The New Direction Band

    The New Direction Band
December 9, 2009

The New Direction Band – A Decade of Playing Polkas

After parting ways from the City Side Band in October of 2009, our first job as The New Direction Band was December 5, 2009 at Club Lorelei in Hamburg with the Auslanders.

The musicians in the original band were, Jim Raczkowski on drums, Bob Krupka on trumpet, Geno Rzeznik on Bass and Guitar and myself Ron Urbanczyk on concertina. We quickly added Dave Gawronski on accordion and Bruce Nowak on sax and clarinet. This was a great fit as they also performed the remaining Staś and Stella Mostly Traditional Polish Wedding Dinner Theater commitments we had.


2010 was our first year and we played both Batavia Downs and Hamburg Gaming, we booked two Dyngus Day parties, (Hamburg Gaming and the Polish Villa 2) and played five dances at the Potts Banquet Hall including their New Year’s Ever Party, a Polka Snowball Dance in January, a Valentine’s Day Party in February, a St. Patrick Day Polka Party in March and a Spring Polka Dance Party in April. Right out of the chute, we were a popular band.

 Dave and Bruce left the band soon after Dyngus Day and we were lucky to add Frank Zeczak on clarinet, sax and trumpet in May of 2010 when the Nickel City Notes disbanded.

 Without an accordion to push, we decided to change our polka style to honky. With a concertina, trumpet and clarinet and Jimmy’s singing, this style seemed to catch on even more than we imagined. Maybe it was because we all loved to play Chicago style.

 That summer we played somewhere every week, at the Orchard Park Town Pavilion Summer Concert Series, the Lackawanna Ethnic Festival, Town of Boston Arts Festival Concert, Resurrection Church Lawn Fete, West Seneca Lions Band shell, Buffalo Polka Boosters 40th Annual Picnic, St Stephen's Church Festival in Oswego, NY, Lackawanna Senior Center, the Erie County Fair and St. Barnabas Lawn Fete.

 Our second year (2011) found more challenges as Geno left the band but Billy Barnas joined us on honky piano and the bass guitar. New bookings at the Broadway Market, the Echo Club in Niagara Falls, and the two polka clubs (Polka Boosters and Polka Varieties). We booked jobs in Albany, Oswego and Utica, the Cheektowaga Polish Festival, the first German-Polish Celebration at Spring Gardens and the Corpus Christi Dozynki and in October of 2011, Ron Urbanczyk was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame.  

At the same time we worked on our first recording project and released our first CD, Follow Directions in January of 2012. The CD opened the door to more bookings like the USPA Convention in Cleveland, the Adirondack Polka Festival in Old Forge, and Roncesvalles Polish Festival in Toronto.

In 2013, our schedule continued to fill with dances at the Knights of Columbus with Lenny Golumka and his Chicago Push, Potts with Eddie Guca and his Polish Canadians, Tony Blazonczyk and New Phaze from Chicago and The Boys.  We played opposite Polka Family at the Adirondack Polka Festival and Lenny Gomulka at Polka Motion by the Ocean in Rehoboth Beach, DE. We also played the first of many jobs at the Polish Nook in Niagara Falls. Billy Barnas decided to retire from the playing in April and Al Krupski joined us briefly on bass. Geno returned to Buffalo in September and rejoined the band.

In January of 2014 we released our second CD, Clear Directions, and the bookings continued with jobs coming in from near and far. We played at the PACC in Ludlow, MA; the Polish Home in Burlington, Ontario with John Gora; in Norvelt, PA for Frank Pawoski; and over 30 more local gigs.

In 2015 the band got to play several “non-polka” events, expanding our music outside of the usual Polka community.  We had crossed over before at Batavia Downs and Hamburg Gaming, the German/Polish dances at Club Lorelei and Spring Gardens, the State and County Fair stages. We even tried to break the Polish/Polka barriers in Buffalo playing for the Polish Happy Hour folks.  New Direction ventured into events featuring a Polka-Country Night with Buckskin and Calico and we started the popular Rock-n-Polka Night with Crash Cadillac.

2015 brought us expanded markets through our exposure on WBBZ-TV’s Polka Buzz. The show would not have gotten off the ground if Ron Urbanczyk and New Direction hadn’t made quick arrangements to have the shows moved and recorded at the Polka Varieties Monthly Meeting. New Direction has recorded over 40 TV shows on Polka Buzz including the four new shows recorded on January 9th.  Each show can be seen on YouTube by searching Polka Buzz New Direction.

In October of 2016, Ron Urbanczyk reached another milestone in his career by being inducted into the World Concertina Congress Hall of Fame in New Ulm, MN.  

In January of 2017 our third CD, Great Directions was released. In June, we played a wedding in Denver, CO for Pete & Sheila; this was one of the bands best gigs of the decade. In October 2017 we recorded three shows for Bill Flynn, host of WSKG-TV’s Let’s Polka in Binghamton, NY and in June 2018 we did the same for WVIA-TV’s Pennsylvania Polka in Scranton, PA.  We can’t forget our years of playing polkas at the Darien Lake’s Fall Festival either, we hit sunny hot weather and cold and rainy weather but the shows went on.

In May of 2019 the band added Eddie Szramka on trumpet who replaced long-time friend and member of the band, Bob Krupka, and picked up Art Gayler on accordion as the band has “Changed Directions” featuring two trumpets with a pushing accordion.

The years fly by and we are thankful that the bookings continue to come in as we continue to play at the Firehouse Sports Bar & Grill on Clinton Street, The Polish Nook in Niagara Falls, Potts Banquet Hall and the Polish Villa II. We enjoy playing for our Polka and Polish clubs, the church picnics, the outdoor town concerts and polka festivals.

During our first decade, New Direction has played over 400 gigs in two countries, eight states and over 100 cities and towns. Although the Polka crowds have diminished over the years, many Polish Churches have vanished and the musicians are aging, we look forward to playing for you energetically in 2020.  The New Direction Band has plenty of dates available in 2020 and we are taking bookings at 716-896-9063 or 716-675-6588.

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