, owner of Akord Records that Hedl found Koenig by watching a documentary aired on Slovenian television called “Polka! The Movie”. The movie was filmed in Ohio and the surrounding areas, focusing on the history of polka and the current music scene. Koenig can be seen performing with his band and was interviewed in the film, which was shown at various independent film festivals throughout the United States.
Koenig will be traveling to Slovenia to begin production on his first of three releases to be completed in the five year contract. “I’m really excited”, says Koenig. “Just for the opportunity to expand my music and take it to new places is a big thrill. Polkas will be the focus, but we’ll be adding some elements from various musical genres to the mix. Hopefully we can bring the polka genre and the accordion back to mainstream culture”.
While touring the country with his band performing around forty dates a year, and working on his sophomore release “Party Like a Polkastar”, Koenig maintains a busy schedule working as a paramedic in the Pittsburgh area. “It’s a good balance for me. I work with my two passions – music and medicine. I love it”.
Most recently, he teamed up with rock star Ian Lloyd and re-recorded the 1973 Billboard #1 hit, “Brother Louie”. “It was a blast to interpret the song and incorporate the accordion”. The song is available for download on iTunes.

Johnny Koenig received UMPAPA Horizon Award - November 10, 2013

Johnny Koenig was the recipient of the United Musicians Polka Association of Pennsylvania's Horizon Award. The awards gala was held at the Acme Club in Cheswick, PA.

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