Not many 14-year-olds have business cards. Colton Tupy does.
Colton, a concertina player from New Prague, hands them out when he performs around the Twin Cities area. For more than a year, the soft-spoken teen has been performing at assisted-living centers, birthday parties, Oktoberfests, a Concertina Bowl, even the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame.
Colton also recorded a CD of one of his performances, in part to garner publicity for his music, in part to raise money for St. Wenceslaus Catholic School.
“I really like the school, and it does sometimes need some help,” Colton said.
The 19-song CD, recorded from a live performance on local radio station KCHK, includes polkas and waltzes and Colton singing in Czech, something he learned from his grandmother.
The eighth-grader started playing the concertina after seeing a family friend play one in a band. His father, Tim Tupy, had played a concertina when he was younger and still had one stashed in a closet.
“Tim brought it out one time when Colton was about 11 and just showed him,” said Chris Tupy, Colton’s mom.
That’s all it took. Colton was hooked.
Tim and Chris printed sheet music off the internet and Colton taught himself to play in seven months. Eventually, he worked his way up from easier concertinas to the Hengel Chemnitzer, which Tim called the “Corvette or Lexus” of concertinas. Then he started taking lessons.
The concertina isn’t Colton’s only instrument. He also plays drums and is learning guitar. And he’s working on singing during some of his concertina performances. And smiling.
Colton doesn’t look like he’s having a barrel of fun when he’s playing. He’s too busy focusing on the music and hitting just the right notes.
Despite his varied musical talents, when he goes to New Prague High School next year, he’s decided to play concertina in the high school band.
Although the concertina is mostly used in polkas and waltzes, Colton plays a wide variety of music, including country and church hymns. Still, polkas and waltzes are his favorites, even though they’re the hardest to play.
“I just like the way a lot of them sound and the cool runs I can do,” he said.
Colton’s passion for the concertina helps him practice, something he does every day.
“He’d rather do that than homework,” Chris said.
Most concertina players don’t have to balance homework with music practice, but Colton is clearly being welcomed into the musical fold as part of the next generation of concertina players.
“This is what us ‘OLD CODGERS’ need!!” said one commenter on Colton’s YouTube video. “Some young players like this to carry the torch!!”
Kelsy Ketchum is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.