2022 Leon Kozicki Trustees Award Winner: Mike Stapinski
Without a doubt, Mike Stapinski is considered one of the top sidemen in the Polish polka genre and his number is at the top of many band leaders’ cell phone speed dials.
Mike’s talents include proficiency on trumpet, clarinet, sax, bass guitar, lead guitar, drums, piano, concertina and vocals. Mike’s musical career began at the young age of 12 when he joined local Western Pennsylvania band, The Jolly Hopps. This was a brand new start-up variety band. At 15, he was polishing his skills with Polka Hall of Famer Joe Fiedor and his Polish All Stars traveling the country.
Upon moving to Chicago in 1980, he lent his abilities to Polka Hall of Famer Marion Lush and the White Eagles. This band did 2 recordings with Marion and played 130+ jobs a year across the country. Mike continued to play with Marion until his passing in 1993. Mike then joined Gerry Tarka and the Midwest Sounds in 1986 for nearly one year. In 1987, Mike began his ongoing 30+ year career with Chicago’s Music Company, and in 2013, his association with the IPA Tribute Band. He was also a member of the exceptional Full Circle band, which also included Polka Hall of Famers Lenny Gomulka, Jimmy Weber, Al Piatkowski, Mike Matousek, and legendary drummer Roger Malinowski. That unique group hosted and performed on 7 very successful polka cruises and appeared at a number of high-profile events. Because of his versatility, Mike also regularly performs with Lenny Gomulka and Chicago Push, The Boys, Dennis Motyka’s Good Times, and others.
He has also written many songs and recorded with several top bands throughout his polka career. He received the Marion Lush Songwriter’s Award from the United Polka Association in Chicago. He has also written many songs in the pop music genre and tried to make it as a pop music songwriter in the late 1980’s. Despite his busy schedule, Mike also carves out time on many Sundays to perform in a Polka Mass band. Mike has been a first call player for years. Here are other bands/groups he has performed on stage with: The Versatones, Trel Tones, Ray Jay and the Carousels, Wanda & Stephanie, Freddy K, Windy City Brass, Little Richard and his Polka Allstars, Little Wally, Chi-Town Express, Jerry Zahara and the Happy Stars, World’s Honkiest Polka Band, Freeze Dried, Bratwurst Brothers, The Schnitzels, Tony Blazonczyk’s New Phaze, Stas Golonka and the Chicago Masters, Stas Bulanda and his Average Polka Band, Dynatones, Polka Country Musicians, Chicago Polish Carolers, Eddie Blazonczyk Christmas shows and the Mollie B Christmas Show.
Mike has 2 Grammy nominations with The Versatones and also received several best band awards with Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push and The Boys from the IPA and USPA. Mike contributes to the preservation of polka music by having 3 YouTube channels with over a million views on his live videos (polkas101, polkasunited and gonefullcircle). Mike also started an internet forum dedicated to polka music, Polkas United. He has never taken a break from his almost 50-year musical journey!
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