FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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Grand Prize Winners will be selected at Finals and Free Concert
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:
· Polka: Peter Gresser, age 13, from Weatherford; Chris Trojacek, age 22, from Ennis; and Isaak Wolfshohl, age 16, from Seguin.
· Cajun & Zydeco: Chloe 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 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.
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.
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 www.texasfolklife.org/bigsqueeze2018.
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 .
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Piper Lemoine and Brenda Martinez of Rancho Alegre Radio will serve as masters of ceremonies at the event this year.
“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!”