Los Fresnos News

Texas Folklife Announces the 2015 Big Squeeze Accordion Contest Finalists

Josue A. Garcia of La Feria will compete for the grand prize in the conjunto category of Texas Folklife’s 2015 Big Squeeze Accordion Comptetition at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on Saturday, April 25.

Josue A. Garcia of La Feria will compete for the grand prize in the conjunto category of Texas Folklife’s 2015 Big Squeeze Accordion Comptetition at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on Saturday, April 25.

Austin, Texas – The judges’ decisions are in! Texas Folklife is pleased to announce the names of the finalists for this year’s Big Squeeze Accordion Contest. There are ten finalists who will compete for three grand prizes in three categories. There will be a Grand Prize Winner for Cajun zydeco, a Grand Prize Winner for Czech/German/Polish polka, and a Grand Prize Winner for conjunto. The finalists in the Cajun zydeco category are: Donovan Bourque, age 14, from Beaumont; Chloe Johnson, age 14, from Moscow; and Elizabeth Kelley, age 16, from Port Neches. The finalists in polka are: Brandon Hodde, age 20, from Holland; Rebecca Huck, age 21, from Harker Heights; and Chris Trojacek, age 20, from Ennis. The finalists in the conjunto category are: Brandon Betancourt, age 17, from Houston; Josue A. Garcia, age 15, from La Feria; Rito Peña, age 16, from San Antonio; and Raul Resendez, age 14, from Palmview. Because of the robust turnout and performance of conjunto contestants, there are four finalists for that category. The Honorable Mentions are as follows: Cajun zydeco—Bridget D’Lane Roberts, age 19, from Port Arthur; polka—Emiliano Halmari, age 13, from Baytown; conjunto—Darren David Prieto, age 15, from New Braunfels, and in the 12 & Under category—Christopher Lopez, age 11, from Houston. Congratulations to all of the finalists and contestants, who are helping to keep the accordion tradition alive in Texas.

The Final Playoffs and Concert for the annual Big Squeeze Contest will be held at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on Saturday, April 25. The event will be held from 1:00 to 5:00 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. The Big Squeeze finalists 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. Eva Ybarra, the undisputed “Queen of the Accordion,” will headline this year’s program. Ms. Ybarra performs in her hometown of San Antonio—as well as across the country—and has two CDs produced by Rounder Records: A Mi San Antonio (1994) and Romance Inolvidable (1996). The concert will also feature Charles Thibodeaux and the Austin Cajun Aces, and last year’s three Big Squeeze Grand Prize Winners—Garrett Neubauer (Polka), Randall Jackson (Zydeco), and Aaron Salinas (Conjunto).

This is the ninth annual Big Squeeze accordion contest for up-and-coming Texas musicians, 21 years of age or younger. There were eight talent showcases scheduled around the state that were free, open to the public, and featured performances by local musicians. Eight showcases were held: La Joya Independent School District (February 7); Café 4212 in Houston (February 15); MECA in Houston (February 28); Los Fresnos High School (March 7); McDonald Public Library in Corpus Christi (March 8); Pleasant Grove Branch Library in Dallas; Gallista Gallery with Conjunto Heritage Taller in San Antonio (March 27); and in Nederland in Southeast Texas (March 28).

The finalists were chosen from the field of performers at the showcases (and those who sent in their performances to Texas Folklife) by a panel of esteemed music professionals. Accordionists were 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).

As mentioned, the finalists will perform at the Finals Concert and Playoffs at the Bullock on April 25, and three Grand Prize Winners will be 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 6. In addition, the three Big Squeeze 2015 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 continues to develop and broaden its reach,” says Executive Director Cristina Ballí. “In recent years we have enlarged the Grand Prize Winners to three and created three categories in order to encourage the accordion genres found in the state. This year we expanded the contest to East Texas to reach out to the Cajun zydeco community. We are consistently getting large numbers of contestants, younger contestants, and more young women. This year was a banner year for the girls in that there were seven female contestants and three made it to the finals. We are pleased to promote all of these young, talented future culture bearers—male and female, zydeco, conjunto, and polka-playing—awesome accordionists!”

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, the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division, the City of Houston through the Miller Theatre Advisory Board, the Houston Endowment, Texas Gas Service, and the Houston Press. Additional support is provided by regional businesses including Hacienda Records, and Frank+Victor Design.

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 30 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.