26th Annual Accordion Kings & Queens June 6

Texas Folklife will bring its annual celebration of the state’s accordion roots music to Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre on Saturday, June 6, at 7:00 p.m. In keeping with its mission to preserve and present Texas’s diverse musical heritage, the festival will feature stars and legends in polka, Cajun zydeco, and conjunto. This year’s accordion stars will include Debra Peters and the Love Saints, Jerome Batiste and the Zydeko Players, and the Grammy-winning Los Texmaniacs and special guests National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow Flaco Jiménez, Augie Meyers, and Rick Treviño. The accordion stars will be joined onstage by this year’s Big Squeeze Grand Prize Winners: Elizabeth Kelley (Cajun/Zydeco), Brandon Hodde (Polka) performing with the All Around Czechs, and Rito Peña (Conjunto). 

The Grammy-winning Los Texmaniacs hardly need an introduction. The band is comprised of founder Max Baca on bajo sexto, Josh Baca on accordion, Noel Hernandez on electric bass, and Daniel Martinez on the drums. Los Texmaniacs won the 2010 Grammy award for Best Tejano Album, Borders y Bailes, on the Smithsonian Folkways label. Their sound has been called “hip music everybody can relate to” and is comprised of conjunto, rock, and rhythm and blues. Los Texmaniacs will be joined onstage by National Heritage Fellow Flaco Jiménez, who recently won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and has been called the “King of Conjunto,” Augie Meyers, and Rick Treviño. It will be a special night as the new Texmaniacs CD, Americano Groove, will be released. The album was produced by Steve Berlin (of Los Lobos), and includes vocals from a roster of Texas music royalty: Alejandro Escovedo, Joe Ely, Kevin Fowler, and Rick Trevino. Additional guest musicians include David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Steve Berlin, and Augie Meyers. It's a mix of five traditional conjunto tracks, three country tracks, and four others that blur genres between rock and TexMex.

Jerome Batiste and the Zydeko Players will bring the Cajun/zydeco beat to the festival this year. Batiste has described himself as a “Creole Cowboy,” and has described the type of music he and his band play as a little bit of everything—Cajun, Creole, jazz, zydeco, blues, rock & roll, and reggae. Based in Crosby, Texas—on the Louisiana side of Houston—the band spreads the gospel of Zydeco Nation throughout the region.

Debra Peters and the Love Saints hail from Austin where they perform a mix of sounds—blues, zydeco, polka, western swing, and classic country. The band has traveled around the globe playing their blend of Texas roots music. Ms. Peters is also an educator. She has created a series of educational videos and teaches the accordion with a special emphasis on encouraging young women to take up the national instrument of Texas.

This year’s event will again be co-emceed by writers and radio hosts Joe Nick Patoski and Tony Diaz. The festival is free and open to the music-loving public. Festivalgoers wanting seats in the pavilion area can pick up their free tickets the day of the festival at the Miller Box Office or become members of Texas Folklife and receive reserved tickets in advance.

One of the important ways Texas Folklife carries out its mission is by introducing the culture bearers of the past to the culture bearers of the future. This will be on display at the 26th annual Accordion Kings & Queens Festival as the three young winners from the Big Squeeze Accordion Contest take to the stage to play with these powerhouse performers. Not only will the young players benefit from this joyous musical connection, but those lucky enough to be in the audience will have the opportunity to witness this generational passing of the torch.

“We are very much looking forward to this year’s Accordion Kings and Queens Festival,” said Executive Director Cristina Ballí. “The concert was started with the idea of promoting the accordion and its role in the different genres of roots music found throughout the state. It has become a full-out celebration of that music, featuring musical legends and stars, and it also has become the breeding ground for the next generation of squeezeboxers with our newly crowned Big Squeeze Champs taking to the stage. And we are thrilled that Los Texmaniacs is using the Festival this year to release their new CD. It will be a joyous night of celebrating all things accordion—with dancing and merry-making, all under the stars in Houston, Texas. Put on your dancing shoes or boots and join us!”  

Garrett Neubauer: Polka Accordion King

By Gary E. McKee

For almost a decade, Texas Folklife has been hosting a Big Squeeze accordion competition spotlighting young accordionists across Texas. The competition in 2014 marked the first time that grand prize winners would be selected in three categories – polka, conjunto and Cajun/zydeco. Big Squeeze winner in the polka category was Garrett Lee Neubauer of Altair. Garrett has been playing accordion since the age of 12. When his father, Daryl, passed away prematurely, he felt that the best way to honor him would be to pick up his father’s accordion and learn how to play it. His father had been an accordionist in the Tony Janak Polka Band. Between managing a rice farm, and playing, Daryl took time to guide a young Mark Hermes (of the Czechaholics) on the art of playing accordion. When Garrett made his decision, Mark returned the family favor by showing him around the keys of Darryl’s accordion, which had once belonged to Bobby Jones. Lawrence Ruether, Garrett’s grandpa, also played the accordion and taught him some songs. As Garrett’s skill increased, other members of the Czechaholics, Brian Klekar and Greg and Brian Svetlik mentored Garrett on the intricacies of music and performing. I remember going backstage several years ago at a Czechaholics gig at SPJST Lodge 88 in Houston and finding Garrett playing along while behind the curtains, learning the songs.

Down by the Pond    
Down a sandy country road that leads to a lush, serene oak grove that Garrett calls home, he would spend evenings practicing while sitting in the yard or out by the stock pond. He has ample time for this as he works in the maintenance department at Rice School district just five minutes away. Both he and his dad graduated from there. His neighbors, Gladys and Joe Salinas, big polka fans, would enjoy the notes floating across the cow pasture in the evenings.

As Garrett’s confidence and licks improved through the many hours of practice, he was asked more frequently to sit in with the Czechaholics and Texavia. The Tony Janak Polka Band has reformed as the J & S Playboys, and Garrett sits in occasionally to fill his father’s shoes. Though he loves playing all genres of music his favorite is the Czech polkas and waltzes that he grew up listening to his father play.

His desire to learn more about the unique instrument grew and now he owns four keyboard and two button accordions including the one he won at the Big Squeeze competition. In case anyone stops by and wants to jam, Garrett also owns an electric bass guitar, a keyboard, an electric six-string guitar and a set of drums. The six-string guitar is what he spends more time on now as he is still in the learning stage.

Big City Venues
The Big Squeeze competition broadened Garrett’s horizon as he went from playing the smaller Central Texas venues to performing at the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum in Austin and then in front of thousands of people at the Miller Outdoor Theatre in Houston at the annual Accordion Kings & Queens event. The large audience did not intimidate him. “I just got up there and did what had to be done.” The competition gave him a chance to see and talk to outstanding accordionists his own age playing Cajun and conjunto styles. The 2015 Big Squeeze performance will give Garrett a chance to perform once again at the big venues and to turn over his title as Accordion King to a new young performer. Garrett has some advice for those novices: “The accordion is a difficult instrument to play and the only way to master it is to practice, practice, practice.”

The Texas Dream Band, a country/polka band out of Hallettsville is Garrett’s regular gig now, playing keyboards and accordion in this band composed of the offspring of other country/polka musicians. But whenever he isn’t playing with Texas Dream, Garrett can be found with his accordions ready to take the stage wherever polka is happening. There is no doubt that his father would have been proud.

[Editor’s note: Garrett Neubauer performed at the 2015 Big Squeeze Finals on April 25 in Austin, where Brandon Hodde of Holland, TX, was crowned the new polka accordion king. Both will perform at the 26th Annual Accordion Kings & Queens event on Saturday, June 6, at Miller Outdoor Theatre in Houston.]

Texas Folklife to Pay Tribute to Texas Accordion Pioneers

It has been 25 years since Texas Folklife began popularizing the accordion, the state’s “national instrument,” and Texas roots music in the now anticipated annual concert at the Miller Outdoor Theatre. All genres of accordion music will be included in this year’s festivities, with performances by Ginny Mac, Mark Halata & Texavia, C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band, and as part of the anniversary extravaganza, the second generation of conjunto pioneers – Rio Jordan, Flavio Longoria, and Juan Longoria Jr. with Conteño and Los Halcones. In addition, the newly crowned 2014 Big Squeeze Champs will be on hand to perform and celebrate. The new champs are: Garrett Neubauer, Grand Prize Winner for the polka category; Randall Jackson, Grand Prize Winner for zydeco; and Aaron Salinas, Grand Prize Winner for the conjunto category.

The star-studded affair will take place on Saturday, June 7, at 6:00 p.m., and will be co-emceed by writers and radio hosts Joe Nick Patoski and Tony Diaz. The festival is free and open to the music-loving public. Festivalgoers wanting seats in the pavilion area can pick up their free tickets the day of the festival at the Miller Box Office or become members of Texas Folklife and receive reserved tickets in advance. 

This year’s dynamite bands include Houston’s own Mark Halata & Texavia. Known for his musical style that has been called “Czexan,” or Texas-Czech polka, Halata has perfected the Texas-style polka with strains from communities with their roots in Europe—Moravia and Czechoslovakia—with some Louisiana Cajun and zydeco thrown in. On the stage on this very special night will also be C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band. With his Grammy-nominated 2011 album Can’t Sit Down, his musical heritage, and over twenty years of recording history, C.J. Chenier is loved by audiences and critics alike, and has been dubbed “the crown prince of zydeco,” by the Boston Globe. Chenier is of course the son of the late “King of Zydeco” Clifton Chenier, whom he accepted a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award for at this year’s Grammys. Western Swing Accordion Queen Ginny Mac will also grace the stage with her exceptional singing, squeezeboxing, and multitalented, soulful musical style.

The special anniversary program will pay tribute to second-generation conjunto and Tejano pioneers Rio Jordan, Flavio Longoria, and Juan Longoria Jr. with Conteño and Los Halcones. Esteban Jr., Esteban III, and Ricardo Jordan carry on their father’s legacy with his band Rio Jordan. Esteban Jordan (1939-2010) is widely regarded as a pioneer in conjunto music who greatly expanded the boundaries of the diatonic accordion. The three brothers draw on their rich conjunto heritage plus add influences from jazz, rhythm and blues, salsa, and zydeco, as they perform across the state and throughout the southwest. Flavio Longoria is the son of Valerio Longoria (1924-2000), National Heritage Award winner and major innovator of Texas conjunto along with Narciso Martinez and Santiago Jimenez Sr. Flavio played the saxophone while his brother Valerio Jr. played the drums in their father’s band during childhood. After his father’s death, Flavio picked up the accordion and has formed his own band Flavio Longoria y Los Conjunto Kingz. Juan Longoria Jr. of Brownsville, Texas Folklife’s first Big Squeeze Champ, is the son of Juan Longoria Sr., who along with his brothers performs in the band Los Halcones, a conjunto Norteño band that has played across South Texas and the border region for more than 30 years. Juan Jr. has carried on that tradition with his own band Conteño. In addition, Juan Jr. has now passed his accordion playing skills on to his son Juan Longoria III who last year made it to the semifinal stage of the Big Squeeze accordion contest. The Longoria family with its three-generation accordion stars is a testament to the strong family traditions that are alive in the state and Texas Folklife’s role in preserving and promoting those traditions.

Texas Folklife will also honor Mary Thomas, the “Texas Queen of Zydeco,” and sister to the late Clifton Chenier, with the Star of Texas Folklife Award for her many years of work helping to preserve and promote zydeco music, which is traditional to both Texas and Louisiana.    

“This is a banner year for Texas Folklife,” said Executive Director Cristina Ballí. “It is our 30th anniversary and it is the 25th anniversary of Accordion Kings & Queens. The annual concert was started with the idea of promoting the accordion and its role in the different genres of roots music found in the state. It has become a full-out celebration of that music, featuring musical legends and current stars, but it also has become the breeding ground for the next generation of culture bearers with our Big Squeeze Champs taking to the stage. Most importantly, it is a joyous night of savoring performances by the kings and queens of the accordion, with much dancing and merry-making, all under the stars in Houston, Texas. I hope many folks will come out this year to help us celebrate this very important birthday.”  

Garrett Neubauer Wins Big Squeeze Polka Title

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.

Big Squeeze Grand Prize Winners:  Aaron Salinas in the Conjunto Category (San Antonio) Garrett Neubauer in the Polka Category (Altair) Randall Jackson in the Zydeco Category (Dallas)

Big Squeeze Grand Prize Winners: Aaron Salinas in the Conjunto Category (San Antonio) Garrett Neubauer in the Polka Category (Altair) Randall Jackson in the Zydeco Category (Dallas)

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!”

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.  

Texas Polka Festival & Symposium Coming to Schulenburg

Austin, Texas – January 15, 2014 – Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. and Texas Folklife announce their partnership to produce the Texas Polka Festival & Symposium to be held in Schulenburg on February 22, 2014.  With support from a Humanities Texas grant, the event will feature the state’s European polka traditions of German, Czech and Polish heritage.  The Festival & Symposium will be held at the historic Sengelmann and Turner Halls in Schulenburg and will feature esteemed Texas polka musicians and exhibits and discussions on European history, dance hall architecture, food, music and dance in Texas. 

Bands performing include The Boerne Village Band (German), Brian Marshall (Polish), Czech Melody Masters, Mark Halata (Czech), and special appearance by Santiago Jimenez Jr. (Texas-Mexican.)  The program will include a showcase of up and coming polka accordionists in the state as part of the Big Squeeze Accordion Contest produced by Texas Folklife.  Other polka master musicians will be presented in panel discussions on the history of the music and efforts to preserve and promote polka in Texas.

A symposium portion of the program, sponsored by Humanities Texas, will include discussions by scholars and lay cultural workers on the history and culture surrounding polka music in Texas.  Confirmed speakers include Patrick Sparks and Steve Dean of Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. (TDHP), Dawn Orsack and Lori Navar of PolkaWorks moderating a panel on food, John Novak and Frances Burton on documenting Texas Czech songs, and Dan Margolies and Cristina Ballí on sustainability of Texas polka music.  More speakers are being added to the program and updates can be found at www.texasfolklife.org.

The festival and symposium will take place in two historic dance halls in Schulenburg.  Activities will begin at 10:00 AM at Turner Dance Hall, with a welcoming of accordion music and kolaches to view an exhibit on Texas dance halls.  Panels and music presentations will then move over to Sengelmann Hall (531 N. Main Street) at noon for the rest of the program, to last until 9:00 PM.

“We are very excited to partner with Texas Folklife to produce this unique event in Texas,” says Patrick Sparks, co-founder and president TDHP.  “We want to nurture a living culture of dancing across Texas to sustain our historic dance halls.  This event will further our appreciation and understanding of Texas polka music and culture, but will also just be a lot of dancing fun.”

Presentations at Turner Hall are free and admission to the festival at Sengelmann Hall is $15.  Tickets can be purchased at www.texasfolklife.org

The Texas Polka Festival and Symposium is supported by the members and Board of Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. and Texas Folklife, by a grants from Humanities Texas and Texas Commission on the Arts. Additional support is provided by regional businesses including Sengelmann Hall and Texana Country Inn.

 

About Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc.

Texas Dance Hall Preservation is committed to saving historic Texas dance halls and the authentic music and culture that is still found in them.  We accomplish this mission by: Developing informational programs to promote public awareness and use of Texas dance halls as living venues for community assembly, music, and social dancing;  keeping an inventory of all traditional dance halls in Texas, including those that have been lost;  documenting and publishing the history of Texas dance halls;  serving as a clearinghouse for information that can aid the preservation of Texas dance halls;  providing assistance to list dance halls on the National Register of Historic Places or to complete grant applications for preservation projects; providing financial, technical, or organizational assistance for the restoration, rehabilitation, and preservation of historic dance halls. 

About Texas Folklife

Texas Folklife is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to presenting and preserving the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State. For more than 25 years, Texas Folklife has honored the authentic cultural traditions passed down within communities, explored their importance in contemporary society, and celebrated them by providing accessible and joyful arts experiences. It is located in Austin, Texas, in the SoCo neighborhood—one of the city’s vibrant commercial and arts district.

Big Squeeze Accordion Contest expands search for top talent

This year's Big Squeeze Contest sponsored by Texas Folklife is going to be bigger and better this year. Instead of one grand prize winner, three will be chosen, one in each category - Polka, Zydeco and Conjunto. Yay! The Texas Folklife folks had been trying to figure out a way to encourage more polka and zydeco contestants and I think this is a great solution!

Here are the details:

Texas Folklife announces its eighth annual Big Squeeze accordion contest for up-and-coming Texas musicians, 21 years of age or younger. The non-profit that endeavors to preserve and promote Texas’s diverse cultural heritage is looking for great players in all genres of the Lone Star State’s accordion-based music, including German, Czech, and Polish polka; Creole, Cajun, and zydeco; and conjunto, norteño, and Tejano. 

In order to better nurture young Texas talent, Texas Folklife is restructuring the popular contest this year. The contest will go on the road again this spring in order to meet the young accordion players in their communities in “talent showcases.” Three Final Grand Prize Winners will be devoted to the three main accordion genres—polka, zydeco, and conjunto. The polka genre will include German, Czech, and Polish traditions. Zydeco will include Creole and Cajun musical traditions. And conjunto will include norteño and Tejano. The showcases will be free, open to the public, and feature performances by local musicians.

The Big Squeeze 2014 talent showcases:

·      February 1:    Houston Creole Festival

·      February 8:    La Joya High School

·      February 9:    McDonald Public Library in Corpus Christi

·      February 22: Texas Polka Festival & Symposium in Schulenburg

·      February 23: MECA [Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts] in Houston   

·      March 23:      Latino Cultural Center in Dallas

·      March 29:      Los Fresnos High School

·      April 4:          Gallista Gallery with Conjunto Heritage Taller in San Antonio

Nine finalists (three from each genre) will be chosen from the field of performers at the showcases (and those who send in their performances to Texas Folklife) 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 Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin on Saturday, April 26. Three Grand Prize Winners will be selected. There will be one winner for each accordion category—polka, zydeco, and conjunto. 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! 

Interested players are encouraged to reserve a showcase slot at a venue in their region by contacting Texas Folklife. Those who cannot attend a showcase may also mail or e-mail their entries to arrive at Texas Folklife no later than April 7, 2014. The complete contest rules and entry forms are available online at www.texasfolklife.org or by calling (512) 441-9255.

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. 

“The Big Squeeze contest is becoming a tradition across the state,” says Executive Director Cristina Ballí. “We are truly gratified by the way the contest has been embraced by local communities. 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. We have broadened the scope of the contest by creating three Grand Prize Winners, one winner for each genre. In particular, we are focusing on zydeco and polka at several of the showcase events and are developing more ways to safeguard their important place in Texas music.”

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., and Texas Gas Service. Additional support is provided by regional businesses including SugarHill Recording Studios, Antone’s Records, Hacienda Records, Frank+Victor Design, and Embassy Suites Hotel in Austin.

 

About Texas Folklife

Texas Folklife is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to presenting and preserving the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State. Celebrating its 30thanniversary in 2014, Texas Folklife has honored the authentic cultural traditions passed down within communities, explored their importance in contemporary society, and celebrated them by providing accessible and joyful arts experiences. It is located in Austin, Texas, in the SoCo neighborhood—one of the city’s vibrant commercial and arts district.