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Texas Folklife Announces the Big Squeeze Accordion Contest in Houston on February 18



Sheree Scarborough

(512) 922-5483,


Texas Folklife Will Search for Top Young Accordion Talent at MECA in Houston on Sunday, February 18

 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 – February 1, 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 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 prizecategory 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 a talent showcase in Houston at Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts [MECA] on Sunday, February 18. The showcase will be held from 3:00-5:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public. This showcase features conjunto, but all interested players are encouraged to reserve a showcase slot by contacting Texas Folklife in advance or by registering at the event—registration will open at MECA at 2:00 the day of the event. After the contestants perform, there will be special performances by Crystal N Crew.

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 (in English and Spanish) are available online at or by calling (512) 441-9255.

Up to twelve finalists (three from each category) will be selected in early 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.

“Conjunto is alive and well in Houston, Texas,” said Executive Director Charlie Lockwood. “We appreciate the work that MECA does in the community and we also appreciate its partnering with us over the years to hold Talent Showcases for our young accordion contestants. Please join us at this Talent Showcase to help support these young musicians as well as encourage and foster the continuation of traditional Texas music.”


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
T 512-441-9255
F 844-386-2091


1900 Kane Street

Houston, TX 77007



Media inquiries:

Sheree Scarborough 512-922-5483/


Program inquiries:

Alysha Hernández 210-286-1999 /