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Texas Folklife Announces the 2018 Big Squeeze Statewide Accordion Contest Finalists



Sheree Scarborough

(512) 922-5483,



Announcing the 2018 Big Squeeze Statewide Accordion Contest Finalists

 Grand Prize Winners will be selected at Finals and Free Concert to be held at the Bullock Museum on Saturday, April 21


Austin, Texas – April 9, 2018 – 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 twelve finalists who will compete for four grand prizes in four categories. There will be a Grand Prize Winner for Polka (age 25 and under), a Grand Prize Winner for Cajun & Zydeco (age 21 and under), a Grand Prize Winner for Conjunto (age 17 and under), and a Grand Prize Winner for the Anthony Ortiz Jr. Conjunto Grand Prize (age 18-21).


There are three finalists each for the Polka Grand Prize, two finalists for Cajun & Zydeco, and three finalists for the Anthony Ortiz Jr. Conjunto Prize. However because the Conjunto (age 17 and under) category was so competitive with so many great contestants there are four finalists in that category this year.


The finalists listed by category and alphabetically:

·      PolkaPeter Gresser, age 13, from Weatherford; Chris Trojacek, age 22, from Ennis; and Isaak Wolfshohl, age 16, from Seguin.

·      Cajun & ZydecoChloe Johnson, age 17, from Moscow, Texas, and Steven Williams, age 14, from Humble.

·      Conjunto: Ricardo Cabrera, age 10, from Austin; Melenie Lissette Gonzalez, age 17, from Rio Grande City; Johnny Joe Gutierrez, age 15, from Mission; and Perla A. Hernandez, age 15, from Roma.

·      Anthony Ortiz Jr. Conjunto Prize: Eloy Renteria Jr., age 20, from Midland; Christina Valdez, age 19, from San Benito; and Jesus F. Venegas, age 21, from Brownsville.

For 2018 Texas Folklife extended ages in the Polka Category and expanded the Conjunto Category into two age categories, resulting in a statewide contestant turnout of 47, one of the highest in the Big Squeeze Contest’s history.  Because of the participation level and incredibly high skill level of the contestants, we have numerous honorable mentions this year. 

Honorable mentions listed by category and alphabetically:

·      Polka: Elijah Clements, age 15, Little Elm

·      Conjunto: Ricky Casarez, age 13, Houston; Eduardo Garza Jr., age 17, Mission; and Raul Resendez, age 17, Mission.

·      Anthony Ortiz Jr. Conjunto Prize: Darren Prieto, age 18, New Braunfels.


Congratulations to all of the finalists, honorable mention winners, and contestants, who are helping to keep the accordion tradition alive in Texas.


The 2018 Big Squeeze Statewide Accordion Contest Finals and Concert will be held on Saturday, April 21, from 1:00-5:00 p.m. at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. The event is free and open to the public and will be held inside on the first floor under the Grand Rotunda. The finalists will perform at the Big Squeeze Accordion Contest Finals and Concert before a panel of judges and the public, accompanied by Austin Music Hall of Fame’s Conjunto Los Pinkys. The free afternoon concert will feature performances by Grammy-nominated musician, producer, and polka ambassador Alex Meixner, and Los Fresnos High School’s Conjunto Halcón, founded and directed by Texas Folklife’s first Big Squeeze Champ Juan Longoria Jr.


In addition, there will be a Big Squeeze Brunch and After Party and Accordion Workshop (with Grammy-nominated Alex Meixner) held on Sunday, April 22, from 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Texas Folklife Gallery. The event is free for Big Squeeze 2018 finalists and their families and for Texas Folklife members (members contact Texas Folklife for promo code). For all others admission is $10:

Proceeds will benefit Texas Folklife’s Big Squeeze program. Parking for the event is available in Texas Folklife's gravel driveway, on the street immediately in front of the building, and Asterra Properties (located next door). Overflow parking is available at Recycled Reads (5335 Burnet Rd). Please use spaces in the back or on the south side of the Recycled Reads building.

This is the 12th year for the Big Squeeze 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 year, 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 complete contest rules and entry forms are available online at

During the Big Squeeze Accordion Contest Finals and Concert, four Final Grand Prize Winners will be selected from the twelve finalists and from Texas traditional accordion music genres: polka, Cajun, zydeco, and conjunto. For the 2018 program, Texas Folklife implemented some changes that we hope will encourage more statewide youth participation. The Conjunto Category has been split into two age categories (one for ages 17 and under, and one for ages 18-21) and the Polka Category has been extended to ages 25 and under. There are no changes in the Cajun & Zydeco Category. The Conjunto grand prize category for ages 18-21 is named in loving memory of Anthony Ortiz, Jr., a former Big Squeeze finalist, virtuosic young professional accordionist, and member of the Texas Folklife family who passed away in 2017.

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.

Big Squeeze Program Director Alysha Hernández led the Big Squeeze Program again this year. Hernández brings a decade of experience in communications, film, and live event production. She is a native Texan, born in San Antonio and has spent much of her life in the Rio Grande Valley.


Piper Lemoine and Brenda Martinez of Rancho Alegre Radio will serve as masters of ceremonies at the event this year.


The Big Squeeze still has opportunities for individuals and organizations to become sponsors of the program. There is information on the website on how to become a Big Squeeze Sponsor at: or please contact us by phone at 512-441-9255.

“The Big Squeeze is one of the programs that gives the most joy to those of us at Texas Folklife,” said Executive Director Charlie Lockwood. “It is such an honor and a privilege to meet these young players throughout the state who are doing the work of helping to keep the roots music of their communities alive. In addition, we get to work with committed partners who are helping us in our mission to foster the continuation of traditional Texas music. One of those partners who has been with us for many years is the Bullock Texas State History Museum. We are grateful to be hosted at the museum once again and look forward to an afternoon of amazing music by our special lineup of accordion stars as well as the music of the Big Squeeze finalists and the countdown to the crowning of 2018’s Big Squeeze Champs. Please join us—but be sure to wear your dancing shoes or boots—and help us celebrate all things accordion!”


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,, 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.


Texas Folklife

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


Bullock Texas State History Museum

1800 Congress Avenue

Austin, TX 78701



Media inquiries:

Sheree Scarborough 512-922-5483/


Program inquiries:

Alysha Hernández 210-286-1999 /