PROFESSOR GEORGE M. PALUCH
George M. Paluch’s Concertina Syncopators
George M. Paluch’s Concertina Orchestra
The Georgie Masters Orchestra
Professor George M. Paluch, Director and Manager
George M. Paluch’s Concertina Orchestra initially began as a small group of musicians in Chicago’s McKinley Park neighborhood. They entertained at local ethnic events and gatherings in Chicago when George was about 11 years old. As the group’s popularity increased, they began accepting requests to play weddings and other larger events. George and the orchestra continued to perform as a small ensemble into the early 1920’s. At that time, George expanded the group into a 15–piece ensemble that featured seven concertina players, naming the group “George M. Paluch’s Concertina Syncopators.” Shortly thereafter, he changed the name to “George M. Paluch’s Concertina Orchestra.” This Polish–themed orchestra performed authentic ethnic dance music at weddings, church ethnic programs, picnics, and other social and events throughout the Chicagoland area.
The orchestra’s popularity in the Chicago area prompted the Westinghouse Electric Company (co-owner with ComEd of the new KYW radio station, the first radio station in Chicago) to engage the orchestra to play their repertoire on the first radio broadcasts of their new station; ComED was attempting to encourage sales of a new invention, the electric radio. The orchestra’s on-air popularity led the Westinghouse Company to schedule live performances of the group at the radio station on a regular basis. Soon the owners of other radio stations (such as WCFL, WGN (KYW), WWAE, and others) realized the popularity of the orchestra’s radio performances, and scheduled the group for broadcasts on their own stations. This was during what is generally accepted to be the Golden Age of Ethnic Music in Chicago and the United States. The George M. Paluch Concertina Orchestra helped to bring familiar ethnic music into the lives and homes of Chicago’s burgeoning ethnic population. Radio performances were broadcast live from the many venues in Chicago, which included the Drake Hotel, the Aragon and Trianon Ballrooms, and Chicago’s prestigious Civic Opera House, among many others. At the personal behest of Mr. Joseph P. Elsnic, co-owner of the renowned Vitak-Elsnic Music Publishing Company of Chicago, George was requested to perform with his orchestras at the Polish Week of Hospitality celebrations during the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. This was a premier event held during the week of July 17-23, 1933. Mr. Elsnic had endeavored to showcase the diverse ethnic musical repertoire of these fine orchestras. However, because of previous commitments of the orchestras, George was unable to comply with the request.
George’s love of all types and styles of music prompted him in the late 1920’s to start a second, much expanded (Big Band-type) group named the “Georgie Masters Orchestra” which played popular dance music. The group was comprised of many of the musicians from his Concertina Orchestra, along with additional string, wind, and brass players. In this larger group, Professor Paluch introduced the use of his Piano Accordion as an integral part of the orchestra. The instrument was a specially constructed 140-bass accordion handmade by the prestigious Italo-American Accordion Company of Chicago. The Georgie Masters Orchestra was a popular success in Chicago’s finest hotels, ballrooms, and nightclubs (speakeasies) during the 1920’s and 1930’s. When the beautiful new Aragon Ballroom debuted in Chicago in 1926, the owners featured the Georgie Masters Orchestra on a regular basis. They performed a rich musical repertoire of Standards, Jazz, and Ragtime. In fact, George adopted as this group’s theme song the popular standard song “Dinah!”
Professor Paluch enjoyed a professional working relationship with several nationally-known orchestra leaders of the time. Mr. Paul Whiteman, whose legendary orchestra frequently performed in Chicago, would engage George as a rehearsal conductor while here.
George was also a prolific music composer and arranger. His many orchestral arrangements, both ethnic and non-ethnic were among those sought after and published by the prestigious Georgi-Vitak Music Company (which later became the renowned Vitak-Elsnic Music Publishing Company of Chicago). George had provided many many original compositions and arrangements to Mr. Louis Vitak and Mr. Joseph P. Elsnic of that company. In addition, he provided his compositions and arrangements to the Sajewski Publishing Company of Chicago, Gralak Music Publishing Company, Polonia Music Publishing House, and to legendary orchestra leaders such as Ignacy Podgorski, among others.
Professor Paluch also arranged and published individual works through the many music publishing houses existing in Chicago at the time, now part of a bygone era. These included compositions for Piano, Piano Accordion, Chromatic Accordion, Violin, Saxophone, Clarinet, Trumpet, Banjo, Concertina, Cornet, Mandolin and others. Some of those compositions and arrangements, especially those for Concertina, can still be found in circulation today.
George also composed and arranged music for the popular Central Concertina Club. He was an active member of the club for many years, performing regularly with them.
Professor Paluch operated two music schools to share his love and appreciation of fine music with the vast ethnic population of Chicago. One school was located at 4601 S. Ashland; at the time, the heart of the South Side ethnic enclave. The other studio was located in his parents’ home at 3640 S. Hermitage, in McKinley Park. His students however, sons and daughters of Chicago’s hard-working ethnic community, came from all areas of Chicago, but predominantly from the Back of the Yards and McKinley Park area. George shared his love of music and provided students with instruction on their choice of a full range of musical instruments. Included were Piano, Piano Accordion, Chromatic Accordion, Concertina, Banjo, Violin, Mandolin, and all string, wind, brass, and percussion instruments. The schools operated during the Golden Age of Music of the 1920s and 1930s. Unfortunately in the early 1940’s, with the continued economic downturn and turmoil of the Great Depression and World War II, he was forced to close the music schools. Reluctantly, after closing the schools, he was also forced to disband his orchestras seeking other employment. He had to provide for a growing young family.
Sadly, George passed away suddenly in 1954 leaving behind a wife and seven children. A rich musical legacy has, however, been passed on; one of bringing the happiness, joys and familiar sounds of their homeland music into the lives of his many radio audiences, live audiences, and music students. At a time when ethnics were in a strange, new, and unfamiliar homeland, comfort and reassurance came by way of his music.
Few details were passed down about Professor Paluch’s formal musical training. It is known, however, that he played and taught all musical instruments. For a number of years he played and studied under the tutelage of noted professors at the Virtuoso Music Schools in Buffalo, New York, graduating in 1931 with the title Professor of Music.