National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum

605 East 222nd Street
Euclid, OH 44123




Phone: 216-261-3263

Toll Free: 1-800-66POLKA

Fax: 216-261-4134


Zarja Singing Society, the oldest Slovenian choral group in the world outside of Slovenia, has been delivering stellar performances since 1916. The Cleveland-based mixed-voice adult chorus has been a pillar of Slovenian-American culture in the United States, thus underpinning Cleveland-Style Polkas and Waltzes. Pursuing its stated mission of providing education and support of Slovenian culture and tradition, Zarja has presented at least two concerts each year; made recordings, broadcast appearances, and concert tours; sponsored touring groups from Slovenia; and documented Slovenian culture for posterity. Zarja and its members have also made countless appearances in support of Slovenian cultural activities, institutions, and civic and charitable causes.


Founded as an all male chorus, Zarja, or "The Dawn" welcomed Viki Poljsak as its "First Lady" in 1920. Under the leadership of John Gombac, its first director, Popia Malen (1917-1919), John Ivanush (1919-1931), and longtime President, Leonard Poljsak, Zarja provided newly arrived immigrants with a tie to the Slovenian homeland. Zarja produced its first full-length Slovenian opera, Turjaska Rosamunda, in 1928.


Facing a decline in membership, Zarja assimilated a new generation into its ranks under director Joseph V. Krabec (1931-1960), maintaining nostalgia for its older constituents while offering American-born Slovenes a sense of identity and roots. Melding tradition with contemporary fare, Zarja tackled a broad range of material, from operettas to Strauss and other popular music, translating both to and from the Slovenian language, and drawing upon the talents of its members to write and sing in smaller groups.


Under Josephine Turkman (1960-1980), Richard Tomsic (1981-1986), and Douglas Elersich, Zarja reached out to a generation of Slovenes who had little or no exposure to Slovenian culture and language. Their Moonlight and Roses concert in 1969 initiated a cabaret format that evolved into the annual Spring Frolic concerts, marked by plot-driven musical performances with English narration. Zarja marked its 50th Anniversary in 1966 with a concert tour of Slovenia followed by encore tours in 1972, 1976, and 1987. Domestically, Zarja has performed in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, and Michigan and has sent emissary groups to Wisconsin and Canada.


Preserving Slovenian culture, Zarja has translated, transcribed, and arranged music and tradition, including written and recorded presentations of the Slovenian Wedding Unveiling Ceremony and Grape Festival Celebration, produced under a grant from the Ohio Arts Council in 1984. In 1976, Zarja deposited memoirs, notes, and music in the Library of Congress commemorating Slovenian contributions to United States history on the nation's bicentennial.


The government sponsored Association of Cultural Organizations of Slovenia presented Zarja with its most significant honor, the Gallus Award, in 1972 in recognition of Zaria's "perpetuation of Slovenian musical and cultural tradition in America."


Inducted in 1995

National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame


Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient




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