Mariano Resendez of La Joya took home a big win last Friday when he was chosen as one of three finalists in the Texas Folklife “Big Squeeze“ accordion contest.
This is the eighth annual “Big Squeeze“ competition, where players up to 21 years old from across the state can compete for the opportunity to become the national champion.
The 14-year-old La Joya student joins two other out-of-towners in the conjunto category: Aaron Salinas of San Antonio, Luis Gonzales of Grand Prairie.
Resendez and his fellow contestants will give their ultimate performance at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 26 at Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. The event is free and open to the public. Players are judged based on their technical proficiency — skill and musical accuracy — as well as their interpretation — stylistic choices and originality — and stage presence.
For the first time this year, three champions will be declared in the three genres: zydeco, polka and conjunto. The polka genre includes German, Czech, and Polish influenced music. Zydeco includes Creole and Cajun traditions and conjunto includes norteño and Tejano.
According to a Texas Folklife news release, 75 percent of the 49 hopefuls competed in the conjunto category, so three Honorable Mentions were granted as well, one of which went to Mission accordion player Alan Guerra.
The nine finalists will perform before a panel of judges and the public. During deliberation, talented accordionists and bands from around Texas will entertain the crowd.
Grammy winning Tejano singer Sunny Sauceda will headline at “Big Squeeze,“ along with zydeco group Curtis Poullard and the Creole Zydeco Band, and Fabulous Polkasonics. Last year’s “Big Squeeze“ champion, Michael Ramos, will round out the all-star lineup.
Once the three champions are crowned, they’ll be slated to play at the 25th annual “Accordion Kings & Queens Festival“ at Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre on Saturday, June 7. Each champion will receive a prize package valued at more than $4000 including cash, performance opportunities and a new Hohner accordion.
“We are extremely gratified that we have been able to make a difference in young people’s lives with this contest by encouraging the state’s traditional music scene,“ said Texas Folklife executive director Cristina Ballí in a news release. “… We had the largest number of young squeezeboxers in the contest and all of them are fine young musicians with incredible talent. I guess you could say that accordions are taking over the world!“