‘Big Squeeze' Accordion Contest Has 4 Young Finalists From North Texas

Four North Texas musicians between the ages of 9 and 18 are among the finalists in Texas Folklife's Big Squeeze contest.

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The accordion might not be the most popular instrument choice among the younger generation, but that didn't stop 9-year old Elayne Doggett from picking it up during the pandemic.

"Most friends I speak to don't know what the word I'm saying is," Doggett said. "They're like, 'Accord-what?' And I'm like, 'It's an accordion.'"

Doggett is from Plano. She is the youngest of the North Texas finalists in Texas Folklife's Big Squeeze accordion contest.

The old instrument is helping young players carry on tradition.

"My mom was like, 'You're going to learn this because you're Russian,'" 14-year old Alex French of The Colony said. He made it to the finals playing a Russian World War II-era accordion that was handed down by a family friend. "So it made it through World War II, which is pretty cool."

"I was actually born and adopted from... Russia," 18-year old Nick Heatly of Dallas said. Heatly has been a finalist in the past and said his accordion is a connection to his past.

"Breaking out an accordion at a party is always something really fun to do," Heatly said. "I just fell in love with the instrument."

"Playing is just joy," 18-year old Jose Vasquez of Farmersville said. Vasquez made the finals as well.

Vasquez started playing at the age of 8, following in his grandfather's footsteps. He said he loves being an ambassador for his culture and music.

"I have a lot of friends telling me they want to learn," Vasquez said. "I mean, that gives joy to my heart because it's awesome!"

The Big Squeeze finals will be virtual this year. They start at 3 p.m. Saturday on Facebook Live. Grand prize winners take home $1,500 in prizes, including a new accordion.

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