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Eric's Dance Band shares smiles through music

The band of Eric Roggenkamp of Bluffton and Larry Selander of New York Mills plays everything by their expert ears along with the fun of experimenting.

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Eric Roggenkamp (front), Carl Bauck and Larry Selander (drums) laugh while performing at the East Otter Tail County Fair on July 22, 2021. The band plays polka, waltzes, country and old time music. (Rebecca Mitchell/Focus)

When Eric’s Dance Band plays there’s no telling the wide variety of music you’ll find yourself smiling, dancing and laughing along to.

The band of usually two, Eric Roggenkamp of Bluffton and Larry Selander of New York Mills, have shared their delight of music in this band since the 1996, though have been in various bands for over 40 years. With Roggenkamp playing the accordion and keyboard and Selander the drums, the duo enjoy having fun together as they bring tunes from polka to waltzes, new country songs and old time music at events like the East Otter Tail County Fair and Deer Trails Day. Carl Bauck of Perham is also a founding member who joins with his accordion as often as he's available.

“We mix it up and play a whole bunch of different stuff so if people are enjoying one kind of music we play that, if they want something else we play that,” Roggenkamp said. “It don’t matter to us, whatever anybody wants to hear they can holler out their request and if we know them, we’ll do them.”

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The events like dances, fairs and outdoor venues—with big ballroom floor dances and knowing the crowd members being their favorite aspects—bring them throughout central Minnesota. Roggenkamp started in his first series of bands in a bluegrass band with his cousin at 15 years old. They played at resorts in the Brainerd area for about 10 years before he headed to the Twin Cities and Roggenkamp started again with locals in the bands Country Strangers and Shades of Time.

“It makes people smile. It makes them happy, that makes us happy, too,” Roggenkamp said about playing music. “We’re happy when we play it and they’re happy when they hear it, so that’s the best part of doing this.”

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A few audience members enjoyed dancing to the variety of music shared by Eric's Dance Band at the East Otter Tail County Fair on July 22, 2021. (Rebecca Mitchell/Focus)

The band plays everything by their expert ears along with the fun of experimenting. The audiences, mostly people from 60-90 years old, are reminded that the band is strange, like performing a song with laughing as a key part, as Roggenkamp said. Though, he was also inducted into the Minnesota Rock and Country Hall of Fame in 2007, and recognized as a Century Farm in 2019 for his grandfather Joe’s farm.

“We can screw up any good song,” Selander said.

Added Roggenkamp: “We just do. We change the words. Just listen. We hit a few clinkers once in awhile, you know, that’s life.”

With running the farm and enjoying fishing, Roggenkamp said the band’s true hobby is music. In his music career, he “just learned”—about 20 years ago—how to play the button-box accordion. Both his father and grandfather played the button-box accordion and he set out to learn before his father Louie passed away. The family tradition also included songs that Louie and Joe would play on their front porch, which the band and their family play today.

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“They were out dancing to us with me, playing the button box for the last three years of his life. So that was pretty cool,” Roggenkamp said.

He also plays the piano accordion, which plays the same note whether you push or pull the instrument. A button-box accordion plays different notes depending on whether you push or pull it, and it’s lighter than a piano accordion.

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Roggenkamp plays the button-box accordion and keyboard as a member of Eric's Dance Band on July 22, 2021. Roggenkamp and Selander formed the band in the 1990s after playing in various bands since the 1970s. (Rebecca Mitchell/Focus)

All these musical notes make way for their value of connecting with the audience, which the band does year round through nursing home performances over the years and singing people happy birthday on the phone. And they’ll keep sharing at events as long as the COVID-19 cases remain at a safe level.

“I know most all the people by their first names, I know when their birthdays are, I know when their anniversaries are. I call them to see how they’re doing. Like during this COVID thing, I was on the phone with lots of people over that whole thing just trying to cheer them up a little bit,” Roggenkamp said. “We’re always thinking about them.”

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Selander plays the drums and sings in Eric's Dance Band on July 22, 2021. Selander and Roggenkamp have known each other for 48 years. (Rebecca Mitchell/Focus)

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in enhancing online articles as well as education, feature and health reporting.
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