Texas Folk Life holds Big Squeeze accordion contest in Los Fresnos

LOS FRESNOS — Texas Folk Life hosted its 11th annual Big Squeeze Accordion Contest on Saturday at Los Fresnos High School.

The Big Squeeze is an annual statewide competition in which contestants under the age of 21 can showcase their abilities to play the accordion in three categories: polka, cajun/zydeco and conjunto.

“This is a great partnership we have with Los Fresnos (Independent School District) and the conjunto program directed by Juan Longoria, who showcased the community of kids who play here, mostly conjunto accordion music,” said Charlie Lockwood, Texas Folk Life executive director.

Contestants were recorded, and a panel of judges in Austin will see the video and decide who will advance the finals in April in Austin.

Longoria, Los Fresnos High School’s conjunto director, was the Big Squeeze winner in 2007. He’s been playing the accordion since he was 10 years old.

“Some of these students, boys and girls, they don’t have the opportunity to showcase what they have been learning at home or they don’t play in bands,” Longoria said. “So this is the opportunity to showcase what they do on their spare time.”

Brownsville resident Esteban Garza, one of the five contestants who performed in the competition, has been playing the accordion since he was 9 years old.

“I saw the (competition) all over Facebook and (thought), ‘I’m going to try it out, see what I can do,’” Garza said. “I did this for fun, but I wouldn’t mind winning.”