Talent Showcase to be held at Los Fresnos High School on Saturday, March 29
Los Fresnos — Texas Folklife announces its eighth annual Big Squeeze accordion contest for up-and-coming Texas musicians, 21 years of age or younger. The non-profit that endeavors to preserve and promote Texas’s diverse cultural heritage is looking for great players in all genres of the Lone Star State’s accordion-based music, including German, Czech, and Polish polka; Creole, Cajun, and zydeco; and conjunto, norteño, and Tejano.
In order to better nurture young Texas talent, Texas Folklife is restructuring the popular contest this year. The contest will go on the road again this spring in order to meet the young accordion players in their communities in talent showcases. Three Final Grand Prize Winners will be devoted to the three main accordion genres—polka, zydeco, and conjunto. The polka genre will include German, Czech, and Polish traditions. Zydeco will include Creole and Cajun musical traditions. And conjunto will include norteño and Tejano. The showcases will be free, open to the public, and feature performances by local musicians.
The Big Squeeze will return to the Rio Grande Valley for the second time this year in order to uncover all the talent in the area. The talent showcase will be held on Saturday, March 29, at 5:00 p.m., at Los Fresnos High School. Local accordion powerhouse and the first Texas Folklife Big Squeeze Champ Juan Longoria, Jr., will perform along with Conjunto Halcon of Los Fresnos High School after the talent showcase. Last year, Longoria began teaching music at LFHS and started the school’s first conjunto program.
The Big Squeeze Showcase is free and open to the public. Interested players may register on site or in advance by calling Texas Folklife at (512) 441-9255 or online at www.texasfolklife.org . Those who cannot attend the showcase may mail or email their entries to arrive at Texas Folklife no later than April 7. The complete contest rules and entry forms are available online or by calling Texas Folklife.
Nine finalists (three from each genre) will be chosen from the field of performers at the showcases (and those who send in their performances to Texas Folklife) by a panel of esteemed music professionals. Accordionists will be judged on their technical proficiency—skill in playing, and technical and musical accuracy—as well as their song interpretation (stylistic choices, innovation, and originality) and stage presence (level of comfort on stage and attention to personal appearance). The nine finalists will be announced on April 11. The finalists will perform at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin on Saturday, April 26. Three Grand Prize Winners will be selected. There will be one winner for each accordion category—polka, zydeco, and conjunto. All three winners will perform at Texas Folklife’s highly acclaimed annual Accordion Kings & Queens Festival at Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre on Saturday, June 7, 2014. The three Big Squeeze 2014 Grand Prize Winners will also receive a prize package valued at more than $4,000, including a cash prize, a brand new Hohner accordion, performance opportunities in Austin and Houston, publicity, professional development, and other professional opportunities.
“The Rio Grande Valley is an important incubator for traditional Texas music,” says Executive Director Cristina Ballí. “A large number of our Big Squeeze contestants and winners have come from the Valley. The fact that this year’s showcase is being held at Los Fresnos High School is a case in point. When Juan Longoria, Jr., won the Big Squeeze contest in 2007, we did not know that in 2014, he would be teaching the next generation of accordionists in the state. We are extremely gratified to see the way the contest is nurturing and developing top Texas talent.”
The Big Squeeze is supported by the members and Board of Texas Folklife and by Hohner, Inc.; by grants from Texas Commission on the Arts and the Texas Music Office, the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division, the City of Houston through the Miller Theatre Advisory Board, the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, the Houston Endowment, and Texas Gas Service. Additional support is provided by regional businesses including SugarHill Recording Studios, Antone’s Records, Hacienda Records, and Frank+Victor Design.