The story of Milwaukee, and its vibrant and eclectic music scene is another great American tale. It’s an urban bulwark in the heart of the Midwest. A place where waves of immigrants have settled, and co-existed, not always peacefully, but the city’s heterogeneous makeup has left a distinctive imprint on the local culture. That’s especially true when it comes to the sound of the city.  

To understand present day Milwaukee, first you must know about its past. Starting in the 1800’s French Canadians began migrating to Milwaukee, followed by Germans, Polish, Eastern Europeans, and later African-Americans and Latinos looking for opportunity and promise. With them all came their own unique traditions and sounds.

Milwaukee’s music scene began with the Native Americans and their drums. German immigrants arrived in the 1830’s, introducing classical music and early music societies that celebrated their culture to the mix. The Polish and Eastern Europeans followed, bringing composers like Chopin and lively folk music and dance—most notably the polka. Beginning in the early twentieth century, the city’s sound diversified even further as the great migration of Black Americans from the south made its way to Milwaukee, accompanied by the sway and bop of jazz. Over the course of the last three decades the city’s Latino population has more than tripled and music from Latin America is now flourishing as well with popular local bands such as Cecil Negron and Cache MKE making their presence felt.