Polka Party, radio personality Gary Sredzienski
Back in 1986 I joined alternative and independent radio station, WUNH FM in Durham, NH to play punk and alternative rock. The theme of WUNH has always been 'alternative' so in 1987 I had an idea to show the station the real meaning of 'unique and alternative'. Program Director Andy Mierens gave me the green light and I drove to Connecticut to borrow 10 of my father's polka records to start a polka radio show. It pretty much started as a joke.
The joke back fired on me, changed my life and spawned a new career. Mail came in and the response was overwhelming. WUNH is run by a volunteer staff, is self supporting and has a fundraiser one week each year to stay afloat. Each year the Polka Party has consistently made more than half of the station's income for the entire week in just its 2 hours of airtime.
Admittedly I was never a fan of polka band music, but a great admirer of this form of radio. Years ago radio shows in America became the focal point for ethnic communities. People waited to hear their favorite recipes, cultural tidbits, birthdays, anniversaries and well wishes announced. You had a picture in your mind of what the studio and disc jockey looked like. With 3 turntables and a bag of around 50 records I arrive each Saturday morning to the 'Polka Shrine' continue to keep this lost art form alive.
After 25 years of volunteering to do the radio show I have grown a strong appreciation for traditional music and customs of all ethnic groups. I used to be a forester for the U.S. Forest Service, but because of this radio show I was called upon to do more work with the accordion so put down the 'axe' to be a full time musician.
Gary playing accordion on the air in old WUNH Studio. photo by Hannah Adams.
Listen to the Polka Party as it is being broadcast, or Get the podcast.
If you are in the southern New Hampshire region on Saturday mornings give it a try. It is not your typical polka radio show, but a colorful blend of old world and American culture neatly packaged from 9 to 11 am on 91.3 FM. For live and archived shows you can go to the station's website at www.wunh.org and for ipod / itunes users Get the podcast on itunes.
Since 1987 Sredzienski has been the producer and host of the NH Seacoast's most popular radio program. Polka Party airs every Saturday 9-11 am EST over 91.3 FM WUNH at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
Ethnic radio is preserved on this weekly variety show which features eastern European music, culture, traditions, local dedications, Gary playing his accordions on air, comedy skits, and of course.... Polka!
Gary Sredzienski's Polka Party was featured on NH Public Television's program, NH Crossroads.