Big Squeeze Contest Finals Coming April 26

Free Concert and Playoffs to be held at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on Saturday, April 26

Three Grand Prize Winners will be selected in each category: Polka, Zydeco, and Conjunto  

Texas Folklife and the  Bullock Texas State History Museum are pleased to announce that the Finals for the annual Big Squeeze accordion contest will take place at the museum on Saturday, April 26. The event will be held from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. on the Lone Star Plaza in front of the museum (in case of rain it will be held inside), and is free and open to the public. Big Squeeze finalists, whose names will be announced on April 11, will perform before the judges and the public. While the judges deliberate on the winners, the crowd will be entertained by an all-star musical line-up.

This year’s program is headlined by Grammy Award-winning Sunny Sauceda, a Tejano star who likes to collaborate and “mix it up” in other genres, allowing him to stand out, breakout, and crossover into one of the top solo artists performing today. Also on this dynamite program are zydeco accordionist Curtis Poullard and the Creole Zydeco Band and the Austin-based Fabulous Polkasonics famous for their “old country polkas.” And Michael Ramos, the 2013 Big Squeeze Champ, will join this exciting group of musicians who will no doubt wow the crowd with all things accordion.   

This is the eighth annual Big Squeeze accordion contest for up-and-coming Texas musicians, 21 years of age or younger. In order to better nurture young Texas talent, Texas Folklife expanded the popular contest this year. Instead of one Big Squeeze Champ, there will be three Final Grand Prize Winners 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); Los Fresnos High School (March 29) and the Gallista Gallery with Conjunto Heritage Taller in San Antonio (April 4). 

Nine finalists (three from each genre) will be chosen from the field of performers at the showcases by a panel of esteemed music professionalsAccordionists will be judged on their technical proficiency—skill in playing, and technical and musical accuracy—as well as their song interpretation (stylistic choices, innovation, and originality) and stage presence (level of comfort on stage and attention to personal appearance). The nine finalists will be announced on April 11.

The finalists will perform at the Finals Concert and Playoffs at the Bullock on April 26. As mentioned, there will be three Grand Prize Winners selected. 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 will receive 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. 

“This is a big year for Texas Folklife,” says Executive Director Cristina Ballí. “It is the eighth year for the Big Squeeze, the 25th anniversary for Accordion Kings & Queens, and Texas Folklife turns 30. We are extremely gratified that we have been able to make a difference in young people’s lives with this contest by encouraging the state’s traditional music scene. But what we have discovered in our travels and seeking out the best young Texas accordion players is that a larger emphasis needs to be placed on certain accordion traditions. So we have broadened the scope of the contest by creating three Grand Prize Winners, three Big Squeeze Champs. I guess you could say that accordions are taking over the world!”

The Big Squeeze is supported by the members and Board of Texas Folklife and by Hohner, Inc.; by grants from Texas Commission on the Arts and the Texas Music Office, the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division, the City of Houston through the Miller Theatre Advisory Board, the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, the Houston Endowment, Humanities Texas, H.E.B., Texas Gas Service, and Central Texas Accordion Association. Additional support is provided by regional businesses including SugarHill Recording Studios, Antone’s Records, Hacienda Records, and Frank+Victor Design.