Perhaps the shiniest and most valuable gem in the cultural necklace of Toledo Polonia is the Polish American Concert Band under the direction of Randy Bialecki.
It all started more than 100 years ago when in 1890 a group of families and friends filled with Polish Pride from the North End Toledo Polish enclave of "Lagrinka" (Lagrange Street area) formed a musical group called the Silver Cornet Band with Pan Walintowski conducting. Lively marches, overtures and light classics were the major part of their repertoire. In 1915 Edmund Mackiewicz succeded the group's second conductor Mr. Dominiak.
Through the first half of the 20th century this same band changed names and leaders several times. The name changes came and went with sponsoring organizations or practice hall facilities. After World War I they became the Polish Falcons Band because rehearsals were held at the Falcon's Hall on Lagrange and Central. Early in the Great Depression years the band moved to the other Polish enclave, Koushwantz, located around the Junction and Nebraska neighborhood. After the end of prohibition the band returned to Lagrinka under the leadership of Zigmund Mackiewicz.
During the 1940s they were known as the Old Dutch Band because a distributor for that beer brand, Casper Trepinski, sponsored many of the engagements and purchased uniforms for its members.
In 1953 after the passing of Mr. Trepinski the new moniker became The Polish National Alliance Band because of their association with the Polish fraternal organization PNA. During this era Ted Knapik and Ray Babka held the baton. In the 1980's the band moved practice sessions to the Buddy Frankowski VFW hall.
The group performs for many public events in the Toledo area and the collection of music scores and manuscripts has broadened to include show tunes and seasonal selections. The pinnacle of the Toledo Polish-American Concert Band's performance schedule is the sold out and sometimes standing room only Winter Holiday Concert held at the historic Ohio Theater in the heart of Lagrinka.
Today, participating musicians come from all walks of life and from many different ethnic backgrounds, but one of the most endearing aspects is that some of the current players can trace their family's membership in the band back three generations or more.
Community orchestras are not all that rare in the towns across America, but here in Toledo, Polonians are proud to recognize that the Polish-American Concert Band performances provide some of the heaviest stitches in the fabric that is Polish-Toledo and that this treasured jewel spreads so much good will to the whole Glass City community at large.