GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On a Sunday afternoon, dozens of people gathered at Fifth Street Hall on the west side for a polka concert to honor Tom Uzarski and other Grand Rapids polka greats who have passed away. Taking the stage that afternoon were many of today's Grand Rapids polka greats, including David Kurdziel.
David, or "Nigel," as his bandmates call him, is a decorated bass guitar player who is about to receive perhaps the greatest honor of his four-decade career.
"I got elected to the International Polka Association Hall of Fame. I found out about that a couple of weeks ago. It's an incredible honor. In polka music, whether you're a musician, a DJ, promoter, singer, or songwriter, it's really the highest honor," Kurdziel said.
The ceremony will take place in the Pittsburgh suburb of Cranberry, Pennsylvania over Labor Day weekend.
"I've had such an amazing career playing all these years. I've been playing probably about 40 years now, and this is really the icing on the cake for my career," he said.
Kurdziel is originally from Buffalo, New York and was "brought up in the Polish culture." In Buffalo, he played for a band called the Dynotones. With Kurdziel as a studio musician, Eddie Blazonczyk and the Versatones won a Grammy Award in 1985. Then Kurdziel joined the Chicago-based band full time and they were nominated for additional Grammys.
"It's such a privilege to be out there, and to just go around talking to different people, and seeing celebrities," Kurdziel said.
"We got to walk the red carpet, which was just phenomenal. It's one of those moments where you're like standing there, and you're seeing all these people around, and you're saying 'Is this really happening?'"
In Grand Rapids, Kurdziel joined Gerry Kaminski's Merry Makers, and eventually Gerry Kaminski's Polka Network.
"I've been so blessed through the years to be able to work with so many great musicians," he said.
"As much as this award belongs to me, it belongs to those people too. And of course, my family because my family has sacrificed so much for me to be the weekend warrior, playing every weekend and it's really a group effort."
Gerry Kaminski's Polka Network plays many shows at Fifth Street Hall, especially during Pulaski Days. They'll also perform at the Dozynki Polish Harvest Festival at Calder Plaza coming up in August.
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