My name is Lindsey Mateja, and I am a newly elected director of the International Polka Association from Illinois. Polka music has been a part of my life for its entirety. My parents, Dan and Laura Mateja, grew up in the field and began dating in high school after meeting at a polka dance. Ever since I can remember, polka music was played in our home.The music was the soundtrack of our family parties and holidays, and could always be heard on Sunday afternoons when the local polka radio shows would air. By the age of 10, I was taught how to polka dance in the basement to the music of our jukebox. Dancing was something I immediately loved and still have a passion for to this day. I can still remember needing to loop my hand around my Dad’s back belt loop before I was tall enough to hold his arm while dancing.
Weekends growing up were spent at polka dances, either to listen to my Dad’s band, The Downtown Sound, or any of the other multitude of bands from Chicago. It was at those dances where I gained a network of friends that have proven irreplaceable over the years. My “polka family,” as it is fondly coined, really blurs the line between friend and family. As I grew into a teenager, my love for polkas expanded as I began attending the many summer festivals around the country. There were summers during my high school years where I attended upwards of 7-8 weekend polka festivals (thanks Mom and Dad!). At these fests, my friend network grew even more, as did my love for the party that is a “polka weekend.”
At this stage in my life as a 22 year old recent graduate, I could not imagine my life without polkas. As corny as it sounds, I truly feel that polka music is in my blood. It is what I jam out to in the car, it is the music I love dancing to above any other, and it is the music I will still remember the words to when I am 90. The polka field has given me a genre of music that I love, but it has given me so much more: a bond and pride to my Polish heritage, a broad network of people I consider family, a sense of respect and communication skills from a young age, and too much else to mention.
I am very proud to have been elected as a Director of the IPA Board. I look forward to contributing all I can to the continuation of this music, allowing future generations to have the same upbringing and experience that I am so thankful to have had.