Czech Plus Band: A Brief Chronology

The Czech Plus Band began as a revival of the Drahozal family band in 1978. Family friends were soon added to round out the group for the first public performance in Vining, IA in 1979 under the band name "Muzika". Due to the emphasis on ethnic Czech music, the name "Czech Plus Polka Band" was adopted later the same year. The "Plus" designated the ethnic background of some of the newer band members (Russian, German, Italian, Irish, English and others) as well as describing the charts which the band played which were predominantly Czech, "Plus" a few German, American swing and a variety of other nationalities.

Original orchestration was two B-flat clarinets, two trumpets, two trombones, baritone horn, tuba, piano and drums. Stock charts from Vitak Elsnic Company were eventually augmented by the specials arranged (and some composed) by Pete Drahozal. With the addition of a two reed players who doubled on saxes, two more brass players, a banjo and bells, the arrangements soon closely emulated the sound of the great "Whoopee" John band. For the truly European sparkle, an E-flat clarinet was added. While music is mainly a hobby for some band members, the majority are music educators. Old standards from various sources, richly scored original manuscripts directly from the Czech Republic, specials arranged by Art, Walt and Olga Drahozal as well as Jim Vanourny round out today's 500 piece library. English, Czech and German vocals are done. Olga Drahozal was our female vocalist and the torch has passed to Pete Drahozal, Walt Drahozal and Steve Schulte as a (three-part) male trio.

Czech Plus still books out of the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids and has regularly entertained much of east central and north eastern Iowa with occasional trips as far as Omaha, Green Bay and Minneapolis. Annual engagements were kept in Cedar Rapids, Spillville, Iowa City, Belle Plaine and Protivin (all in Iowa) where the standard fare of polkas, waltzes, schottisches, mazurkas, swing tunes, kvapiks (gallops) and other ethnic dances.

The summer of 1985 was an interesting year with bookings every single weekend. As demand for local "old-time" dances wanes year-by-year, the band still maintains a regular schedule of festivals, weddings, concerts and ethnic events. One particular busy venue has recently been generated with innovations such as the Czech Folk Mass which tastefully incorporates original Czech sacred hymns. Another Czech Plus innovation has been the recent revival of a century-old tradition in the Cedar Rapids area: Czech concerts in the park. This concert format is known in Cedar Rapids as the Summer Concert Series and it has been eminently successful with assistance from local sponsorship. Hundreds of patrons turn out for the hour-long concerts which are held on Friday evenings through the summer in the Czech Village bandstand. True to tradition, concerts are free of charge to the general public. The band's uniforms are those historically worn by musicians in Prague, Czech Republic and patterned after those of other brass bands in "the Old Country".

An LP recording ("It's a Long Way to Prague") was made in 1984. Several new recordings have been released in the summer of 1995 and 1996- notably, the band's performance for the Grand Opening of the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids.

We sadly noted the passing of our "Founding Father" when Wesley Drahozal passed away in April of 2011.  We dedicated the 2011 season to his memory.

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