Ray Serafin “grew up with the polka” in Rochester, New York on the north-east side of the city in a predominantly Polish-American neighborhood along Hudson Avenue. He remembers hearing polka music everywhere: at church dances and picnics, local taverns, family celebrations and holiday parties. Like his uncle, Ray took up the accordion and put his first polka band together at age fifteen.
Ray’s band recorded several polka albums: Polkas from the Flower City on Century Records, and Here We Go Again with Polkas on the LeMans label (LPC76). In addition, several 45 rpm records were also recorded by the group.
Ray Serafin’s current group, known as Brass Magic features not only polka music, but also music reminiscent of the “Big Band Era” including selections by such greats as Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and many others, as well as contemporary music by the artists of today.
In addition to playing polka music, Ray is also a collector of polka recordings, and has a library of over 7,000 polka albums, tapes, and compact discs. A big part of this collection is made up of recordings from the 1950’s and 1960’s, including bands like Frank Wojnarowski, Al Soyka, The Connecticut Twins, Ray Henry and others. In August 1981, Ray saw an opportunity to share his polka recordings with a listening audience and on August 2,1981, The Polka Bandstand Show made it’s debut on WGMC-FM (90.1) radio on Sunday afternoons from 5 to 6 p.m.
In 1993 the show was moved to Saturday morning and in 1995 the show expanded to two hours. Currently the Polka Bandstand Show airs every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Much of the effort that went into expanding the show was due to the efforts of Al Meilutis, show co-host, who joined with Ray in 1994. The show will soon begin its 25th year and is the only polka radio show in the Rochester, New York area.
Ray is a member of the International Polka Association as well as an elector for the Polka Hall of Fame which is headquartered in Chicago. It is Ray’s hope that the efforts of the Polka Bandstand Showand the music of Brass Magic have played an integral part in keeping Rochester’s polka music scene alive and well and because of his efforts more people have been made aware of the joys of polka music. After all, as Ray Serafin says, “Polka music is happy music for all ages and ethnic groups.”