Teens take on polka with local band

TaLeiza Calloway | The Newsleaders

Nathan’s Oldtime Band performs July 22 at the Waite Park American Legion. Members are (left to right) Mason Doserth, 16, of Albany; Travis Ramacher, 13, of Albany; Matthew Heinen, 13, of St. Joseph; and the band’s leader, Nathan Neuman, 17, of Avon.
TaLeiza Calloway | The Newsleaders

St. Joseph resident Matthew Heinen plays the drums July 22 at the Waite Park American Legion. The 13-year-old is a member of Nathan’s Oldtime Band, a polka band.
TaLeiza Calloway | The Newsleaders

Matthew Heinen, 13, of St. Joseph, leads Nathan’s Old Time Band in a performance of the song, “Wipeout,” July 22 at the Waite Park American Legion.
TaLeiza Calloway | The Newsleaders

Nathan Neuman, founder of Nathan’s Oldtime Band, sings a song July 22 at the Waite Park American Legion. The 17-year-old plays four instruments, including the concertina.
TaLeiza Calloway | The Newsleaders

A couple dances as trumpet player Travis Ramacher and bass guitarist Mason Doserth perform with Nathan’s Oldtime Band July 22.

by TaLeiza Calloway


St. Joseph resident Matthew Heinen enjoys Christian rock.

Avon resident Nathan Neuman likes any type of music with a good beat and nice melody.

Albany resident Mason Doserth likes rock. Travis Ramacher of Albany digs classic rock. Together they make polka sound good.

All are members of Nathan’s Oldtime Band. All are also under the age of 21.

Heinen has been playing the drums for one year and playing for the polka band since January. When listening to him play, one’s ears wouldn’t notice his age. He is happy to be in the band.

The 13-year-old doesn’t get nervous while playing because the crowd is always preoccupied with the music than where it is coming from. Their enjoyment is what makes it fun for Heinen.

“I’m not really nervous because the people are dancing and they’re not watching you,” Heinen said. “It’s fun to see how happy people are and to see them having fun.”

While he had heard of polka music before, he said Nathan is teaching him and his band mates a lot about that genre of music. The St. Cloud Christian School student likes what he’s learning.

Bobbi Heinen said her son keeps a busy schedule. Not only is he in Nathan’s Oldtime Band, but he is also an athlete.

“He’s played every sport there is,” Bobbi Heinen said. “He’s narrowed it down to running.”

Bobbi said the boys have played for crowds that have exceeded the 400 mark and have developed a following in the six months they have performed together.

“It’s always fun to look in the crowd and see people from previous shows,” she said. “They have fans.”

Marlene Ramacher doesn’t know where the interest in polka came from in her son, Travis. He has always liked music and is a member of the Albany High School Band.

“He’s just natural up there,” Ramacher said. “We’re very proud.”

Travis said he anxiously waited until he could join the school band. You have to be in sixth grade to be part of it, and he eagerly anticipated that time. The 13-year-old has played the trumpet for two years and the electric guitar for one year.

Doserth is also in the Albany High School Band and the school’s Jazz Band. The 16-year-old has played the piano, percussion and is the bass guitarist in the polka band.

Both he and his band mates feed off the crowd’s energy. And while most polka bands feature adults, the idea that teens can deliver the popular German and Polish tunes makes the young musicians proud as well. It is not lost upon them that they are a rare act.

“Not everyone can say they’re in a band,” Doserth said. “We’re filling a niche and we do well at it.”

Neuman, 17, is the band’s leader. The Albany High School senior taught himself how to play multiple instruments to strengthen his passion for music. He also sings in the German and Polish languages.

“I just used the online resources I had,” Neuman said. “Youtube. I listened to KASM radio. I grew to love it.”

He started playing the trumpet in sixth grade. When he was in seventh grade, he played guitar with his sister, Alicia ,on the fiddle. Together, they were the Bottom of the Hill Band. He enjoys performing at different venues.

“If I ever had a chance to play, I would,” Neuman said of his love of music.

About 2-½ years ago, his great uncle, Joe Langner, gave him a concertina accordion. Then, his band began to take shape. He likes the energy of polka.

“(Polka) has always been energetic music,” Neuman said. “It’s always been party music. And while there’s beer drinking that goes along with it, true polka doesn’t need it. Polka has just as much energy as any other style of music.”

Though Nathan’s music ability seems natural, it is inherited. His great aunts are the Langner Sisters, a well-known polka trio. The teen’s connection to polka is two-fold.

“Part of it is heritage and the other thing is there’s a market here for it,” Nathan’s father, Bill Neuman, said. “He truly does like it. He’s not just playing it because there’s a market. He plays it because he really likes it.”

Bill Neuman said he has gotten used to seeing his son on stage. He applauds his son’s hard work on and off the stage. While Nathan leads a band, he is an honor student.

“The biggest part is entertainment,” Bill said. “Seniors are the most mature and respected members of the community and he’s entertaining them. It’s clean entertainment. That’s an honor. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

The quartet played for a crowd of more than 200 people July 22 at the Waite Park American Legion. The dance floor was packed for every song played throughout the four-hour set.

“One more, maybe?” Neuman asked the audience between songs. The crowd replied with a hearty “Yes!” as they prepared to waltz and country two-step across the floor one more time.


TaLeiza Calloway

TaLeiza Calloway is a professional journalist in Central Minnesota. Her byline has appeared in the St. Cloud Times and Central Minnesota Women Magazine. The Ohio native moved to Minnesota about four years ago. She joined the St. Joseph Newsleader staff as a reporter in November 2011.
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