Area concertina player brings Czech culture to life for 77 years

Lori Nickel

Montgomery Messenger

In this area rich in Czech culture, the concertina, a kind of accordion, is probably the best known symbol of that heritage. It logically follows then that, according to the Czech Area Concertina Club website, this area would have “the world’s largest concertina club.”

One local member of the Concertina Club is 88-year-old Roman Rezac of Lonsdale. Now a widowed man who loves concertina, cards and conversation, Roman has lived nearly all his life in Lonsdale and began playing the button accordion when he was just 11-years-old.

By age 15, Roman switched to playing the concertina, “a much harder instrument to play,” he remarked.

He started his own seven piece band when he was 19 years old and played on several area radio stations each week. As the Roman Rezac Band’s popularity grew, they began to play on television in Mankato each week where they provided entertainment for seven years.

Roman was married for 61 years and had two sons and adopted a daughter. During this time his music career continued to grow.

“We made several records of our music on 78’s and 45’s to be played in juke boxes,” Roman commented. “We also made four albums for four different studios.”

The Roman Rezac Band was together for 34 years and traveled all over the U. S. to perform.

“By the early 1970s, I was getting tired of traveling and I began to develop tendonitis in my arm from playing so much,” he explained. “My arm healed after awhile and I started playing more locally with a four piece group called Ivan’s Jolly Dutchmen.

For years Roman traveled to Texas for six months to play with a band there. “I just had to keep going all the time back then,” he commented. “I was always doing something. I worked as a carpenter, I did garage work, operated a corn picker, trucks, you name it. I did every job you can think of. I even worked construction building Highway 35.”

Roman is looking forward to traveling to Europe with the Czech Area Concertina Club in New Prague to visit all the places where the concertina originated. The trip will include nine days of traveling and playing while visiting cities in Germany and the Czech Republic.

Roman spoke with pride of awards he has received over the years for his concertina playing. In 1996, he was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame and in 2005 he was inducted into the Minnesota Hall of Fame World Congress.

“I have to play the concertina at least once a week or I crave it,” Roman shared. “Playing it is in my blood.”

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