In Music

"Milwaukee Summerfest Polka" was issued on a 7" 45 in 1970. (PHOTO: Ebay)

MPS high school bands and a special guest revive the "Summerfest Polka"

Next week, the longstanding Milwaukee Public Schools Biennial Music Festival takes place at Summerfest in its newly expanded guise as the All-City Arts Festival.

Details of the event can be found here.

In honor of the move of this nearly century-old MPS tradition to the Summerfest grounds, we've heard that the event will close on Friday, May 11 with a special performance.

The MPS high school bands will reportedly perform "The Summerfest Polka" with a guest conductor: a musician who did an early arrangement of this longstanding Brew City favorite.

"When I was working on organizing my music library at (Rufus) King this past summer I found a pretty old arrangement for concert band done by Ron DeVillers," says Ben Zabor, who is chair of art and music at the high school and also leads band, orchestra, drumline and jazz.

"Ron taught for MPS for something like 52 years," adds Zabor, who was Music Teacher of the Year in 2016. "He was at Lincoln High School for a few years and then at Pulaski High School for several decades during its peak. I believe in the mid-1970s Pulaski had five full-time music teachers. So it is Ron that we are bringing back to conduct."

The song was written by then-Mayor Henry Maier and a W. Ericksson and debuted live at the second Big Gig, in 1969.

Maier also recorded the tune with the Gerhard Rudolph Orchestra and it was issued on a Raynard Records 7" 45 the following year as "Milwaukee Summerfest Polka."

Maier's performance of the song at Summerfest each year was, for a time, sort of the official launch of summer in Milwaukee.

It'll be great to hear it wafting over the lakefront once again.


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