(article) 2015 Big Squeeze Season Recap

           In eight cities from south, central, east and north Texas,

3,100 miles covered in about 50 hours of driving (the length of a cross-country road trip!),

eleven television and radio appearances,

presenting seventy four artists in showcases to over 1,000 traditional music fans

with twelve partnering cultural organizations or businesses,

all in the span of two months and with lots of great food,

Texas Folklife found THIRTY THREE young cultural bearers who will carry forth the traditions of local, vernacular music of Texas.  Thirty three accordionists between the ages of 8 and 21 entered the Big Squeeze Accordion Contest performing conjunto, Tejano, Norteño, polka, zydeco, and Cajun music.  Accordions varied from the keyboard, Cajun, and popular diatonic button accordion – typically a three row accordion, though this year we spotted a rare, vintage two-row variety. 

TXF Executive Director Cristina Ballí traveled the state with Big Squeeze Coordinator Tomas Salas and occasionally a few other members of the TXF crew – Program & Development Director Charlie Lockwood, Social Media intern Kevin Parme, Academic Intern Iliana Vasquez, and loyal TXF volunteers Rosie Sanchez and Johanna Saucedo.  TXF publicist Sheree Scarborough made sure the word about the program got out (hence the abundant media appearances) and TXF photographer extraordinaire David Dodd documented some of the best moments of the program in Houston and east Texas. 

Indeed it takes a village to identify and nurture the next generation of traditional bearers.  Besides the Texas Folklife team there are legions of cultural workers on the ground throughout the entire state doing this cultural promotion work.  We can’t do this program without our partnering organizations – non profit organizations, public libraries and schools, private businesses like galleries, radio stations and record producers - that do this work on the ground, and the many volunteers that come out to help us at individual showcases each year. 

And, of course, it takes funding resources to pull off a program like this.  Fortunately the Big Squeeze is supported by Texas Commission on the Arts, the Houston Endowment, the City of Austin Office of Cultural Affairs, the Miller Outdoor Theater Advisory Board, Hohner Inc. that generously provides accordions to each of the winners, the board and members of Texas Folklife, and Big Squeeze fans who purchase TXF merchandise at our showcases to fundraise for the program.

We’ll relay details of the two-month 2015 Big Squeeze tour through the words of individual staff and volunteers in their blogs (listed below) though please bear with us as we try to catch up on our posts!  You’ll understand that spending 50 hours on the road, not to mention weekend hours producing showcases (18 hours of direct event program presentation time) and five nights of hotel stays (a few of these trips were grueling one-day, back and forth trips from Austin to Houston and Dallas), on top of other TXF functions like a major annual fundraising campaign and a historical move to a new building (!) take up quite a bit of energy and time, so we will have more info posted soon.  In the meantime, please enjoy a picture slide show of the 2015 Big Squeeze Season and make plans to join us for the 2015 Big Squeeze finals in Austin on April 25th at the Bullock State History Museum in Austin.  More info here.

Showcase Blog Posts:

La Joya, Conjunto at La Joya Performing Art Center by Kevin Parme

Houston, Cajun Zydeco at Café 4212 by Rosie Sanchez

Houston, Conjunto/Polka at MECA by Cristina Balli

Los Fresnos, Conjunto at Los Fresnos High School by Kevin Parme

Corpus Christi, Conjunto at McDonald Public Library by Cristina Balli

Dallas, Conjunto/Zydeco at Pleasant Grove Public Library by Cristina Balli

San Antonio, Conjunto at Gallista Gallery with Conjunto Heritage Taller by Iliana Vasquez

Nederland, Cajun at Jefferson Co. Adults Club with Cajun Internet Radio by Charlie Lockwood

Note on music genres:  The Big Squeeze breaks down accordion-based traditional music genres of Texas loosely into three categories – conjunto (including Tejano and Norteño), polka (Texas German, Czech and Polish), and Cajun Zydeco.  One Big Squeeze champion in each category is selected each year.  The most thriving music genre in Texas at this time has proven to be conjunto, hence the many conjunto showcases.  TXF consulting scholar and historian Dan Margolies has written about the phenomena of conjunto music being a living example of sustainable music.  Texas Folklife is working diligently with Cajun, zydeco and polka music communities to identify and nurture more young musicians in these genres.  To that end we hope to revive our apprenticeship program in the fall of 2015 that will target these music traditions specifically.  More information will be available soon.