MPA Launches New Website
Music Publishers of America (MPA), which recently acquired the iconic Vitak-Elsnic library of polka and other ethnic music, has launched a brand new website (musicpublishersofamerica.com). What does this mean for the average polka music lover?
“Our first priority was to make the website user friendly and also provide easier access to polka sheet music and folios by making a large part of the inventory available for instant download,” according to Steve Harris, MPA’s President. “Our next objective is to make this beautiful music available to a wider audience,” Harris said. “We’ve engaged the services of Ernie Broeniman to arrange over 30 of the songs for concert band, and with a full conductor’s score.” Broeniman is the founder and artistic director of Wisconsin’s famed Dorf Kapelle, described by new MPA Vice President Alex Meixner as “one of the best blaskapellles (brass bands) in the USA.”
Growing up in Deshler, Ohio, music has always been a part of Harris’ life and that of his siblings.In 2009 younger brother Todd Harris acquired the assets of Vitak-Elsnic Company from the Browns of New Ulm, Minnesota, who had themselves acquired the business in 1986 from the Vitak-Elsnic family. If you’ve ever heard a polka in America, there’s a good chance that its arrangement was influenced in some way by Vitak-Elsnic.
Founded in 1895, V-E music was played for decades by bands all across the United States, including famous performer “Whoopee John” Wilfahrt and many others. While the number of full-time touring bands has declined in the last 20 or 30 years, there is still a healthy demand for the music, according to Harris.
The Vitak-Elsnic collection consists of literally thousands of songs. Music in the Czech and Polish traditions predominate, but German, Hungarian, Lithuanian and other European styles are also available in the vast collection. Selections are available for accordion, piano, small band or orchestra and now concert bands.
Vitak-Elsnic also published hundreds of songs for concertina players. MPA has stopped actively selling concertina music and, in fact, is looking for a buyer of that part of the business. “We have to prioritize where to devote our attention,” Harris said, “ and we’ve decided the concertina portion of the business is not compatible with our current business plan.”
Harris also noted that much of the value of the business lies in the fact that the Vitak-Elsnic copyrights are still active. “We’re looking for ways to unlock that value by licensing out performance or republication rights where the use will optimize awareness of the genre,” Harris said. MPA plans to build upon the Vitak-Elsnic platform
and is looking for new music to be acquired from other composers or arrangers.
The digitization of the Vitak-Elsnic collection is essential in keeping classic polkas circulating. MPA isn’t stopping there, either. Harris hopes to use the polka music genre as a model for what MPA can do for other legacy genres of music.
There are other music publishers out there, but one look at MPA’s website will reveal their vision and definitive collection of polka music.