The History of the Las Cruces Ukes
Las Cruces Ukes founders (L – R) Cheryl Fallstead, Roger McCandless, and Kelle Hoskins.
In 2012, Cheryl Fallstead asked her father, Roger McCandless (who passed away in 2015), to teach her to play an instrument. Roger played the piano, guitar, banjo, ukulele, and harmonica, so there were a lot of options. Cheryl had taken a guitar class in 7th grade, but hadn’t strummed much since. Roger, not realizing that ukuleles were experiencing a resurgence of popularity, nevertheless recommended she take up the diminutive four-stringed instrument. Soon her friend Kelle Hoskins, who like Roger had musical experience, joined their practice sessions.
They began wondering if anyone else in Las Cruces played, or wanted to learn to play, the ukulele. Fliers were designed and posted, offering a Uke 101 session to get things kicked off. Hubbard’s Music-N-More generously offered one of their rooms for the classes. Calls began coming in and the first Uke 101 session was held April 30, 2013 with Roger as the musical leader. Original Uke 101 class members who are still active in the Las Cruces Ukes are Karl Utrecht, Marie Hughey, and Dave Anketell.
After the beginner sessions, practices continued on a weekly basis and other beginner classes were held. The group of people playing together was now called the Las Cruces Ukes. However, as all this was going on, Kelle had moved to Santa Fe and Roger had been diagnosed with lung cancer, restricting his energy for evening practices. Cheryl did her best to guide the group despite her lack of musical experience. Fortunately for everyone, Bob Hull was recruited to join the Las Cruces Ukes. With a long and rich background playing a variety of instruments, Bob was just what the group needed!
As the group improved under Bob’s guidance, members (specifically, Bob Hale) asked when they would be performing. Cheryl contacted local retirement communities offering performances. The first was held at the Village at Northrise on June 18, 2014. Since then, they have performed over 60 concerts everywhere from senior facilities to luaus and art gallery openings to the big stage of the Rio Grande Theatre, as well as at NMSU’s Aggies in Paradise event and way up on a mountain in El Paso at the Aerial Tramway. (Check the Performance History page to see where they’ve been).
Now the Las Cruces Ukes is a New Mexico non-profit corporation and a 501(c) 3. They perform around the area and offer a variety of workshops to help themselves and new recruits become more proficient in their ukulele skills as well as hosting the annual Las Cruces UkeFest. After spending a year at Golden Mesa, they now practice each week at Good Samaritan — Las Cruces Village, having outgrown their original home at Hubbard’s.
The most recent additions to the Las Cruces Ukes “family” are our Kids Club and Teen Club. They both launched in March 2016 and are helping spread the love of ukulele to folks of all ages. We look forward to the day when the younger players will be performing with the adults!