The Big Squeeze contest for young accordionists kicks off this weekend under a new format designed to diversify the genres of music represented in the annual competition.
The first round of tryouts for the contest will be Saturday at the Houston Creole Heritage Festival at Discovery Green Park. Tryout showcases are also scheduled for the coming weeks in Ja Joya, Corpus Christi, Schulenburg, Dallas, Los Fresnos, and San Antonio. Contestants must be 21 or younger.
Texas Folklife, the Austin-based nonprofit that organizes the competition, changed the format of this year’s event to encourage participation from a greater variety of playing styles.
“What we have discovered in our travels and seeking out the best young Texas accordion players is that a larger emphasis needs to be placed on certain accordion traditions,” says Cristina Ballí, executive director of Texas Folklife. “In particular, we are focusing on zydeco and polka at several of the showcase events and are developing more ways to safeguard their important place in Texas music.”
In years past, most Big Squeeze participants have played Latino styles, such as conjunto, Tejano and norteño. This year, judges will select three finalists from each of three genres to compete in the grand finale: conjunto, including norteño and Tejano; polka, including German, Czech, and Polish; and zydeco, including Creole and Cajun.
The nine finalists (three from each genre) will perform April 2 at the Bullock State History Museum in Austin, leading to the selection of three grand-prize winners—one each from the Conjunto, Polka, and Zydeco styles. The three winners will be invited to perform at Texas Folklife’s Accordion Kings and Queens Festival in Houston in June.
Find more information about the competition, including contest rules, entry forms, and a schedule of showcases at the Texas Folklife website.