Last Saturday afternoon, The Big Squeeze accordion competition was held on the plaza of the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum. Musicians competed in three categories: Conjunto, Cajun/Zydeco, and Czech/German/Polish Polka. Non-profit Texas Folk Life sponsored this annual competition to encourage young accordionists.
Talent showcases were held throughout the state over the past two months, and the top ten finalists were invited to Austin for the final competition. Participants were judged on technical proficiency, song interpretation, and stage presence. This year’s finalists ranged in age from 14 to 21.
Although you can’t tell from my photographs, several hundred people watched this year’s competition. Temperatures reached the low ’90s, so most of the audience crowded together wherever there was shade. Professional accordionists, Charles Thibodeaux (and the Austin Cajun Aces) and Eva Ybarra (“Queen of the Accordion”), as well as two winners from last year’s competition, Aaron Salinas (below) and Garrett Neubauer.
Winners received new Hohner accordions and were invited to play in June’s Accordion Kings and Queens Festival in Houston. Here’s who won in each category:
Conjunto: Rito Pena
Cajun/Zydeco: Elizabeth Kelley
Czech/German/Polish Polka: Brandon Hodde
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