Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

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Kobal, Norm

Norm Kobal is one of Cleveland-Style's most formidable talents. A schooled musician transcending musical styles, Norm has devoted the majority of his musical talents over fifty years to his first love, Cleveland-Style Polkas and Waltzes.

Raised in Girard, Ohio, among a musical family, Norm mastered the trumpet, banjo, and guitar before settling on tenor saxophone, clarinet, and flute as his primary instruments. Norm joined Jack Persin and the Jolly Jesters in 1944 and recorded with his father's band, Stan Kobal and the Airliners, in 1947.

Earning Bachelor's and Master's degrees in music from Youngstown State University, Norm taught in the Lakeview and Girard school systems, at the Strouss Music Center, and at Youngstown State. Broadening his experience, Norm spent seven years with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra, directed and played jazz concerts, guested with the W.D. Packard Concert Band, logged three years with the 702nd Air Force Band in Omaha, and performed with Greek, Italian, country, and Broadway show groups. Over the years, Norm backed luminaries such as Al Martino, Jerry Vale, Wayne Newton, Sergio Franchi, and Robert Goulet.

But even more inspired by the likes of Johnny Pecon, Lou Trebar, and Eddie Platt, Norm was irresistibly drawn to Slovenian polka music. Since 1956, Norm has manned the woodwind spot with his own bands, Steve Garchar, Del Sinchak, Trontel-Zagger, Miskulin-Trebar, Eddie Kenik/Don Slogar, Joe Luzar, Ray Polantz, Dave Wretschko, Tony Klepec, and Johnny Vadnal. Available to all who call, without regard to age or stature, Norm has played with virtually every Cleveland-Style band of note in the Greater Cleveland and Penn-Ohio areas.

Highly sought after for recording sessions, Norm has amassed a personal discography comprising two Greatest all-Time Cleveland-Style Hits, My Alice Waltz and I Wanna Call You Sweetheart; the innovating use of flute in Cleveland-Style music; Walter Ostanek's three Grammy-winning albums; and nine of his own compositions, including Emily's Waltz, in nearly one hundred recordings with a host of Cleveland-Style orchestras.

Norm was the POPP's Man of the Year in 1972, the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame's Musician of the Year in 1992, Sideman of the Year in 1995 and 1996, was feated with the Tony Klepec Orchestra's Band and Recording of the Year honors in 1992.

Much like the pioneers he worshipped as a young man, Norm has become a Cleveland-Style legend in his own right with Cleveland-Style players across the country studying and emulating his techniques, stylings, and licks.

Norm has aptly been described as the "Benny Goodman of Cleveland-Style music."

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