The four finalists in the conjunto category include 14-year-old Raul Resendez from Palmview, 15-year-old Josue A Garcia of La Feria, 16-year-old Rito Peña from San Antonio and 17-year-old Brandon Betancourt of Houston. Finalists will perform at the Finals Concert and Playoffs at the Bullock Museum in Austin on April 25, and three Grand Prize Winners will be selected in Conjunto, Cajun Zydeco and Polka categories. There are ten finalists who will compete for the three grand prizes in the three categories. All three grand prize winners will perform at Texas Folklife’s highly acclaimed annual Accordion Kings & Queens Festival at Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre on Saturday, June 6. In addition, the three Big Squeeze 2015 Grand Prize Winners 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.
This is the ninth annual Big Squeeze accordion contest for up-and-coming Texas musicians, 21 years of age or younger. There were eight talent showcases scheduled around the state that were free, open to the public, and featured performances by local musicians. The finalists were chosen from the field of performers at the showcases (and those who sent in their performances to Texas Folklife) by a panel of esteemed music professionals. Accordionists were 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 Big Squeeze contest continues to develop and broaden its reach,” says Executive Director Cristina Ballí. “In recent years we have enlarged the Grand Prize Winners to three and created three categories in order to encourage the accordion genres found in the state. This year we expanded the contest to East Texas to reach out to the Cajun zydeco community. We are consistently getting large numbers of contestants, younger contestants, and more young women. This year was a banner year for the girls in that there were seven female contestants and three made it to the finals. We are pleased to promote all of these young, talented future culture bearers—male and female, zydeco, conjunto, and polka-playing—awesome accordionists!”
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, the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division, the City of Houston through the Miller Theatre Advisory Board, the Houston Endowment, Texas Gas Service, and the Houston Press. Additional support is provided by regional businesses including Hacienda Records, and Frank+Victor Design.