National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum
605 East 222nd Street Euclid, OH 44123
Toll Free: 1-800-66POLKA
Cilka enters the Hall of Fame in many facets of the polka world. Her contributions
are as a singer, disc jockey, music director, recording artist, lyricist, and composer.
Cilka is equally at ease singing on television with Frankie Yankovic or at Carnegie
Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra.
Her musical interests began with Anna Vadnal and the Slovenian Children's Chorus
at Slovenian Workmen's Home in Cleveland in 1947 and continued at the Cleveland Institute
of Music Opera Workshop. She pursued classical music after receiving a voice scholarship
at the Cleveland Music School Settlement. At the same time Cecilia sang with the
Glasbena Matica Slovenian Singing Society and with the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus.
Cecilia's interest in Slovenian music was nurtured at home where her mom, Josephine
Valencic, instilled in her children pride of nationality. On a visit to Slovenia
in 1960, Cilka was the first American to appear on RTV Ljubljana television on the
show "Pokazi Kaj Znas" (Show Your Talent). On her retum to Cleveland, she was asked
to sing on local television's "Polka Varieties" and "Festival Five". She was among
the first to sing the music of Avsenik in the States. She recorded her first album
in Pittsburgh in 1966 with Sam Pugliano and Jake Derlink. Cilka's next two albums
were with the Almars Orchestra on Delta International's polka label, and then a series
of Cilka, Smooth as Cilka, Touch of Cilka, and Breakthrough, which brought a modern
disco sound to polkas.
She hosted and produced the Slovenian Night Radio Show for ten years. Cilka has been
striving to bring Slovenian music through polkas and waltzes to the largest possible
American audiences. That is why she has translated more than 50 songs into English
that have been recorded by some of the best polka bands. She wrote the lyrics for
"The Wind Song", "Back Home to Pennsylvania", "Save the Last Dance", "Hey, Prijatelj,
Means My Buddy", "Roses of Love", and "Friends Polka". She has also written a dozen
With the hope of preserving Slovenian music in the U.S., Cilka has been teaching
hundreds of children in the Slovenian Junior Chorus SNPJ Circle 2 for 25 years as
director of the singers, taking them on tour to Slovenia, EPCOT Center, and cities
in the U.S. and Canada. Some of the polka musicians who sang in the chorus are Christine
Mihelich, Kathy Hlad, Billy Novak, Phil Srnick, Ed and Chuck Sumrada, Joey Tomsick,
and Nancy Hlad.
She initiated the Super Button Box Bash in 1983, showcasing dozens of the best button
accordion groups, with audiences of 1,000 people. Cilka arranged 42 popular Slovenian
follk songs into two songbooks.
Back For history's sake, Cilka edited the United Slovenian Society's Slovenian National
Directory of 1,200 Slovenian organizations of the U.S., including polka bands and
polka radio shows.
In 1975 she was honored as Slovenian of the Year, youngest woman chosen.