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Longtime musician makes polka hall of fame

May 25, 2011
Jessica Nikolich - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ALPENA - Norm Siess received a surprising phone call about two weeks ago. The Michigan State Polka Music Hall of Fame held its annual election of candidates. Siess, of Alpena, along with three other musicians have a space carved out on the Wall of Honor in Owosso.

People kept telling Siess that one of these years he would get honored.

"There was some talk about it," Siess said. "I'll probably be six feet under before I get it."

Being inducted into the hall of fame is a lifetime membership. The candidates had to submit a biography to the committee, but many of them were already stars.

"Of course, a lot of the people already know (the candidates) because of their notoriety," said Michigan Polka Music Hall of Fame Secretary Joan Smolka, who read many of the biographies.

Smolka said the candidates had to be in the public eye for at least 15 years.

"(The hall of fame officers) pick out the ones that we feel are qualified, and then it goes to a voting committee and they vote, and the highest four are then inducted," she said.

The honors board in Owosso has pictures of the hall of fame members with their name and birthdates displayed. Smolka said the wall has people from all over the state of Michigan.

She said the man who nominated Siess told the committee a lot about him. Without ever meeting him, Smolka feels as though she knows him.

Siess hails from a musical family background. His grandfather was a multi-instrumentalist, and his parents played accordions. He learned to play on the family piano and then the accordion without ever taking lessons. He learned by listening.

Siess had accordion jobs at house parties by the age of 12. Within a year, he was a member of a country band and played with them for the next three years.

The Thunder Bay Polka Jacks was his very first polka band, and he went on to start his own bands The Cordovox Trio and The Norm Siess Variety Band, which he plays with to this day.

After 63 years of performing polka music at weddings, anniversaries, taverns, festivals, German restaurants, casions and dances across Michigan and Arizona, Siess still views it as a joy.

In the biography he submitted to the hall of fame committee, he said how very appreciative he is of "both his musical gift that allows him to perform happy polka music and the folks that have been so supportive over the years."

The official induction into the Michigan State Polka Music Hall of Fame will be held on Oct. 2 at the annual celebration banquet, and presentation awards will be held at WFLA-ZCBJ Hall in Owosso.

Jessica Nikolich can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 343.



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