Three years ago, a new music group formed in Las Cruces. It is open to anyone who is interested in learning to play that popular Hawaiian four-stringed instrument, the ukulele. Now the Las Cruces Ukes, which practices each Thursday evening, fields numerous performance requests, and has enlarged its reach to younger folks with a twice-monthly kids club and a weekly teen club at Arrowhead Park Early College High School. The adult performance group ranges from 10 to 15 people, depending on the event and availability.
Railroad Days performance
The Las Cruces Ukes will next perform at Railroad Days Saturday, May 7, at 11 a.m. They’ll play favorite railroad songs along with some of their other popular tunes. The performance is part of a two-day celebration of trains at the Las Cruces Railroad Museum, 351 N. Mesilla Street, located at Mesilla Street and Las Cruces Avenue. Other activities will take place from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., including historical reenactments, model railroad displays, and more. Get details about Railroad Days at las-cruces.org/departments/community-and-cultural-services/museum-system/railroad-depotmuseum/programs-and-activities.
Las Cruces UkeFest
For those who want to learn to play the ukulele or improve their ability to play without reading from a music sheet, there is a fun opportunity coming up Saturday, May 28. The group is hosting the Second Annual Las Cruces UkeFest, this year featuring instructor Jim D’Ville, who specializes in teaching people to play by ear.
D’Ville will teach Play By Ear 1 (1 p.m.) and Play By Ear 2 (2:30 p.m.). Participants may choose to attend one workshop for $20 or both for $35.
Aspiring ukulele players will want to sign up for Ukulele Basics, a one-hour introduction to the instrument, taught by Las Cruces Ukes Chief Musical Officer, Bob Hull. His workshop will include basics such as how to hold the ukulele, tuning, basic chords, and playing a simple song. Then participants will be ready to join the Las Cruces Ukes beginner group at their regular Thursday practices. The Ukulele Basics workshop begins at 4 p.m., cost $10, and loaner ukuleles are available.
The UkeFest will also include a concert, with the Las Cruces Ukes warming up the audience for headliner Jim D’Ville. The concert is $10 or $5 for workshop attendees and begins at 6 p.m.
In addition, Hubbard’s Music will be on hand with a special assortment of ukuleles available for purchase. Even if you aren’t attending UkeFest, you are welcome to come by to shop for ukuleles, music books, tuners, and more.
Thanks to Kala Brand Ukuleles, a variety of drawing prizes will be offered, including a ukulele, tuners, and other items. Ohana is another sponsor of the UkeFest.
To reserve your spot (all payment will be done at the door), e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 405-7133. More information is online at lascrucesukes.blogspot.com.
After UkeFest, the Las Cruces Ukes will focus their attention on a variety of performances. They’ll play for a group of retired teachers in May; for their host facility, Golden Mesa, in July for their Christmas in July event; and at the Mesilla Valley Hospice fundraiser Men Who Cook in August. In September, they’ll take the stage at the Albuquerque Ukekopelli Festival, a three-day ukulele festival featuring top name instructors. In addition, they will continue to schedule performances for local senior facilities.
Las Cruces Ukes practice each Thursday at Golden Mesa, 151 N. Roadrunner Parkway, in the main building in the activity room. Beginners practice from 5:15 – 6:15 p.m. and the beyond beginner/performance group works together from 6:30 – 8 p.m. Membership in Las Cruces Ukes is free and open to anyone who wants to learn to play this engaging instrument.
Kids and Teen Clubs
The ukulele is a perfect instrument for children to try, With instruments available in the diminutive soprano size and at affordable prices, it’s perfect for a child or teen.
The Las Cruces Ukes Kids Club meets on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. at El Calvario Church at 300 Campo Street. There is no charge to be part of the club, but there are some materials fees for music books. Elementary and middle school kids are welcome to join and parents are encouraged to stay for practice and even strum along if they’d like. Loaner ukuleles are available for those who haven’t yet purchased one.
The Teen Club will be taking a break for the summer, but will start again in fall at Arrowhead Park Early College High School on Wednesdays from 3:15 to 4 p.m. Thanks to a donation from Kala Brand Ukuleles, each teen has a ukulele to borrow and learn on. Another donation from Ohana Ukuleles has provided incentives ukuleles students can earn. Students from other schools and home-schooled students are welcome to attend if their schedules allow.
For more information about Las Cruces Ukes, or to enroll a child or teen in either of these programs, e-mail email@example.com or call 405-7133.