(article) Texas Folklife Announces the 2018 Big Squeeze Accordion Contest Grand Prize Winners


(Photo Below and More Photos Available)


Sheree Scarborough

(512) 922-5483, sheree.scarborough@gmail.com



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


Austin, Texas – April 23, 2018 – 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.


This was the 12th year for the statewide program that supports up-and-coming Texas youth accordionists. 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 June 2.

“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. We are so grateful to our sponsors and partners throughout the state who are helping us keep the tradition of the national instrument of the Lone Star State alive and well.”


The Big Squeeze Finals is supported by the board and members of Texas Folklife, Hohner, Inc., El Norteño Foods, Rancho Alegre Conjunto Festival, Texas Polka News, Alamo Music Center, The Texas Music Office, and by grants from H-E-B, Texas Commission on the Arts, the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin’s Economic Development Department, and the City of Houston through the Miller Theatre Advisory Board. Regional community and venue partners include Hacienda Records, Cajun Sounds Internet Radio,www.zydecoevents.com, Conjunto Heritage Taller, McDonald Public Library in Corpus Christi, Dallas Public Library Pleasant Grove Branch, Café 4212, Multicultural Education & Counseling through the Arts, Larry’s French Market & Cajun Restaurant, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Los Fresnos High School, La Joya Independent School District, Central Texas Accordion Association, Munoz Snapshots, Nuestra Musica Monthy, Motorblade Postering Serivce, Debra Peters Music & Accordion Round-Up, and the Bullock Texas State History Museum.


About Texas Folklife

Texas Folklife is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to presenting and preserving the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State, and is designated by the National Endowment for the Arts as the Folk & Traditional Arts organization for the state. Since 1984, Texas Folklife has honored cultural traditions passed down within communities, explored their importance in contemporary society, and celebrated them by providing accessible and joyful arts experiences.


1708 Houston St.
Austin, Texas 78756
T 512-441-9255
F 844-386-2091

Media inquiries:

Sheree Scarborough 512-922-5483/ sheree.scarborough@gmail.com


Program inquiries:

Alysha Hernández 210-286-1999 / bigsqueeze@texasfolklife.org

Photo: Courtesy Texas Folklife, by Marcy Garriott 

From left to right: Steven Williams, Peter Gresser, Melenie Lissette Gonzalez, Jesus F. Venegas