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Free Concert and Contest Finals Held at the Bullock Museum on Saturday, April 21
Grand Prize Winners selected in each category: Polka, Cajun & Zydeco, Conjunto, and the Anthony Ortiz Jr. Grand Prize
Texas Folklife is pleased to announce the names of the young accordionists who were chosen as this year’s Big Squeeze Accordion Contest Champs.
· Polka (25 and under): Peter Gresser, age 13, from Weatherford
· Cajun & Zydeco (21 and under): Steven Williams, age 14, from Humble
· Conjunto (17 and under): Melenie Lissette Gonzalez, age 17, from Rio Grande City
· Anthony Ortiz Jr. Conjunto Prize (18-21): Jesus F. Venegas, age 21, from Brownsville
The winners were chosen at the Big Squeeze Statewide Accordion Contest Finals and Concert that was held at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin on Saturday, April 21, where 12 finalists competed for the four titles. It was an afternoon celebrating Texas’s vibrant roots music and all things accordion with approximately 500 in attendance. The crowd was treated to a fabulous, energetic performance by Grammy-nominated Alex Meixner and his band. Meixner had the audience on its feet and dancing to his inspired accordion squeezing while the judges were deliberating. Congratulations to our new Big Squeeze Champs, the finalists, the honorable mentions, and all of this year’s contestants—thank you for keeping the accordion tradition alive in Texas.
The contest is one of the ways in which Texas Folklife carries out its mission to preserve and present Texas’s diverse cultural heritage. The contest recruits players in all genres of the Lone Star State’s accordion-based music, including German, Czech, and Polish polka; Creole, Cajun, and zydeco; conjunto, norteño, and Tejano.
Since 2007 Texas Folklife has built a reputation as a champion of Texas accordion music genres through the Big Squeeze program, and has supported over 300 young, talented players from dozens of Texas towns and cities in their efforts to carry on these vital community-based accordion music traditions.
This spring Texas Folklife held 9 Big Squeeze talent showcases that were free and open to the public, held in communities throughout the state, and featured music by established accordion artists as well as the young accordion contestants. The showcases were held in Ennis, Dallas, Houston, Nederland/Groves, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Los Fresnos, and Palmview. Those who were not able to attend a showcase were able to mail or e-mail their entries to Texas Folklife.
The four Big Squeeze 2018 Grand Prize Winners will receive 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 Grand Prize Winners will perform onstage with legendary Texas musicians at Texas Folklife’s Accordion Kings & Queens Concert, held at Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre on .
“Congratulations to our 2018 Big Squeeze Champs,” said Executive Director Charlie Lockwood. “And to all the young squeezeboxers and their families who entered the contest. This year we had 47 contestants, one of the highest contestant turnouts in the history of the Big Squeeze program. In addition, the skill level of the contestants this year was at an all time high. And because of that, the judges had great difficulty deciding on this year’s Grand Prize Winners. We are very proud of all our contestants and want to encourage them to remain part of the Big Squeeze community. They all have our support.
Photo: Courtesy Texas Folklife, by Marcy Garriott
From left to right: Steven Williams, Peter Gresser, Melenie Lissette Gonzalez, Jesus F. Venegas