The Polka Natural

By Jessica Steger, Editor in Chief

Few people can say they have discovered their true passion in life at the ripe age of six, yet Joe Heger can.

Heger, a West Bend East High School senior, has been a musician since he was a six-year-old. He began by experimenting with the piano, but then found a new companion with the accordion. From there, his passion for music took off. Today he can play the piano, accordion, trumpet, bass guitar, drums, and, most recently, the concertina. All of this started when Heger became infatuated by none other than polka music.

“I liked the way it sounded,” Heger said. “The beat and the tempo, it just kind of hit home for me when I was little. And I saw a band on TV, and I didn’t know who they were at the time, but they became my favorite band.”

Little did six-year-old Heger know that he would one day be playing with that very band, the Polka Family Band. Chad Przybylski, a member of the band, has gotten to know Heger and his talents.

“He’s very talented, just a natural,” Przybylski said. “He can pick up anything and play it without the sheet music.”

Today Heger performs with other bands as well, such as the Julida Boys, Box On and the West Bend High Schools Band. Band director Leah Duckert-Kroll has noticed Heger’s talent in class.

“For a student musician in high school, Joe is far ahead of his time,” Duckert-Kroll said. “He has the chops of a seasoned musician, and has an ear for improvisation that is better than some older musicians. I don’t say this about students often, but I think if he stays focused, Joe will become one of the household names of the polka world,” Duckert-Kroll said.

“If he stays focused, Joe will become one of the household names of the polka world.”
Leah Duckert-Kroll, band director

To add to his resume, Heger also created his own band called Polka Fusion. While the band has several other members on bass guitar, fiddle, keyboard, concertina and drums, Heger also performs solo gigs and creates solo tracks.

“I record all the tracks myself,” Heger said. “So I can create an entire band just out of myself by recording each track by itself. So I play the first trumpet then the second trumpet then I do concertina then I do accordion then I do drums and then I do bass guitar. Then I do the vocals first second and third.”

Heger has been mostly self-taught throughout his music career. He begins to learn an instrument by simply picking it up and “fooling around a bit.” He has written some of his own songs, although he relies little on sheet music.

“I read some sheet music but I mainly play by ear,” Heger said. “I hear a song and I can jump right in and start playing it.”

Heger has already broken into the world of polka, but his plans for the future remain a bit murky.

“I would like to maybe increase gigs with my band after high school, hopefully,” Heger said. “And then I really just don’t know because I just take it day by day.”

However, Heger plans to always have music in his life.

“Until the day I die,” he said.

(Video: Joe Heger plays “Oh How She Lied,” Dec. 27, 2017.)

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