Hearing the term “Polkastar” might be a little surprising, however after meeting Johnny Koenig one realizes that is exactly what this young musician is. It’s a little bit genetics and a whole lot of hard work, but Johnny has become a recognized force in the Polka genre. He was born into the musical style – Johnny’s father was the front man of his own acclaimed band for many years. It was an auspicious start for the making of a Polkastar.
Growing up in New York City, Johnny had the opportunity to learn from not only his father, but talented local teachers as well. He picked up his first accordion at age 5 and took private lessons for a few years. America’s Polka King Frankie Yankovic even tapped a 7 year old Johnny to sing with him at an event in New York – quite an honor. His growing love of Polka and comfortable relationships with the well-known names that just happened to be around the house made Johnny the obvious choice to take over the band when his father passed away.
Johnny started performing professionally at age 15 after becoming the leader of the senior Koenig’s band. They toured throughout the state, playing shows and working around Johnny’s high school schedule – which included playing the trumpet in the school’s concert band. His own style started to emerge over time, and Johnny became sought out for his high energy, Americanized folk music. Polka is still deeply rooted in tradition and all due respect was given to the old guard. Johnny moved to Cleveland in 2006 and served as a Trustee on the Board of Directors for the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame. Johnny also worked to bring Polka music into non-traditional areas; producing and arranging as the Music Director for a ballet company in Cleveland. The VerbBallet’s “Polka Madness” 2007 dance repertoire was highly acclaimed in the city. He was chosen to be interviewed in the 2009 documentary film “Polka! The Movie” which is still shown in heavy rotation in Europe. Johnny had become a true advocate for Polka music.
The role of ambassador was one that fit well – Johnny continued to expand his touring to include the Midwest and West Coast. He was able to release his first professional recording in 2007, appropriately titled “The New Kid In Town.” The record received industry recognition by being placed on the GRAMMY ballot in 4 different categories. His second album, “Party Like A Polkastar” was released in August of 2014 and made the preliminary 2015 GRAMMY ballot. A third album "Blood, Sweat & Polkas, was released in Summer of 2016, and was also well received. He is often sought out to collaborate with respected musicians of various genres; including rock, folk, R&B and jazz. Their reputation continues to grow, as Johnny and his band were recently asked to represent the German-American Steuben Committee of NY during the national Fox & Friends Weekend Morning program. They became the “house band” during the entire live broadcast and were featured numerous times. Johnny and his band can also be seen featured in various news clips on major television networks such as CBS and FOX in the New York area.
When he isn’t out touring in one of 25 states, Canada or Europe, Johnny can be found at home in Pittsburgh. A close, personal experience with 9/11 as a child growing up in NYC caused Johnny to become involved with first responders, and he devotes his non-music time to saving lives as a paramedic.
Just another surprising tidbit about this unassuming young man who has become the face for the next generation of Polka music. He has accomplished a lot for a thirty-something musician, living numerous lifetimes in a relatively short span of time. “Polkastar” Johnny Koenig is burning brightly and he is still on the rise.