Our 2019 Judges

Alex Meixner
Dynamic accordionist Alex Meixner mixes an array of musical styles into traditional, exuberant Central European party music, letting die-hard polka fans to enjoy the evolution and letting hipsters discover all there is to love in the innately fun genre. Solo and with his band, he has performed at major venues and festivals around the world, as well as at uncountable accordion-centric events. His virtuosic yet quirky style has made him a sought-after collaborator (he worked alongside Jack Black in the 2017 Sundance pick The Polka King), spokesperson (Hormel and Ford have used his music), and educator. His recording "Polka FreakOut" with Brave Combo's Bubba Hernandez won him a GRAMMY nomination.

After finishing his degrees, including a Masters from Pennsylvania State University in trumpet performance, Meixner went on to collaborate successfully outside the polka world, collaborating with everyone from Tex-Mex alt rockers The Krayolas to avant garde accordionist and composer Guy Klucevsek. He explored rock and polka's intersections with Brave Combo. His duo album with Brave Combo alum Bubba Hernandez, "Polka Freak Out", was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2007.


Gary Blair
Gary has been playing accordion from the age of 8 having been taught by his father Jimmy. A regular winner of competitions through the UK, Gary has been judging accordion competitions since 1982 and has adjudicated at many festivals around the world.

His accordion travels have included performances in the USA, Canada, Italy, France, Siberia, Korea, China, Russia, India, and the UAE.

He continues to perform around the globe and is a teacher both in private and on the internet via Skype


Emmanuel Gasser
The 22 years old awards winning accordionist Emmanuel Gasser lives in St. Charles, Ontario, Canada. He fascinated audiences everywhere, since the age of nine with his breathtaking performances. He is recognized as one of the best young accordionists in North America, winning numerous trophies and awards in many North American and International competitions, as well as representing Canada at the Coupe Mondiale, Trophée Mondiale, FIF Castelfidardo, IAWK Germany and IAC Switzerland. Recent awards include, First Place in the Carmen Carozza International Memorial Competition and First Place in the International Elsie Bennett Composition Competition hosted by the American Accordionists' Association with his compositions in 2016 and 2017. Emmanuel has exceptional musical maturity, having composed over 50 original pieces. In the past he has studied with several world champion accordionists, especially with the late Alexander Sevastian. Emmanuel plans to further develop a career as composer and performer; performing solo, with ensembles and orchestras.