Skip to main content

Press Release: 2021 Big Squeeze Champions



May 11, 2021


Texas Folklife Announces Champions of 15th Annual Big Squeeze Youth Accordion Contest 


AUSTIN — All hail the champions of Texas Folklife’s 2021 Big Squeeze accordion contest! Five youths from Texas and Louisiana have been crowned champs in Polka, Cajun, Zydeco, and Conjunto music. The winners were announced May 8 at the conclusion of Texas Folklife’s Big Squeeze Finals from Home broadcast on Facebook live. They are:


Polka: Alexander French, 14 (The Colony, TX)

Zydeco: Kaleb Leday, 21 (Lake Charles, LA)

Cajun: Cameron Dupuy, 23 (New Orleans, LA)

Conjunto, 16 and Under: Ashly Nicole Molina, 16 (Roma, TX)

Conjunto, 17-21 Anthony Ortiz, Jr. Grand Prize: Johnny Joe Gutierrez, 17 (Mission, TX)


Each of the champions will receive a prize package including a new accordion from Hohner Accordions, cash prize, future performance opportunities with Texas Folklife, publicity, professional development, and other professional opportunities.


“Congratulations to all of this year’s champions and participants in the Big Squeeze program,” said Texas Folklife Executive Director Charlie Lockwood. “We are truly inspired by the talented young musicians, teachers, educators, parents, and communities we have had the privilege of working with over the past 15 years. Thank you to the 2021 participants for sharing your passion for accordion music with us.”


The Big Squeeze is presented by Texas Folklife as part of its mission to preserve and present Texas’ diverse cultural heritage. Since 2007, hundreds of talented young players from dozens of communities have participated in the program, which supports vital, community-based accordion music traditions.


This year’s Big Squeeze was entirely virtual due to the COVID pandemic. Contestants across all categories submitted videos to Texas Folklife that were judged in successive rounds by three panels of judges.


“We had a lot of contestants and they are all extremely talented, and our judges have a very hard time narrowing it down,” said Sarah Rucker, Program Director for the Big Squeeze. “These young players were scored on their song interpretation, originality, and stage presence.”


The 2021 Big Squeeze has been supported by funding and donations from the board and members of Texas Folklife, Texas Commission on the Arts, the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department, H-E-B, and the City of Houston through the Miller Theatre Advisory Board and Hohner Accordions. Additional support was provided by regional partners.



Texas Folklife (TXF) is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to presenting and preserving the diverse cultures and living heritage of the Lone Star State. TXF is designated by the National Endowment for the Arts as the official folk and traditional arts organization for the state. Since 1984, TXF has honored traditions passed down within communities, explored the importance of traditional arts in contemporary society, and celebrated the state’s vibrant heritage by providing arts experiences enjoyable for all generations. For more information, visit


— END —


Notes to editors: Images are available upon request. The Big Squeeze Finals broadcast, featuring performances from 2020 Big Squeeze champions and Grammy Award Winner Chubby Carrier, is available online. Watch on Facebook or watch on YouTube. More information is available here.


Media Contact: Rebecca Johnson, Arts Articulated: (512) 689-0240;

Program Contact: Sarah Rucker, Program Director: (512) 773-1161;