2004 awardee, Farmington (Oakland County), accordionist and master
of Polish folk music
Stas Wisniach (b. 1923) is an outstanding master accordionist and a symbol
of Polish traditional music. He began accordion lessons at about the age
of 4 when his parents recognized his musical potential after hearing him
play an accordion given to him by his uncle. His father once took him
to a wedding, accordion in tow, and sat him beside a concertina player.
Stas played along in perfect time, and it was then that his father invested
in a larger accordion.
When Stas was 9, he organized his own band and
played at neighborhood clubs, dances, and many different Polish social
events. In 1945 he graduated from the Detroit Institute of Musical Art
as the first student with a major in the accordion. In the 1950s he became
the orchestra leader of the Club Polka show on WXYZ and also performed
on "Soupy Sales" and "Our Friend Harry." He moved to California in 1966
where he lived and performed professionally for Polish communities and
others. He returned to Detroit in 2001 to perform at the gala reception
of the exhibition, "Polish Presence in Detroit," at the Detroit Historical
Museum, and he has remained.
During his more-than-70-year career, Stas has
taught accordion to many. He also has made a number of recordings. It
is, however, the 1960s collection of Polish folk ballads, "Sentimental
Journey to Poland," with the Jan Wojnar ensemble that Polish music historian
Laurie Gomulka Palazzolo regards as "one of the most perfect recordings
ever made." She states, "Stas's work on this recording represents some
of the finest musicianship I have ever heard." (1)
Stas, who has a large following in southeast
Michigan, continues to perform and teach. In 2004 he was selected for
a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship award to teach accordion and
Polish folk music to Georgiana Leonard.
(1) Laurie Gomulka Palazzolo, Nomination letter, December, 2003.
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