Northwestern Press

Wednesday, July 24, 2019
contributed photo by CHRIS SPIEGELAlex Meixner Band, 7 p.m. May 7, Rodale Community Room, Miller Symphony Hall. contributed photo by CHRIS SPIEGELAlex Meixner Band, 7 p.m. May 7, Rodale Community Room, Miller Symphony Hall.

Polka rocks on: Alex Meixner to explore Lehigh Valley music roots

Friday, May 3, 2019 by GEORGE VANDOREN Special to The Press in Focus

The Alex Meixner Band performs a celebration of the “Roots of the Lehigh Valley,” 7:30 p.m. May 7, Rodale Community Room, Miller Symphony Hall, Allentown.

The multi-talented Meixner, a Lehigh Valley native, literally learned music at his father’s knee. He represents the fourth generation of the Meixner family in the music business. Starting piano at age three, he made his stage debut in his father’s band at age six playing the accordion.

There followed multiple gigs on multiple instruments: drums, bass, keyboards, piano, accordion and trumpet. Then he was off to Ithaca College.

Meixner says, “I did a double degree: music educatIon and trumpet performance. That’s where I really honed my jazz education. Besides your professors, your peers bring you into different directions. There was a grad student from Bulgaria and we started working on some of the folk music from there.”

He completed a masters in trumpet performance at The Pennsylvania State University with a thesis on the use of Slavic folk elements in jazz and classical music. There he played in a gypsy jazz ensemble.

Meixner has recorded 17 albums as a leader and more than 50 altogether, including those with Walter Ostanek, the Canadian Polka King; “Polka Freak Out” with Bubba Hernandez, the Grammy Award-winning polka-rock-world beat Brave Combo, the Tex-Mex Krayolas, and celtic musician Seamus Kennedy.

Meixer worked with Jack Black on the soundtrack for the movie, “The Polka King” (2017).

Still, Meixner may be most famous as the One Man Band in the Hormel pepperoni TV commercial.

The Alex Meixner Band, which performs some 180 performances a year, recently returned from a European tour. The group’s exciting blend of traditional and contemporary styles has won them many fans.

Of the Allentown concert, Meixner says, “My main objective is to present a cross-section of musical styles that have been prevalent in the Lehigh Valley, including some of my family’s legacy.

“We want to pay tribute to the Valley’s legacy in rock music, to jazz musicians such as Parke Frankenfield and Bobby “Lips” Levine, both Dixieland and more contemporary jazz, of course, polka music, and the country music tradition, and also to show how they cross over.

“We want to make people aware of what an amazingly rich musical legacy our community has. We want to honor our past, present and, hopefully, future, and to be as inclusive as possible.”

Joining Meixner in the band are legendary Lehigh Valley guitarist Jimmy Meyer; Reading native Chris Heslop, saxophone; Baltimorean Tom Haller, drums, and Florida native Paddy King, fiddle and mandolin.

Meyer is a Lehigh Valley fixture, having frequently performed with singer-songwriter Steve Brosky. Meyer has played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Air Products and Chemicals’ award-winning corporate band, The Difference, and has received numerous Lehigh Valley Music Awards.

Heslop graduated with honors from Temple University, where he studied saxophone with Larry McKenna and arranging-composition with Dr. John Valerio, Dennis DiBlasio and Dr. Paul Miller. He continued his education in New York, studying with composers Jim McNeely and Mike Abene. Heslop teaches composition at the Yocum Institute for Arts Education in West Lawn. He has composed music for theater, two operas and several films. He also performs with the Hot Club of Reading, focusing on gypsy jazz.

Haller has been with Meixner for about five years. He toured with indie rock bands Adelphi, The Everlove and the John Mancini Band. He also performed with the Grammy-nominated Polka Family Band.

King, the newest member of the group, plays violin, mandolin and cello. He has played with The String Assassins, who refer to themselves as “an acoustic power jam band,” and Strung Like A Horse. He studied music at Indian River State College and has taught there and at Mountain Music.

Meixner looks forward to the May 7 concert at Miller Symphony Hall: “One of my biggest missions is showing diverse genres of music and showing how they’re related to each other.

“The concert setting allows us to embellish more and express ourselves more fully. In a concert, music is the focal point, not just a part of a broader experience.”

Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown; millersymphonyhall.org; 610-432-6715