2024 Joe Jozwiak Award Winner: Raymond Kanoza

I was born on January 28, 1952, in Oshawa, Ontario (Canada), the first of my two siblings, both sisters (Christine and Theresa), to be welcomed home by two loving parents, Joseph and Aurelia Kanoza.  Both mom and dad were born in Poland.

I grew up in a lovely Polish and catholic home.  Music and family gatherings were a common occurrence in our home.  Mom and Dad, as well as both family and friends, loved music and entertaining. Mom loved to dance, especially the hot polka, to the music of Frank Wojnarowski, Marion Lush, and Little Wally. Dad especially liked Stas Golonka and his Honky style music.

My personal interest in polka music didn’t really start until the mid-1970s, when in my twenties, along with three buddies, I went to Seven Springs and saw Eddie Blazonczyk and the Versatones on the same stage with Jimmy Sturr and his orchestra.  The music was unbelievable, the crowds awesome, and the women beautiful! My buddies and I had never seen anything like what we saw at Seven Springs in Canada. I learned how to dance the Chicago-style polka, and the rest is history. 

For years, I’ve enjoyed traveling to and attending as many polka celebrations as I could, always making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. I’ve traveled many times to Seven Springs Polka Fireworks, Frankenmuth Summer Music Festival, Ludlow PACC dances, Ohio, New York IPA, and USPA festivals. I’ve always enjoyed the music, friends, camaraderie, hospitality, and overall friendly and jovial atmosphere at the festivals. As my friend Lenny Gomulka would say, “There’s no fan like a polka fan.”  I’ve always enjoyed dancing; fun and a great workout in itself, as well as a wonderful way to meet women.

One of the highlights of my polka experience was in 2007 at the Roncesvalles Polish Street Festival when three of my favorite polka bands made an appearance – Lenny Gomulka and the Chicago Push, Eddie Blazonczyk (Junior) and the Versationes, and the Polka Family Polka band. An absolutely amazing venue for Toronto’s Roncesvalles Polish Street Festival. They played on what is now known as “The Polkamania Stage,” which at that time was right in front of my mother’s home on Roncesvalles Avenue. Oh, how many people, from both near and far, enjoyed the talent of the polka bands and the entertainment they provided. Not the least of whom was my mom.

When my mom passed away in 2014, we had a wonderful polka celebration of life for her, which featured, among other very talented musicians, John Gora, Ted Lange, and Richie Kois. I know that’s just the celebration of life my mom would have loved.

In 2015, I had the pleasure of going on my first polka Caribbean cruise with Polka Country Musicians, and what a wonderful trip at sea that was. Dancing to polkas on the seas under the star- and moonlit sky—what could be better?

Yet another exciting musical event was attending the Grammy Awards in California in 2004 when the polka category was still a separate category. It was so exciting to meet up with so many of my polka friends and enjoy not only the award presentations but also the before- and after-parties. It was a lifetime of wonderful memories.

For several years in a row, during the Christmas season I was privileged to go along with Lenny Gomulka and his many friends, carolling to many gracious and hospitable Polish American homes.  Always well received with lots of Christmas cheer, traditional Polish food, and drink.

As a practicing Oral Surgeon, now part-time, it was always my pleasure to let patients know about my love of and pride in Polish music. On rare occasions, I would even play polkas for them and always make sure to extract the tooth right on the beat!!! OUCH!! LOL!!

I would often tell them that I was a trumpet student, playing part-time in classical, big band, and Cuban/Latin ensembles—no polka bands. AND that because I was not talented and not able to make a living at it, I was back to pulling teeth. Thank goodness for bad teeth and good polka music. LOL!!

Now, in 2024, at the age of 72, with mobility issues catching up with me and making it difficult to dance, I still very much enjoy listening to polka music, tapping my feet along with the beat, and sharing the love of the music with all my polka friends.    AND

Occasionally a drink or two!

May polka music live on in the hearts of many future generations to come.

Comments are closed.