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IPA Hall of Fame Biography



Michael Nowakowski of Buffalo, New York has been involved in the Polka Music field for over 38 years. He has been successful in all aspects of the industry.


In his 20 years as President and Executive Producer of the Sunshine Label, Mike has managed all details of the recording industry. These include not only the development and production of recordings for the nationally-recognized label, but also the manufacturing, artwork, printing, promotion and distribution of product ­for the nearly 120 bands on the Sunshine label. Among this group are Polka music's elite, including The Dynatones, Walter Ostanek, John Gora & Gorale, Stas Golonka & his Chicago Masters, Toledo Polkamotion, Prime Drive, Jerry Darlak & the Buffalo Touch, Steel City Brass, Happy Richie's Polka Band, Wanda & Stephanie, Dave Gawronski, Crusade, Bob Zielinski Orchestra, The Beat, Cityside, Bedrock Boys, Imperials, Dennis Polisky's Maestro's Men, Steve Kaminski and many others, including Nowakowski's own Sunshine Band. The Sunshine label also became home to several specialty recordings, including the ever-popular Polkas for Children series and several CDs and cassettes produced for Christmas and other holidays.


Since its founding, Sunshine has been a major label in the Polka music industry. Its promotional mailings reach over 350 radio stations, promoters and music reviewers across the United States and Canada. Many of the bands on the label have gone on to national prominence with the help of Sunshine's promotion.


To Nowakowski's credit, the Sunshine label has had nine Grammy-nominated recordings in the last six years. Nowakowski himself received a nomination in 2002 for his accordion work on Jerry Darlak & the Buffalo Touch band's album Let the Good Times Roll and again in 2003 with their album Polkas in Black & White.


Nowakowski has been involved with Polka music virtually his whole life. At the age of 12 he formed his first Polka band, The Varitones. In 1971, he joined the Modernaires and recorded and toured with that group until it disbanded in 1976. At that time, Nowakowski formed the Sunshine Band. The band recorded several albums and played for over fifteen years throughout the United States and Canada.


When professional careers forced members of the Sunshine Band to change their priorities, Nowakowski landed a position with The Buffalo Knewz for several years before joining Marion Lush's band until Lush's untimely death. At that time, he joined the very popular Dynatones and toured the United States with that group for several years. Two years after leaving the Dynatones, Nowakowski began playing with Jerry Darlak and the Buffalo Touch band, of which he is still a member and continues to play across the United States.


He has proven that he is comfortable on either side of the recording booth. In addition to several singles, he has recorded full-length albums as an accordionist with: The Modernaires (2 recordings); the Sunshine Band (2); The Dynatones (5); The Knewz (1); and Jerry Darlak & the Buffalo Touch (5). Nowakowski has also been a featured pianist on several recordings.


As a promoter, Nowakowski was one of the originators of the Can-Am Polka Days. Since his youth, he has promoted and chaired many dances in the Buffalo area. Nowakowski has been involved with numerous Polka organizations, and has served on the Board of Directors of the Buffalo Polka Boosters. He is also a member of the United States Polka Association and has been an elector of the International Polka Association's Hall of Fame. He is a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) and is a voting member of the Producers and Engineer Wing at NARAS.


Nowakowski's love for Polka music has created a career that many can only dream of. For the past 15 years, his full-time employment has been that of a Polka music producer and promoter. Involved in Polka music on a daily basis, he is ever vigilant in his quest to promote the music and the industry with new talent.