2017 Hall of Fame Inductees and 2016 Award Winners

On behalf of the International Polka Association Board of Trustees and Hall of Fame Committee, the IPA Officers and Directors are proud to announce the 2106 award winners and Hall of Fame inductees for 2017.

The IPA Hall of Fame and Awards Banquet will be held on Saturday, September 2, 2017 at the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga, New York. Congratulations to all award winners and inductees!

IPA Announces 2017 Polka Hall of Fame Inductees and

2016 Music Award Winners

The International Polka Association recently announced this year’s Polka Music Hall of Fame inductees and the 2016 Polka Music Award winners.  Normally, two prominent living personalities and one deceased celebrity, who have made outstanding contributions toward the advancement of the polka music industry, are elected into the Polka Music Hall of Fame each year.  An academy of 180 qualified electors from across the country select the Hall of Fame inductees and music awards recipients.    The Board of Trustees also selects an outstanding candidate for induction into the Pioneer category.

Polka Hall of Fame Inductees

 Living Category:

Fred Ziwich (North Olmstead, OH)

It was probably obvious to anyone who knew him as a youngster, that Fred Ziwich was destined to become a musician. He took his first accordion lesson at the age of 5, and was able to read Music before reading English. Then, to be able to play in the school band, he started taking Clarinet Lessons in the 4th grade. The next logical step was the Saxophone, and he tried that the first time in the 8th grade. The next major instrument that he learned was the button box, as he taught himself to play 6 songs in the days during his Easter Vacation of his Senior Year in High School. During all of this time he was also a bit of a Closet Drummer.

Fred attended the Cleveland Public Schools graduating from John Marshall High School in 1972. He was a member of Cleveland’s Ali-City Band and Orchestra playing first chair Clarinet for 3 years. His outside interest at the time included playing soccer for the Donauschwaben and German Central Youth Teams, and at John Marshall.
After High School He attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana where he received his (BM.E.) Bachelor of Music Education in 1977.
He started playing jobs in public at the age of 14, and by the age of 17, was performing every weekend, either was his own “Fred Ziwich Trio” or another group that would call him to fill in.
In 1973, He started jobbing with the Hank Hailer Ensemble. And was a regular member of that band from 1974-77. During this time Fred worked on his first complete LP recording,”Oktoberfesf’ in which he wrote all the arrangements for the Ensemble.

After Graduating from Indiana University in 1977, the first version of “Fred Ziwich and his “International Sound Machine” was formed. For the first 6 months they were the house band at Otto’s Brauhaus, a popular German Restaurant in Rocky River, Ohio at the time. The beginning was quite modest. They performed all the favorite German Melodies every Friday and Saturday Night. But the premise of this new band was to play the music of all the nationalities, with an authentic sound and instrumentation. Through the early days of the “I.S.M” they played for a lot of wedding receptions, having played as many as 38 in 1980.

They recorded their first album (and 8 track tape) entitled “There’s Polka Music in Every Heart,” in 1979. But as time went on, and musicians changed, it became harder to perform all the music and arrangements that Fred had created. So since Fred was known as a well versed musician throughout the world of Polka Music, he then went through a period of time of free lancing with many different nationally known Polka bands.

Some of the notable groups that Fred performed, traveled and recorded with were the Joe Beno Band, The Imperials of Toledo, Dan Witucki and the Music Masters, Linda Lee and the Golden-Aires, Bruno Mikos and the Harmony Stars, The Don Lipovac Orchestra, the Adam Barthalt Band, and the Hank Hailer Ensemble.
During this time, the “International Sound Machine” never officially disbanded and was still always available for various events. Then in about 1988, after Fred had done a daily Polka radio show for KSTL in St. Louis and moved back to Cleveland, it was time to put the “I.SM.” together on a serious level but with a slightly different approach to running a band. Taking a page out of the Frankie Yankovic Method, Fred actually created two bands that were the “International Sound Machine.” Gary and Christopher Byndas had worked many of the “I.S.M.” jobs since about 1983. In fact, they were regularly featured at the Brookstate Inn, Cleveland’s Polka Landmark, playing Polish Music on Thursday nights for several years. Gary and Chris were featured on the jobs requiring the more SIovenian or Polish styles, plus those events that needed more American and Popular Music.

The other group of musicians included Bob “Robear” Virag on Trumpet and Accordion. He was also one of the original musicians in 1977. And, At Denny (Demkowicz) on Sax and Clarinet. They did most of the road trips and regularly appeared on the events where the more brassy German and Czech music was played. Throughout most of this period, drummer Richard Lee played all the jobs, which gave the band consistency.
In about 1990, Ron Schafer of the World Renowned Sound Company approached Fred about starting to do a series of recordings to be known as the International Sound Machine Spotlight Series. The idea was to offer the average consumer (not neccesarily pure Polka Fan) a budget priced product with many of the familiar Polka and Waltz Selections in all of the Styles. 16 cassettes, which were then available on 6 CDs were released between 1991 and 1996. The most popular of these recordings were “The World’s Most Beautiful Waltzes” and “Button Box Play-along Favorites.” Fred’s personal favorite is “A Polka and Waltz Tribute to Kenny Bass and the Polka Poppers.” Two of the recordings at this time – “German-American Favorites” and “Oktoberfest Favorites/’ featured the fine German vocal stylings of Roland Pfeifer.
Fred still isn’t sure how he managed to record 11 of those cassettes in a year and a half period, while attending Cleveland State University to get his Master’s Degree (M.M.) in 1991. Because of the popularity and radio air play that these recordings generated, the bookings of the “lnternational Sound Machine” increased dramatically. Then finally in 1998, both sets of “I.S.M” musicians joined Fred in the studio to record 24 songs for 2 cassettes and the CD called “If It Weren’t For Polka Music, I’d Go Crazy.” A large variety of music was featured, showcasing all of the “I.S.M.” Musicians. One of the selections from that recording “Dreaming of My Homeland”, a Waltz sung by Christine Hibbs, was the #1 song on Polkacountdown.com for 7 weeks.
During the 1980’s Fred also started to appear as a one-man band. Being one of the first accordionists in the Cleveland area to utilize MIDI in his Accordion, he was and is often called to perform for smaller events. For about 5 years from 1988-1993, Fred performed just about every Friday night at Ceska Sin Karlin Hall, on Fleet Ave. in Cleveland’s Slavic Village area. And then, starting in September of 1993, Sterle’s Slovenian Country House wanted to have music on Friday nights for just the dining crowd. So the “6 to 9, While You Dine?’ was created. In March of 2000, Fred did a live recording on one of these “Festive Fridays” that is available on CD.
At the beginning of 1999, when Al Denny decided to retire from the Music Business, Gary and Christopher Byndas took on all the “ISM?’ jobs and Wayne Habat became the drummer. This group of musicians recorded “What A Little Polka Can Dot The title son as sung by Christine Hibbs, was so successful that the CD was selected as the Polka Hall of Fame “Recording of the Year” for 2001. It then also became the theme music for Tony Petkovsek’s daily radio shows on WELW 1330 AM, and 247polkaheaven.com. And, it’s the lead cut on the WYMS (Milwaukee) Polka Parade of Stars for 2001.
At the suggestion of Phil Srnick, who was a trustee with the Polka Hall of Fame at the time, Fred became the Musician’s representative Trustee of the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame in 1993. For several years, he acted as Music Arranger of the annual Awards Show that takes place on Thanksgiving Weekend, working with fellow trustee Jim Kozel at the time. And from 2000-2007, he was both the director and arranger for the Ali-Star Band that accompanies the awards show.

Fred along with sidemen Gary and Christopher Byndas, Wayne and (now) Mark Habat have the distinction of having received the most nominees in the history of the Polka Hall of Fame. Fred has won the “Musician of the Year award 4 times (1993, 1998, 2001,2005), the “Button Box Musician of the Year” award 4 times (1995, 1998, 2000, 2005), and the “Recording of the Yea?’ twice (2001, 2005). Though they have never won the award, the “I.S.M” has been nominated for “Band of the Yea/” more often than any other band. At the Awards show in Nov. 2005, Fred won 3 of the Annual Awards: “Musician of the Year,” “Button Box Individual of the Year” and the prestigious “Recording of the Year” for “Fred Ziwich Plays the Music of Slavko Avsenik on the Button Box.” And at the most recent Awards Show in Nov. 2008, Fred won the first award of a new annual award category, “Best New/Original SonE’ for “Don’t Play Me A Sad Song At Christmas.”
Besides recording with and as the “International Sound Machine” Fred has been available to perform as a studio musician for many different groups. Most prominently, he has performed on 2nd Accordion on all of the Walter Ostanek Recordings from 1996-2006. And played 2nd Accordion on the Joe Fedorchak “That Old Gang of Mine”, that was the PHOF “Recording of the Year” for 1994.

In total, He has performed as a leader, sideman or conductor on about 90 different recordings, with over 20 bands, having recorded near 1100 songs.

Some of the notable “I.S.M.” recordings of the last several years include: “ISM 25” from May 2002, which musically celebrated the 25th anniversary of the band. “Fred’s Favorites” from 2004, in which the band recorded all of their favorite songs and arrangements, in conjunction with Fred’s 50th birthday. And “Festive Fred presents a Polka Cilka-Bration” is which he and PHOF President Cecilia Dolgan recorded Americanized Versions of 17 Slavko Avsenik Melodies on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Avsenik’s first recordings in Europe.
In less than a year period, from October 2005 through August 2006, Fred and the “I.S.M2 released 4 recordings that are all different. As the “Crooked River Button Box Club” he joined Hank Hailer for Bohemian/Slovak Polkas on the Button Box. In January 2006, the “I.S.M.” released Say It With Music, which highlighted many of the popular and dance styles that they play when not performing Polkas and Waltzes. March 2006 brought Button Box Champ, which features 22 instrumental button box selections in a variety of styles, and contains 10 of Fred’s original songs for Button Box. And, finally Good Friends, Good Music is a collaborative effort along with the Walter Ostanek Recording Band, which was one of the finalist for the Grammy

In 2008 he released a 3-part production called “Button Box Karaoke.” This is a unique presentation that includes a play-along CD and a self instruction method book to help new players. And their most recent recording “On the Other Side of the Tracks” features the “I.SM,” playing and singing many of the Polish-style selections that they have performed for many years but not recorded. Besides the fine vocal and horn stylings of Gary and Christopher Byndas, there are 5 original songs by Fred that feature his Clarinet and Sax playing.

As a full time musician since about 1983, Fred has directed the Deutscher Musik Verein (German Music Society) since 1993. This is a Brass Band that features festive German Polkas, Waltzes and Marches and other popular favorites and light classics. Besides leading them in many Oktoberfests, Beer Festivals, and other events within the German Community, he directed the band on their 10 day trip to Germany in 2000. The DMV also has made 2 recordings under Fred’s direction. Fred was also selected as the “German American Citizen of the Year” by the German Federated Societies of Cleveland in 2007.
And from about 1998 to their retirement in 2004, he directed the Jadran (Slovenian) Singing Society.
One of his little known accomplishments is that He has been a finalist in 4 of the last 5 years for the Penn-Ohio Polka Pals prestigious “Man of the Year” award.
Fred also has a been the host of several different radio shows over the years. Presently, the “International Sound Machine Show” and “Polkas Down Memory Lane” can be heard several times a week on www,247polkaheaven.com, the World’s Polka Network.
It’s hard to believe that in today’s world someone could actually make a living from playing the accordion and predominantly ethnic music. But Fred and his unique and dedicated approach to music has proven that it can be done.
At the Polka Hall of Fame Awards Show in November of 2010, Fred was given the highest honor by being the youngest person ever voted as a Lifetime Achievement Winner by the near 1500 members of the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame.
In 2011, the “LS.M.’ issued “Czech-American Festival Favorites” which combined selections from an earlier recording that was only issued on Cassette, with 2 new original songs, and Czech-Bohemian Style cuts from more recent CDs.
For 2012, Fred along with 4 other Button Accordionists issued – “Button Box Menagerie.” Since they recorded too many songs, 2 CDs were produced. This recording went on to win the Award for “Best Cleveland/Slovenian-Style” Recording voted on by the listeners of WWW.247PoikaHeaven.com, and also the PACE Award for the Polka America Corp.
Their recording for 2013, “Let’s Get Festive” took a bit of a musical turn, as the “I S.M.” featured many of the newer upbeat selections that they now perform at an Oktoberfest or German Festival This recording won the PACE Award for best German Recording, and the “Best Variety Recording~ for the listeners of WVCW.247PolkaHeaven.com.
And for 2014, Fred has produced as 2 CD set for his 60th birthday called “Around the World in Less than 2 Hours.” It features 36 selections that include vocals in 8 different languages, and songs from 14 different countries, plus several flashy instrumental solos.

Andy Fenus (Pittsburgh, PA)

Andrew (Andy) Fenus, along with his brother Steven (Steve) Fenus, organized their band, The Trel-Tones, in 1954. For the past 45 years the band has been performing Polka music across the United States and Canada. They have made appearances on numerous TV shows including the “Polka Varieties Television Show” on Channel 5 in Cleveland, Ohio; the”John Reed King Variety Show” on KDKA TV, Channel 2, Pittsburgh, Pa.; “Ron Jay’s Morning TV Talk Show Hot-line “, Channel 53, Pittsburgh, Pa.; and on “Public Television” a three-hour special on Polka music shown on Channels 13 and 16 in Pittsburgh, Pa. as well as many cable TV programs around the Pittsburgh area. The Trel-Tones have also made numerous appearances on various radio shows in Pittsburgh and across the country. The broadcasts were both Polka and non-Polka promoting the Polish style Polka music.

Andy and Steve along with their band, The Trel-Tones, have previously recorded six Polka albums, CD’S and cassettes on such renowned labels as Bel-Aire of Clficago; WRS of Cleveland, Ohio and WAM Records out of Youngstown, Ohio. Currently The Trel-Tones are recording on their own label “Trel-Records”. They have recorded six (6) albums “Polka Lovers”, “Super Polkas for Super People”, “Polkas Podnogi “, “Polka Encounters of the Honkie Kind”, “Celebrating 25 Years’, and The Bridal Dance “,’ 3 cassettes- “Polka Encounters of the Honkie Kind “, “Celebrating 25 Years” and “The Bridal Dance “; and one (1) CD-The Bridal Dance.

The Trel-Tones have performed at both the I.P.A. Convention (International Polka Association) Chicago, I11. and the U.S.P.A. Convention (United States Polka Association) held in Cleveland Ohio, Bel-Aire Days in Chicago Ill; Polish Day (Kennywood Park), (West View Park), (Idle Wild) Pittsburgh, Pa., (Idora Park) Youngstown Ohio and Various other Polish Polka affairs across the country. Also, The Trel-Tones have performed at weddings and Polish picnics where Polish Music was introduced to thousands (who had never listened to polka music) they were introduced to the sound of real Polish Polka music. The Trel-Tones have also performed for a polka cruise on the T.S.S.MARDIGRA out of Miami, Florida. In 1981, “Polka Encounters of the Honkie Kind” was awarded Album of the Year, at the U.S.P.A. Convention in Cleveland, Ohio and in 1984 “Going Down Town “, off their album “Celebrating 25 Years”, was awarded Song of the Year.

Today, their music, contunues to be played on Polka shows throughout the country and via satellite around the world. The Trel-Tones are considered a legend by many in the Polka field. Andy R. Fenus is a resident of West Mifflin Pa. and lives with his wife
Janet M. Fenus and their daughter Chereen R. Fenns, Steven Fenus is also a resident of West Mifflin, Pa. and lives with his wife Diane M. Fenus and his daughter Taressa J. Fenus. Andy resides at: 1315 Fedelity Dr. West Mifflin, Pa. 15236 and Steve resides at: 711 West Ascension Dr. West Mifflin Pa. 15122.
Andy is a pastMember of the Boardofthe I.P.A. he was on the board in the early 70’s. They plan to release another album in the near future and hope to play till retirement.

Deceased Category:

Elmer Scheid (New Ulm, MN)

Elmer Scheid and his Hoolerie band performed for 50 years. He learned to play the concertina as a youngster, watching his father play the instrument.
Playing since age eight, Scheid performed his first professional dance job at age 14 with the John Fritsche Band. He later played with the Six Fat Dutchmen and the Babe Wagner Band. Scheid managed the Wagner Band from 1949 to 1951 before creating his own band in 1951.

At the height of their popularity, Scheid played for nearly all of the dances at George’s Ballroom in New Ulm. During this time there were more than 50 bands being booked out of the New Ulm area, which made it the “Polka Capitol of the Nation.”

Scheid was born October 4, 1921, and passed away at the age of 90 on May 4, 2012.

Awards, Accomplishments, Achievements

The Elmer Scheid Band won the popularity contest at the Marigold Ballroom in Minneapolis in 1958. He was the only Minnesota band invited to participate in the National Polka Festival in Milwaukee in 1968.

Scheid produced 15 LPs (long play records) and tapes. The band’s last recording was done in 1986. He was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in 1995. He recorded on national record labels including Epic, Decca, Polka City, Pleasant Peasant, Czech Records, Oxboro and Soma.

Contributions towards Preserving and Advancing the Polka Music Industry

Scheid was known for his clean concertina playing, one of the pioneers of the hoolerie sound New Ulm is known for. Many German-style polka bandleaders like Johnny Gag and Jerry Schuft emulated him.

Marge Machay (Chicago, IL)

Marge Machay and her late husband Chuck have been the owners & operators of Chicago’s Polonia Ballroom & Grove since 1964. A landmark to Chicagoans, its name was changed to Polonia Banquets in the 1980’s as the Machay’s initiated a major renovation to broaden their business and to better facilitate the public. The Machay’s have consistently included and sustained polka music and polka dancing throughout the past nearly half century.

They have worked with promoters to bring in top polka entertainment at their establishment. They drew crowds from all over the country in polka music and they featured polka talent from throughout regions of the United States and Canada. They showcased weekend long picnics, festivals and events attheir ballroom & grove for the International Polka Convention in its infancy and for the nationally known, BeI-Aire Polka Days produced by Eddie Blazonczyk. These events drew thousands of polka fans from all points of the USA into greater Chicagoland.

Polonia Banquets at 4604 S. Archer Avenue in Chicago, still operates today and continues to be a hub for polka entertainment for Chicago polka fans. The Machay family has expanded their business with their famous Polonia Catering to a second location in suburban Chicago. Under the management of Marge Machay, Polonia Banquets still operates today with the same high standards of excellence and continues to feature top polka bands from throughout the nation. Polonia Banquets could very well be the longest running polka establishment in the USA still in existence under the same management for a half century.

Pioneer Category:

Edward Chester Kutas Sr. (New York)

Edward Chester Kutas Sr. was a well known and important promoter of polka music in Buffalo and western New York. Ed was the owner and operator of the historic Warsaw Inn on Broadway in the heart of the Polish East Side. Ed had a vision for a polka convention in Buffalo over 50 years ago when in 1963 he urged his friend Johnny Hyzny (Chicago, IL) to bring his organization, The International Polka Convention ( the largest polka association at that time), to Buffalo.

This organization, which existed before the creation of the IPA, was the largest polka association at the time. Through the work and effort on the part of Ed Kutas, the first the convention was held in Buffalo in 1965 and was unbelievably successful with over 8,000 people attending.

This was the proof that a national scale event and organization was possible and needed to support and promote polka music. This of course led to the creation of the International Polka Association 5 years later.

Ed’s legacy is witnessed in the continuing support of Polka music throughout his family’s promotions via their Polish Villa establishment, a well known center piece in the Buffalo polka community.

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2016 Polka Music Awards:

 Favorite Band – Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push (MA)

Favorite Male Vocalist – Lenny Gomulka (MA)

Favorite Female Vocalist – Mollie “B” Busta Lange (OH)

Favorite Polish Style Album –   “Where The Boys Are” The Boys (MD)

Favorite Polish  Style Song – “Mary Jane” The Boys (MD)    

Favorite International Style Album – “Squeezebox By Request” Squeezebox (OH)

Favorite International Style Song (Tie):  “North Shore Polka” By Squeezebox  &  “Church Picnic Polka” By The Dujka Brothers 

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Special Achievement Awards

Beginning last year, a new award was established by the Board of Trustees to recognize an exceptional performer who greatly contributed to the success of a major polka band over a long period of time in a non-leadership capacity.  The award was named the Leon Kozicki Award in honor of the long-time Polka Hall of Fame chairman.  Each year, The IPA Board of Directors also selects a non-musician who has dedicated significant time and energy toward the promotion of polka music for the Joe Jozwiak Award.  This special achievement award is named in honor of the long-time polka promoter from Chicago.

 2017 Joe Jozwiak Award:

 Les Kapuscinski (Ontario, Canada) 

When you think of people that really work hard at promoting polka music, and discussing this topic with others, there is one name that consistently is at the top of people’s list and that is Les Kapuscinski. Everyone knows Les as the “photo guy” who is consistently seen taking hundreds of pictures at all of the events big and small across the country and Canada, regardless of association, capturing the moments that bind us all. We have all seen Les’s work and know not only how much work & effort he puts in to making every picture beautiful, but also just how dedicated he is to capturing the essence of what this music and our culture is all about. One needs only to see or listen to people talk about his photos to understand the impact he has had on the youth in our industry as well as the promotion of so many events to not only polka people but also others through social media. Les, is one of the most selfless individuals you will meet. Les does not do this for accolades, and has never asked for any recognition of any type; he does it all for nothing but the love he has for all of us, our culture and promoting the music we all love. Les defines what the Joe Jozwiak award is all about.

2017 Leon Kozicki Award:

Joey Sokol / Clarinet:  Happy Louie Orchestra

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