Mark Kohan is the leader of the Buffalo, NY polka band Steel City Brass, which specializes in polkas based on traditional Polish folk melodies. A member of the band since its inception in 1977, Kohan currently is the group's vocalist, concertina and guitar player.
Kohan was born March 24, 1960 in Lackawanna, NY. Organizing a rock band in 1974, Kohan joined a wedding band in 1975. After several years of playing in various bands as a pickup drummer, Kohan helped organize Steel City Brass in August of 1977, taking over leadership a year later. Starting on drums, Kohan later added guitar and accordion to his instrument responsibilities with Steel City Brass. In 1991, Kohan obtained a concertina. Having previous studied the instrument with Dave "Scrubby" Seweryniak of Buffalo's Dynatones and Casey Kliszak of Happy Richie's Polka Band, Kohan soon dropped the accordion, and continues to play concertina and guitar with the band today.
Recording four albums with Steel City Brass, Kohan has recorded numerous singles and has been a guest musician on several projects. In 1987, he produced Polkas for Children for the Polish Community Center of Buffalo, an album that was funded by the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1989, he produced A Kolberg Sampler (again for the Polish Community Center of Buffalo), which brought to life in polka form the folk music of Poland as transcribed by ethnomusicologist Oscar Kolberg. In 1994, with Jerry Darlak, he produced A Polish Village Christmas, a collection of Polish Christmas Carols, recorded in the "Old Country" or "Polish Village Style." Throughout his career, he has filled in with numerous bands as a drummer, concertina, piano and guitar player, including The Dynatones, Happy Richie's Polka Band, Mix 'n Match, Honky Hoppers, the Touch, Sunshine, Bellares, G-Notes and others.
Kohan is also the editor-in-chief of the Polish American Journal, the nation's largest independent English-language monthly newspaper. In that capacity, he has penned over 500 articles ranging on topics from polka music histories, instruments and instrumentation, and news coverage, in addition to editorials and commentaries pertinent to Americans of Polish descent. An active member of the Polish American community, he has served as treasurer and third vice president of the Polish American Historical Association, a delegate of the Polish American Congress, elector to the International Polka Association Hall of Fame, and numerous other offices and appointments. Kohan has received numerous awards for his contributions to polka music and work within the Polish community, including commendations from the Polish American Heritage Committee of Cheektowaga, NY, the Ampol Eagle newspaper, the Polish American Historical Society, the Polish Community Center of Buffalo and the Polish American Congress.
In 1999, Steel City Brass released Polish Picnic Favorites on the Ethnic World Records label. Kohan resides in Hamburg, NY with his wife, Kyle, and son, Justin. Kyle plays clarinet and saxophone with the Steel City Brass.