Big Squeeze & Accordion Kings & Queens
Our Big Squeeze accordion contest and Accordion Kings & Queens (AKQ) concert unite diverse audiences to celebrate the rich heritage of this iconic instrument. AKQ, now in its 34th year, draws 5,000 attendees to Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre for an annual free concert. In June 2022, we had 5,400 people join us in person and via Facebook and YouTube live streams.
Big Squeeze focuses on nurturing young talent in traditional Texas accordion music, welcoming participants from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. In 2022, 32 youths from Texas and Louisiana took part in Big Squeeze programs, with 12 conjunto genre contestants advancing to a semi-finals round in Edinburg, and 11 youths from all genres making it to the May finals at Austin’s Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Through Big Squeeze, young participants showcase their skills at statewide talent events in cities like Dallas, Seguin, Ennis, Nederland, and Corpus Christi, or by submitting online. Expert accordion players and genre specialists serve as judges, providing valuable feedback. Finalists receive master classes, music business coaching, new accordions, cash awards, and more.
Four winners get the opportunity to perform alongside renowned accordion players at the Accordion Kings & Queens free concert in Houston, which attracts an audience of over 5,000. This experience offers top youth participants exposure to professional production and industry mentors, while all contestants join a statewide network of serious young traditional musicians.
Big Squeeze also makes a significant economic impact, generating jobs and revenue for institutions while drawing visitors from local, intrastate, and interstate locations. The program receives substantial media coverage, with an average of 25 major stories in local newspapers and state magazines annually.
Above all, Big Squeeze preserves and promotes Texas’ familial and cultural traditions. Many artists and contestants have embraced the accordion through their families, and our program supports these family-based traditions. Thanks to HEB support, we can illuminate communities facing underfunded arts landscapes, including at-risk youth and those from the Rio Grande region of Texas.