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Volunteers keep the beat going at The Lake County Folk Music Club

Mark Dvorak, who has been a member of the Lake County Folk Club since soon after it opened,  headlined the club's 20th anniversary party Oct. 30, 2011.  (Photos by Jim Robinson)

Mark Dvorak, who has been a member of the Lake County Folk Club since soon after it opened, headlined the club's 20th anniversary party Oct. 30, 2011. (Photos by Jim Robinson)

A child of the 1960s, Jim Robinson remembers thinking  the Kingston Trio folk music records in his stepfather’s collection were “square.”

“I grew up with the Beatles. I liked rock and roll,” said Robinson. “That was not rock and roll.”

Now Robinson, 62, can be found most Sunday evenings running the sound board during performances of The Lake County Folk Music Club at Aleks’ Restaurant, 525 Rockland Road in Lake Bluff.

In addition to booking twice monthly concerts featuring professional acoustic performers, the club hosts an open mike night on the second Sunday of each month. Every fourth Sunday, musicians meet for an informal song circle.

Volunteers such as Robinson have kept the club going since its inception in 1992, said club President Scott Engstrom. The club has about 100 members who are performers, musicians and non musicians who love acoustic music.

“This whole club is not about any one person in it,” Engstrom said. “It’s about a lot of people that get together with a common interest of live acoustic music.”

The club draws mostly from regional talent for its concerts, but also books nationally known performers. The more popular acts have attracted audiences of more than 100. Events such as the song circle might see 25 people, Engstrom said.

Audience members are just as likely to hear a Beatles tune, a Bob Dylan piece, or the occasional Neil Diamond song as they are traditional folk music, Robinson said.

“It used to be you played old songs,” Engstrom said, adding that some performers play original songs and genres such as mountain music and bluegrass. “(Folk music) has roots in certain traditional things. It certainly evolves and continues to evolve.”

Regardless of era or origin, all music at The Lake County Folk Club is acoustic–electrical amplification is discouraged. And it is presented in a venue that values performers.

“We pride ourselves on being a listening room,” Robinson said. “We don’t allow our audience to talk during performances. We’re there to hear the music.”

Engstrom–a banjo player, guitarist, singer, songwriter and music teacher–hosts the open mike nights. He played pop and folk rock music in a band in the 1970s and returned to the stage when he joined the Lake County Folk Club in 2007.

After presenting shows in a number of rooms around Lake County, The Lake County Folk Club has found a comfortable home at Aleks’ Restaurant, Engstrom said.

“I think it really is a good match for both of us,” Engstrom said. “They have really treated us well.”

And if the interest from the Sunday night staff is any indication, club performances have the potential to attract a new and younger group of fans, Robinson said.

“It’s not an expensive Sunday night; it’s something to do on a Sunday night,”  he said.

Music usually starts at 7 p.m. Admission is charged for the performances, but Open Stage and Song Circle are free. For more information about the Lake County Folk club, call 847- 602-8882 or go to

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