Joseph P. Elsnic
Hall of Fame – 1976
Joseph P. Elsnic (1895-1956) Concertina player, who composed, arranged and published music for the concertina, piano, and accordion. He teamed with his Uncle Louis Vitak early in the 1920s, taking over the music publishing business. Vitak was determined to bring on a younger partner to continue the business into the next generation and beyond. His sister Marie Elsnic had a son, Joseph, who was a musical phenomenon. He was so proficient at the sousaphone that, upon enlistment in 1918, he was sent directly to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center outside of Chicago, Illinois. There he became a member of the Navy Band under the direction of none other than John Philip Sousa.
After discharge from the military, Elsnic joined his uncle’s business. In 1924, the company was renamed the Vitak-Elsnic Company, a name that would become the gold standard of polka genre publishing. Young Joe – still not yet 30 – had little time to learn the ropes from his uncle Louis, who retired in 1926. But he was more than up to it. Louis Vitak made a superb choice of his successor, a man who would not only continue what he had started but who would build upon it.
Joe Elsnic was not just a great musician, but importantly for this business an especially prolific composer and arranger of some of the standards of the genre. He continued his uncle’s outreach and published music directed at other ethnic communities, especially the Polish community. He built relationships and collaborated with the best bandleaders of the day, as well as composers and arrangers, who provided fresh material for publication that would sell.
Like his uncle Louis, he scrupulously copyrighted every original composition and most arrangements to protect their investment.
The Vitak-Elsnic Company was then and is still today (as a Division of Music Publishers of America), the leading publisher of American polka music in the world.