Alex Meixner '98 stars for Hormel

Alex Meixner ’98 is a one-man band, in more ways than one.

In the most literal sense, he's the star of the Hormel Food Company’s “Pepperoni Pep It Up” ad campaign. The commercials feature a lederhosen-clad Meixner energetically singing and dancing around with a bass drum and cymbal strapped to his back, and his accordion and trumpet in hand.

A bouncing piece of pepperoni helps viewers follow the lyrics and sing along with the upbeat tune and (ridiculously catchy) lyrics: “You can pep up anything, pep-pepperoni. Pep it up, it’s the one and only. Pep it up. Hormel pepperoni.”

Even when the Grammy-nominated polka star isn't physically juggling multiple instruments, he’s working to harmoniously blend a number of roles. Those include leading the Alex Meixner band in live performances (in which he also sings, dances and plays the accordion and trumpet), recording tracks both for his own albums and those of artists he collaborates with, teaching master classes and seminars, and running a talent agency focusing on Oktoberfest entertainment.

“My mix of ethnic music, polka, folk rock, and anything else that sort of gets slammed in there, is probably what I’m most noted for,” says Meixner, who focused on the trumpet at Ithaca as a performance and music education major.

All told, he estimates he averages 60,000 miles a year on the road for performances and other commitments. Which role takes focus depends on the time of year.

“In Oktoberfest season, the education and recording work goes out the window,” Meixner says. “It’s just survival mode getting through the amount of gigs coming in for both me and the bands I’m going to manage.”

For Meixner, music has been a lifelong pursuit. His bio describes him as “finally, at age 3” beginning a formal study of the piano.

“I’m the fourth generation of my family that are musicians in the United States, and we go back untold generations in Austria,” he says.

When it came time to choose a college, as Meixner recalls it, other music schools provided the best promotion for Ithaca.

“At the time, my total idea was that I was going to be a college music professor,” he says. “One of the best ads for Ithaca was that every school I looked at, at least one faculty member had done an undergraduate degree at Ithaca. It’s got a stellar reputation in music education.”

As a student, Meixner received a myriad of financial aid and talent-based scholarships, one of which was the Herbert Mueller Scholarship, named in honor of the former trumpet professor.

“Professor Mueller’s widow met up with me a few times at concerts and for lunch,” Meixner says. “She showed a very strong interest in continuing the legacy of her husband and of the institution in general. That has been influential to me in many of the organizations I have worked with through my life.”

Meixner also credits retired jazz studies professor Steve Brown with shaping his IC experience. “He was a selfless educator,” Meixner says. “To this day, he is a valued friend and mentor—and a major reason that I approach much of my music the way I do.”

This past year has provided a wealth of opportunities for Meixner. There was the Hormel gig, which came after someone associated with the company saw Meixner and his band perform at the Wisconsin State Fair.

“I had no clue what I was getting into when I first answered their email, but it’s obviously turned into a pretty high profile opportunity for me,” he says. “Hormel is a wonderful company to work with.”

Meixner also did two days of recording with actor Jack Black for “The Polka King,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year. And the Texas-based Faust Brewery created the Alex Meixner Polka Pilsner to honor his contributions to polka music.

“This is a really rough life,” he says, “when you have to drink beer in order to make sure it’s worthy of your name.”