Texas Folklife Crowns 2019 BIG SQUEEZE Youth Accordion Winners

2019 Big Squeeze Winners, L to R: Eduardo Garza, Chloe Johnson, Elijah Clements, Perla Hernandez. Photo: David Dodd/Texas Folklife

AUSTIN – Texas Folklife has crowned four 2019 Big Squeeze youth accordion champions in the traditional Texas accordion music genres: polka; Cajun and zydeco; and conjunto. The gifted young musicians were chosen at a lively concert and showcase at the Bullock State History Museum on May 11, where hundreds of fans gathered to support the accordionists and celebrate one of Texas’ most cherished and culturally diverse musical traditions.

The 2019 Big Squeeze Youth Accordion Champions:

Conjunto 17 and under: Perla Hernandez – Roma, TX

Conjunto 18-21 Anthony Ortiz Jr. Prize: Eduardo Garza – Mission, TX

Polka: Elijah Clements – Little Elm, TX

Cajun & Zydeco: Chloe Johnson – Moscow, TX

Eduardo Garza of Mission, Texas won the Conjunto 18-21 Anthony Ortiz, Jr. Prize. Photo: David Dodd/Texas Folklife

Each of the four winners received a prize package valued at more than $4,000, including a Hohner accordion, cash prize, performance opportunities with Texas Folklife, publicity, professional development and other professional opportunities.

Additionally, the Big Squeeze champions will perform onstage with legendary Texas musicians at Texas Folklife’s 30th Annual Accordion Kings & Queens Concert, held at Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre on June 1. Thousands of fans are expected to attend this revered community event.

The search for the 2019 Big Squeeze champions began in February and stretched thousands of miles across Texas. Competitions were held in nine communities across the state and, in total, 49 young musicians showed off their accordion skills for a chance to play on the Austin stage. This year as part of the Big Squeeze programming, Texas Folklife also hosted its first-ever Cajun youth accordion workshop and the first Conjunto category semi-finals.

Perla Hernandez of Roma, Texas won top honors in the Conjunto 17 and under division this year. Photo: David Dodd/Texas Folklife

“We are so proud of our 2019 Big Squeeze champions, finalists, and all 49 contestants from across Texas,” said Texas Folklife Executive Director Charlie Lockwood. “These talented youth accordionists express an undeniable joy, passion, and high level of musicians through their playing.  It has been wonderful to see the tremendous amount of family and community support each of them has throughout the Big Squeeze season. Through our Big Squeeze program, Texas Folklife strives for diversity and inclusion, community engagement, and continued support for these young Texas tradition bearers. Catch them performing alongside established accordion stars at our 30th Annual Accordion Kings & Queens on Sat June 1st at Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre in Hermann Park!”

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ABOUT THE BIG SQUEEZE

The Big Squeeze is presented by Texas Folklife as part of its mission to preserve and present Texas’ diverse cultural heritage. Since 2007, Texas Folklife has promoted Texas accordion music genres through the Big Squeeze program. More than 300 young, talented players from dozens of Texas communities have participated in the program, which supports these vital community-based accordion music traditions. The 2019 Big Squeeze is produced by Program Director Sarah Rucker, who has been involved with the program since its inception and returns this year.

ABOUT TEXAS FOLKLIFE

Texas Folklife (TXF) is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to presenting and preserving the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State. TXF is designated by the National Endowment for the Arts as the official folk and traditional arts organization for the state.  Since 1984, the TXF has honored traditions passed down within communities, explored the importance of traditional arts in contemporary society and celebrated the state’s vibrant heritage by providing arts experiences enjoyable and accessible for all generations. For more information, visit www.texasfolklife.org.

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