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Texas Folklife Announces the Big Squeeze Accordion Contest at the Ennis Czech Music Festival



Sheree Scarborough




Texas Folklife Will Search for Top Young Accordion Talent at the Ennis Czech Music Festival on Saturday, February 10

 Grand Prize Winners will be selected in the following updated four categories: 

Polka Grand Prize (Age 25 and under)
Cajun & Zydeco Grand Prize (Age 21 and under)
Anthony Ortiz, Jr. Conjunto Grand Prize (Ages 18-21)
Conjunto (Ages 17 and under)


Austin, Texas – January 24, 2018 – Texas Folklife is thrilled to announce that the Big Squeeze Accordion Contest is back in 2018. This will be 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 230 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 will hit the road again and hold Big Squeeze showcases in communities throughout the state to search for young accordion talent. Four Final Grand Prize Winners will be selected from Texas traditional accordion music genres: polka, Cajun, zydeco, and conjunto. The polka genre will include German, Czech, and Polish polka traditions. Cajun & Zydeco will include zydeco, Creole and Cajun musical traditions. And conjunto will include conjunto, norteño and Tejano.  

For the 2018 program Texas Folklife has implemented some changes that will encourage more statewide youth participation. The Polka Category has been extended to ages 25 and under and the Conjunto Category has been split into two age categories (one for ages 17 and under, and one for ages 18-21). 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 showcases will be free and open to the public, and will feature music by established accordion artists as well as showcase the young musicians.

Texas Folklife will hold its first talent showcase in 2018 as part of the Ennis Czech Music Festival on Saturday, February 10. This is the 12th Annual Ennis Czech Music Festival that hosts an all-day, all-star lineup of Czech polka bands in a family friendly atmosphere with dancing, food, music and much more. The festival lineup includes: The Moravians, Ennis Czech Boys, Czech Harvesters, Jodie Mikula Orchestra, and Czech & Then Some. The cost of the festival is $8 per person (14 and under are free). Big Squeeze contestants and two parents will get in free. (Contestants should alert Texas Folklife staff when registering and the Ennis Czech Music Festival staff upon entering Sokol Hall.)

The showcase will be held from 4:30-5:00 p.m. This showcase features polka, but all interested players are encouraged to reserve a showcase slot by contacting Texas Folklife in advance or by registering at the event. Contestants will be accompanied by members of Czech and Then Some. After the contestants perform, there will be a special performance by David Slovak (Czech and Then Some) on the piano accordion, Charlie Patak (Czech Harvesters) on the chromatic accordion, and Jerry Petter (Vanek Czech Band) on the button accordion.

There will be nine talent showcases held throughout the state. Interested players are encouraged to reserve a showcase slot at a venue in their region. Those who cannot attend a showcase may also mail or e-mail their entries to arrive at Texas Folklife no later than March 23, 2018. The complete contest rules and entry forms are available online at or by calling (512) 441-9255.

Up to twelve finalists (three from each category) will be selected the 1st week of April by a panel of judges, and will perform at the Big Squeeze Concert and Finals at the Bullock Museum on Saturday, April 21. At that time, four Grand Prize Winners will be selected. The four Big Squeeze 2018 Grand Prize Winners will receive a prize package valued at more than $4,000, including a 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 in June.

Big Squeeze Program Director Alysha Hernández will be leading the Big Squeeze Program again this year in 2018. 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.


The Big Squeeze also 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.

“We are so pleased that the Big Squeeze will be a part of the Ennis Czech Music Festival this year,” said Executive Director Charlie Lockwood. “This is our first collaboration with the Music Festival and it is quite fitting because both the Big Squeeze and the Music Festival are celebrating our 12 year anniversaries. Please come to Ennis and get your polka on with the Big Squeeze 2018!”


The Big Squeeze is supported by the board and members of Texas Folklife, Hohner, Inc., El Norteño Foods, Rancho Alegre Conjunto Festival, and by grants from H-E-B, The Texas Music Office, 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, 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

Ennis Czech Music Festival

Sokol Hall

2622 E. Hwy 34

Ennis, TX 75119



Media inquiries:

Sheree Scarborough


Program inquiries:

Alysha Hernández 210-286-1999 /