When he is not a groundskeeper for SVSU, Keith Prueter is a drummer in the popular local polka band Kowalski Brothers Polka.
Prueter first joined the band six years ago and initially helped them advertise.
When the band began looking for a drummer, they asked Prueter if he was interested in joining them to help keep polka alive in Bay City.
“They taught me how to play the drum,” Prueter said. “In Bay City, this type of music was going away. We ended up trying to get some guys together to keep playing the music. They said they needed a drummer, but I didn’t know how to play. They said, ‘We’ll show you,’ and they did.”
The band mostly plays dance music.
“We play for people to dance,” Prueter said. “There’s no fancy drumming. I’ve got a snare, I’ve got a bass drum, I’ve got a high hat and I’ve got a crash symbol. That’s it. Very minimal.”
The Kowalski Brothers Polka is also the house band for Krzysiak’s House in Bay City. They played there on Fat Tuesday, Tuesday, Feb. 13, from 5 a.m. until noon as part of a fundraiser for the Salvation Army.
“We’ve done (the fundraiser) now for them for four years,” Prueter said. “I love doing it. Ten percent of the money that’s raised there will go to the Salvation Army. Last year, Krzysiak’s House gave $1,200 to the Salvation Army. This will be their 10th year doing this for the Salvation Army.”
Although they play disparate songs, the band does not rehearse.
“We just play a song,” Prueter said. “A lot of these guys that play with me are in their 60s or 70s, and they don’t read music. They play everything by ear.”
This is easy for many of the band members to do because of how familiar they are with polka music.
“What I got going for me is that I know what all the songs sound like,” Prueter said. “I’ve heard them all my life, so I know what they’re supposed to sound like. We do everything simple. That’s another thing people like. It’s just simple. We play mostly dance music because that’s what people like to hear.”
For them, playing is about the music, not the money.
“All these guys that play in this band, they don’t worry about how much they get paid,” Prueter said. “They like to play it. They’re playing (the Krzysiak’s House fundraiser) for free. They just do it because they like the music, and they like to entertain people. I mean, we get paid decently on some of these jobs. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to get compensated, but that’s not why we do it.”
Prueter believes that polka music will always be popular.
“I like it because it’s happy music, and it makes people happy,” Prueter said. “Polka is dancing music, I love to see the audience’s faces when I play.”