Entertainment

Grammy board axes polka category to stay 'relevant and responsive'

Canada's polka king Walter Ostanek won't be able to add another golden gramophone trophy to his existing trio haul after organizers of the Grammys announced the elimination of the best polka album category.
Accordionist Walter Ostanek, seen receiving the Order of Canada from Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson in 2000, has been a three-time winner and perennial Grammy nominee for best polka album. The Grammy category has now been eliminated. ((Jim Young/Reuters))

Canada's polka king Walter Ostanek won't be able to add another golden gramophone trophy to his existing haul after organizers of the Grammys announced the elimination of the best polka album category.

The U.S. Recording Academy, which administers the prestigious U.S. musical honour, revealed a number of category changes and new additions to its board of trustees in a statement issued Wednesday.

"I don't like to see it happen," bandleader and three-time Grammy winner Ostanek said Thursday from his St. Catharines, Ont., home.

"There's room for our music."

At the same time, Ostanek harbours no ill will to Grammy organizers, whom he feels have given him tremendous exposure over the years. His regret is simply that younger polka musicians will not benefit similarly.

"I personally have had a good ride, and I feel sorry for the future artists coming up," he said. "There are fans out there and there will be more fans down the line. But that's the way it is."

Along with axing the polka trophy, the academy also decided to fold the best Latin urban album category into the best Latin rock or alternative album one, creating an omnibus trophy.

The board also voted to split the best contemporary folk/Americana album award into two separate prizes and rename the entire folk field "American roots music."

The decisions were made to ensure "the awards process is pertinent within the current musical landscape," academy president and CEO Neil Portnow said.

"The board of trustees continues to demonstrate its passionate commitment to keeping the Recording Academy a relevant and responsive organization in our dynamic music community."

After the changes, organizers will now have 109 awards to present as part of next year's Grammys ceremony, slated for Jan. 31, 2010.

The 74-year-old Ostanek has been a mainstay of the Grammy celebration for decades, earning nearly two dozen nominations and winning three consecutive best polka album trophies beginning in 1992 (for 35th Anniversary, Accordionally Yours and Music and Friends).

The musician and music store owner is a member of the Order of Canada, was inducted into the International Polka Hall of Fame in Chicago and also has a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto.

With files from The Canadian Press

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