Texas Folklife is pleased to announce the names of the talented young accordionists who were chosen as the 2014 Big Squeeze Champs. They are Garrett Neubauer, Grand Prize Winner for Polka; Randall Jackson, Grand Prize Winner for Zydeco; and Aaron Salinas, Grand Prize Winner for Conjunto.
The winners were chosen at the Big Squeeze Finals and Concert held on the Lone Star Plaza at the Bullock Texas State History Museum last Saturday. Nine finalists and three honorable mentions performed before the large, enthusiastic Texas roots music loving crowd. The program featured Grammy Award-winning Sunny Sauceda, Curtis Poullard and the Creole Zydeco Band, the Austin-based Fabulous Polkasonics, and Michael Ramos, the reigning Big Squeeze Champ.
This year was the eighth annual Big Squeeze accordion contest for up-and-coming Texas musicians. In order to better nurture young Texas talent, Texas Folklife has expanded the popular contest. Instead of one Big Squeeze Champ, three Final Grand Prize Winners were chosen to represent the three main accordion genres—polka, zydeco, and conjunto. The polka genre includes German, Czech, and Polish traditions. Zydeco includes Creole and Cajun musical traditions. And conjunto includes norteño and Tejano. There were eight talent showcases scheduled around the state that were free, open to the public, and featured performances by local musicians. Six showcases have already occurred: Houston Creole Festival (February 1); La Joya High School (February 8); McDonald Public Library in Corpus Christi (February 9); Texas Polka Festival and Symposium in Schulenburg (February 22); MECA in Houston (February 23); the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas (March 23); and Los Fresnos High School (March 29), and the Gallista Gallery with Conjunto Heritage Taller in San Antonio (April 4).
This year saw a large increase in the number of participants and the number of audience members throughout the state for the contest. There were 49 contestants and over 3,000 individuals who attended the eight talent showcases. There were over 500 in the audience at the Final Playoffs and Concert, with many getting up to joyously dance and root for the young the squeezeboxers.
All three winners will perform at Texas Folklife’s highly acclaimed annual Accordion Kings & Queens Festival at Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre on Saturday, June 7, 2014. The three young winners will hit the jackpot because this will be a special year to perform at Accordion Kings & Queens as it will be the 25th anniversary! In addition, the three Big Squeeze 2014 Grand Prize Winners received a prize package valued at more than $4,000, including a cash prize, a brand new Hohner accordion, performance opportunities in Austin and Houston, publicity, professional development, and other professional opportunities.
“The Big Squeeze contest has turned a corner,” said Executive Director Cristina Ballí. “This year, throughout the state, thousands of Texans have come out to see the next generation of culture bearers. We are grateful to our partners in the contest who have helped us make a difference in these young people’s lives and their communities by encouraging the state’s traditional music scene. In addition, we are glad to have broadened the scope of the contest by creating three Grand Prize Winners, because we had the largest number of young squeezeboxers in the contest and all of them are fine young musicians with incredible talent. I guess you could say that accordions are taking over the world!”