On Saturday, April 26, the plaza in front of the Bullock Texas State History Museum will resemble a high school battle of the bands. Instead of marching bands, however, the Big Squeeze Accordion contest will greet unsuspecting visitors.
Tourists will have to weave around makeshift folding chair camps set up by families and fans, there to cheer their hometown Conjunto, zydeco or polka hero or heroine.
It’s the last stop for nine musicians selected from more than half a dozen talent showcases across Texas. While three will leave the competition as Grand Prize Winners for their respective genre, each contestant made it through the hardest part of the competition—the talent showcase.
The last showcase, in early April, was in San Antonio at the Gallista Gallery. The small venue was packed with parents, family members and smart phones—all aimed at the musicians and taping. As an audience member, you could see the weight that the evening’s performance carried on the accordionists and their parents.
Despite last-minute jitters, the six musicians who performed that night played their hearts out to the rhythm of their accordions.
· Cheerful thirteen-year-old Valerie Morales, of Houston, performed on a trend-setting pink accordion.
- Sixteen-year-old Nizhoni Begay, of San Antonio, set the fashion bar with a vintage sequined Mexican skirt, and earned an Honorable Mention for her performance.
- The outstanding set by 18-year-old Juan Ruiz, Junior, of Laredo, was gleefully photo bombed by his toddler brother, who ran to the stage with his accordion in tow.
- Fifteen-year-old Rito Pena, of San Antonio, became one with his accordion-and earned an Honorable Mention for the performance.
- Nineteen-year-old Aaron Salinas, of San Antonio, had the showiest accordion of all, and will be one of Saturday’s Conjunto finalist’s.
- Eight-year-old Nathan Alzade of Seguin, whose fedora matched his dad’s and is a veteran contestant, is on his way to becoming a future Conjunto finalist contender.
Way, way, way back, in another century I attended the first Tejano Conjunto Festival in San Antonio. It was at Market Square and Santiago Jimenez Senior was one of the performers. I remember a lot of really good music and almostnon-stopdancing. However, I don’t remember seeing pink accordions, women or under 21 performers, and much less a future accordionist in toddler drypers. Change is good.
Good luck to all of Saturday’s performers.