The Smilin' Scandinavians, widely regarded as Seattle's #1 polka band, have been around since May 17, 1995, when bandleader Toby Hanson got a group of his friends at Cornish College of the Arts to form a polka band. Since that time they've built a reputation as one of the Northwest's most fun and entertaining polka bands. They have completed two tours which took them back to the Midwest, released three albums on the Lutefisk Records Label and traveled widely around the Pacific Northwest spreading their own irreverent brand of polka fun.
The band is well known for their mix of Midwestern polka, Scandinavian folk, traditional country western, Dixieland and big band swing. Besides being a highly-regarded dance band, the Smilin' Scandinavians are also a top-notch show band, mixing in humor and unpredictable antics to keep even the grumpiest crowd smiling. Whether playing at one of the nation's top polka festivals or taking the stage at a county fair, the Smilin' Scandinavians are always happy to entertain with some good, toe-tappin' music.
The name "Smilin' Scandinavians" was inspired by both The Happy Norwegian Myron Floren (of Lawrence Welk Show fame) and pioneer polka performers The Six Fat Dutchmen. Many people find the notion of smiling Scandinavians odd since Scandinavians have a well-deserved reputation of dour stoicism. The band does all it can to show just how much fun Scandinavians are capable of.
Here's a little bit more about the people who make up this fine band:
Toby Hanson, bandleader, accordion, vocals
Toby Hanson was born in 1975 in rural Graham, Washington where he grew up with an appreciation of traditional music. He attended Bethel High School and then moved to Seattle in 1994 to attend Cornish College of the Arts from which he graduated Magna cum laude in 1998 with a Bachelor of Music degree. Besides his activities with the Smilin' Scandinavians he is the music director for the Valse Café Orchestra and also plays with traditional country bands The Jangles, and Detour. Toby also freelances with a variety of other groups including Wild Turkeys, Patty and the Travelin' Four, Justin Roeser and The Dreyer Brothers. He was also a member of Northwest favorite country gospel band Mended Heart. Active in the theater, he has performed with Terry Palasz in her one-woman show Polish Diva from Milwaukee, played for productions of Cabaret and Fiddler On The Roof and acted in Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors and Kirkland Performance Center's The Holiday Big Broadcast. When not performing Toby is often busy fixing things or eating things.
Eric Likkel, saxophone, clarinet
Eric Likkel is an active woodwind player in the Seattle area, featured locally on the radio and on stage with Origin Records jazz recording artists, the Earshot Jazz Festival, and in chamber music concerts with the Haberton String Quartet and the Chamber Dance company at the University of Washington. Before relocating to Seattle in 1996, Eric worked regionally in the midwest, a graduate of the Cincinnati Conservatory, performing with Cedar Point Live Shows, the Toledo Jazz Orchestra, Ernie Krivda's Fat Tuesday Big Band in Cleveland, and as a member of the the American/European Rome Festival Orchestra in Italy.
Mike Woolf, tuba
Mike Woolf is a classically trained tubist who loves dance music. He
also performs with Italico Brass, the Washington Wind Symphony,
Philharmonia Northwest, Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Opera Jupiter
(cabaret shows), the Chicago Seven (jazz from the 20s and 30s), and
other local classical and jazz groups. He has also appeared on a
variety of radio shows and recordings, including the sound tracks to the
movie "Arlington Road" and the video game "Medal of Honor". Twice, a
long time ago, he won the Washington State Solo Contest on the tuba.
When not playing the tuba, he spends most of his time sea kayaking,
biking, skiing, hiking, swimming, and programming computers.
Jack LaFond, banjo, guitar
Jack LaFond, tenor banjoist and tenor guitarist with the Smilin' Scandinavians since 1995, is a retired mechanical engineer who bought a tenor banjo in 1962 but didn't get serious about learning to play until 1972 when he started diligently practicing. (Violin lessons in grade school didn't help much.) In 1972 he joined the Seattle Banjo Club and has since served as president four times. With the club he performs at a variety of venues for a wide variety of people. He has also played with jazz bands and occasionally teaches tenor banjo.
In addition to playing banjo, Jack does woodworking and carving, mostly in the round caricatures as well as realistic human figures and is a member of the Northwest Wood Carvers Association. He has particularly enjoyed the trips to Minnesota with the Smilin' Scandinavians because it gives him a chance to visit cousins in Minnesota.
Scott Adams, banjo, guitar
Scott Adams (banjo, rhythm guitar) has performed off and on with the Smilin' Scandinavians since 1997. He Appears on two CD's, and has played with the band on KMTT and KLSY radio in Seattle. He's been on the road with the band in Canada, Oregon, Montana, and Utah. Scott does not eat curly fries. He prefers sushi and high quality organic produce. He has learned to bring earplugs.
Scott also leads and writes songs for his own band 'birds may bite' (www.birdsmaybite.com).
Birds may bite plays idiosyncratic or 'salad' style pop rock music. In all his extra spare time, he aspires to be an accordionist and one day play 'Lady of Spain' with the great Toby Hanson. Shhhhh!
Erick Cohn, percussion
Erick has been playing drums since the age of 5. He lives in the north end of the Seattle area with his wife Megan and daughters Beth and Mimi. Originally self-taught, he studied at Cornish College of the Arts and plays a wide variety of styles including rock, jazz, pop, punk, polka, dance band variety, avant-garde, reggae, and world beat. Currently, he plays with the Smilin' Scandinavians, Atlantis, and 2112: A Tribute To Rush. He has also played with Big Electric Cat, Degenerate Art Ensemble, Cannon and the Lion of Judah, Kari Ehli Band, The Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Chamber Band/Orchestra, Rhythm And Bliss, Otis Schaper, Kerry Christiansen, the Schaefer Brothers, Lyle Schaefer Band, The Sixes with Leo Daedalus, and Birds May Bite with Scott Adams.Erick took lessons at Cornish College of the Arts with Hadley Caliman, Julian Priester, Dr. James Savage, and Peter Mack. Erick has taken single drum lessons from Danny Seraphine, Alan White, and Michael Schreive and is currently studying with Chad Wackerman.