Special to the Parade
Texas Folklife announces its seventh 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 any genre of accordion-based music, including zydeco; Cajun; German, Czech, and Polish polka; Tejano; Conjunto; and Norteño; as well as other genres.
The popular contest heads to the Lower Rio Grande Valley on Saturday, March 30, for its final audition of the year. The auditions will be held at Los Fresnos High School in the auditorium. Registration and auditions will begin at 3 p.m. Immediately following the auditions, there will be a performance by the first Big Squeeze Champion Juan Longoria, Jr. accompanied by his band Conteño, and a performance by the reigning Big Squeeze Champ Peter Anzaldua. Both are Brownsville natives. Longoria joined the Los Fresnos High School staff in 2012, and started the school’s first accordion class. He hopes to build on this with additional accordion classes next year.
These performances are a prime example of the work that Texas Folklife does in the state. It encourages the next generation of musicians, artists and performers by sharing the wisdom of tradition-bearers. In this case, the recent Big Squeeze royalty will share their musical knowledge and expertise with the aspiring squeezeboxers. An accordion jam with Big Squeeze contestants, champs, and any other accordions in the audience will follow the performances.
The auditions are free and open to the public. Contestants 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 audition may mail or e-mail their entries to arrive at Texas Folklife no later than April 1, 2013. The complete contest rules and entry forms are available online or by calling Texas Folklife.
There will be three rounds in the Big Squeeze 2013 competition. All three rounds will be judged by a panel of esteemed music professionals. The auditions are the first round of competition and will identify those players who will advance to the semifinals. At this level, contestants will be judged on their technical proficiency – skill in playing, and technical and musical accuracy. At the next two rounds, the semifinals and finals, contestants will be judged on their technical proficiency, but also their song interpretation (stylistic choices, innovation, and originality) and their stage presence (level of comfort on stage and attention to personal appearance).
Semifinalists selected by audition or mailed entries will be hosted in Austin to take part in the Semifinals held on April 20 at The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. At that time, up to four finalists will be selected. The finalists will be awarded a cash prize and hosted in Houston to compete for the title of The Big Squeeze Grand Prize Winner at the Accordion Kings and Queens Festival on June 1. The highly popular Accordion Kings and Queens Festival crowd historically numbers over 6,000 and all finalists will have a chance to perform for the enthusiastic crowd and perform with accordion legends who will be featured in this year’s all-star lineup. Past headliners have included Grammy Award-winning Los Texmaniacs, Brave Combo, Flaco Jiménez, and Mingo Saldivar.
The Big Squeeze 2013 Grand Prize Winner will 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.
“We at Texas Folklife are gratified by the way young Texans, their families, and communities have embraced The Big Squeeze,” said Executive Director Cristina Ballí. “The annual contest is one of the ways we carry out our mission to preserve, promote, and present Texas’s diverse cultural heritage. I might add, it is also a truly fun and fulfilling way to meet our responsibilities to the state. We are very pleased to play some role in helping communities celebrate, honor, and pass their traditions to the next generation. This audition in Los Fresnos – our last one of 2013 – is especially moving for us in that two of our former champs from the Valley are performing. We are grateful to Juan and Peter and to the community at large for helping us to keep the music alive. And we are especially proud of our own Juan Longoria, Jr., in becoming an educator and having a hands-on role in preserving his – and our – musical heritage.”
The Big Squeeze is supported by the members and Board of Texas Folklife, by grants from Texas Commission on the Arts and the Texas Music Office, H-E-B, 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, the Still Water Foundation, and Texas Gas Service. Additional support is provided by regional businesses including Hohner, Inc., SugarHill Recording Studios, Hacienda Records, FBA Design, Sign Effects and Embassy Suites Hotel in Austin.