Written by Cheryl Fallstead
Photography by Cheryl Fallstead and Emmit Booher
There are so many great reasons for young people to engage with music, from the simple joy of singing or playing an instrument to academic reasons, such as developing higher standards int heir work, learning self-discipline, being more engaged in their education, improving memory, and developing language and reasong skills. Kids who participate in choirs or bands also build teamwork skills, learning the value of working with others for a common goal.
In addition to school music classes, young people in Las Cruces have many outstanding opportunities to learn and perform music. Here are just some of the local programs that can help your children develop and showcase their musical side.
Mesilla Valley Teen Singers
Former public school music teacher Terry Kay Gilbert founded the Mesilla Valley Teen Singers over 15 years ago and hundreds of youth aged 13 to 19 have found their voice in this program.
Although no auditions or musical experience is required to join, by the end of the semester, the teens have developed skills that allow them to perform challenging choral music at their spring and winter concerts.
Terry Kay is assisted by co-director Christa Fredrickson, the choral director at Centennial High School where the Mesilla Valley Teen Singers now practice. The group has been accompanied for many years by pianist Barbara Toth.
Terry Kay says, “This kind of opportunity is unique in that it combines musical opportunities with wonderful social opportunities. These young men and women meet people from different parts of the city and different backgrounds, and in doing so, often make lifelong friends, while also having the experience of combining forces in the creative pursuit of beautiful music.”
Practices are held Thursdays from 4:30 to 6:15 p.m. at the Centennial High School Choir Room. The cost per semester is $65, plus a uniform fee. For more information, contact Terry Kay Gilbert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opera Storytellers Camp
The Doña Ana Arts Council offers young music lovers the opportunity to take part in a unique opportunity: creating and performing an opera. Each year, they collaborate with the Santa Fe Opera to host the Opera Storytellers Camp for third- to twelfth-grade students. Students will use elements of opera, libretto writing, music composition, and theatrical staging to compose and perform their own musical drama based on the hero’s journey. DAAC Executive Director Kathleen Albers says.
Tuition is $300 per student for the two-week camp (June 3 – 14) and partial scholarships are available. For additional information, call (575) 523-6403 or go to www.daarts.org.
In an area with deep Hispanic roots, mariachi music is a must!
Less than two years ago, Ernesto and Jessica Ruiz and created a non-profit organization to help young people learn and perform this traditional form of music. Mariachi Estellitas is composed of over 40 young people from third grade through high school learning instruments such as violin, guitarrón, trumpet, classical guitar, and vihuela. No experience is required to join the group, which meets year-round Monday and Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Dream Center of Las Cruces, 1400 6th Street off Valley Drive. Tuition is $30 per month. They also perform once a month at the Farmers and Crafts Market, as well at other locations. Music Director Ernesto Ruiz says, “Our kiddos love to perform!” For more information, contact Ernesto Ruiz at (575) 649-8876, Board President Christina Lopez at (575) 405-9900, or go sites.google.com/view/mariachiestrellitaslc.
Mesilla Valley’s Got Talent
Since 2002, the Mesilla Valley Rotary Club has given talented youth a chance to strut their stuff at Mesilla Valley’s Got Talent, a talent show for kids aged six to 18. On Sunday, April 14, at 3 p.m. at the Rio Grande Theatre, talented young people will take to the stage individually or as duets to perform in categories such as mariachi, dance, skits, instrumental, vocal, and more. On rehearsal day, April 7, the group brings in talented local professionals, such as conductor Lonnie Klein of the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra, to coach the contestants.
Event chairman Rick Jackson says, “It’s unbelievable the amount of talent our young people have in Las Cruces and Doña Ana County.”
The show is also a fundraiser with sponsorship opportunities, which has raised over $100,000 for youth-oriented community service projects. The entry fee is $25 for individuals and $40 for duets. Admission to enjoy the show $5 per person, free for kids aged 12 and under. For more information and the registration form, go to www.mvrtalentshow.com.
New Horizons Band
The New Horizons Band, an amateur adult community band, was founded as an outlet for mature adults to perform music. However, the group, directed by Judy Bethmann, has opened this musical opportunity to people of all ages who have at least two years experience playing their instrument and can read music. The band waives the usual $55-per-semester fee for students because they wanted young people without music programs at their schools, or home-schooled students, the chance to take part in a group musical experience. Judy says, “It’s a nice bunch of people, people you want to be around.”
The New Horizons Band rehearses Tuesday evenings from 6:45 to 8:15 p.m. at the NMSU Band Room. For more information, e- mail Judy Bethmann at email@example.com.
Las Cruces Ukes
The Las Cruces Ukes, a non-profit community group of ukulele enthusiasts, welcome young people to their regular practices, but they also offer a program for teens at Arrowhead Park Early College High School on Wednesday afternoons from 3:10 to 4 p.m. In addition, they offer a special student rate at their annual Las Cruces UkeFest in May, which offers workshops and a concert with popular instructors from across the country.
The Las Cruces Ukes practice Thursday evenings at Good Samaritan – Las Cruces Village, 3011 Buena Vida Circle, in the Creative Arts Room. They offer mentors to help new players get started and those who already play can jump into the Strum for Fun sessions from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. or join the performance group from 6:30 to 8 p.m. as they prepare for the next concert on their schedule. Learn more at www.lascrucesukes.com and www.lascrucesukefest.com.
The Hubbard name is synonymous with music in Las Cruces, and Dru Hubbard’s store, Hubbard’s Music-n-More at 108 Wyatt Drive, offers music lessons as well as a wide range of instruments, sound equipment, and professional repair services. The practice rooms are put to good use by three instructors: Joe Seltzer, drums and percussion; Derrick Harris, guitar; and Tony Movsesian, guitar and bass guitar. Lessons are $25 per half hour and are scheduled with the instructors. For more information, call (575) 556-8884 or go to www.hubbardsmusicnmore.com.
Located at 221 N. Main Street, just behind M. Phillip’s Fine Art Gallery in downtown Las Cruces, Studio A-440 has offered lessons since 1996 for ages “five to 85” for many musical instruments, including piano, guitar, cello, ukulele, violin, band instruments, plus voice. If youngsters can recognize letters from A to G and numbers from one to five, they qualify to begin lessons. They teach, as owner Gail Bleiweiss says, “The whole package, including how to read notes, count, and present themselves at recitals.” Students take part in two formal recitals each year, plus a special holiday performance at the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market.
The charge for private lessons is $85 a month for 30 minutes once weekly; $125 a month for 45 minutes once weekly; and $160 a month for 60 minutes once weekly. Lessons are taught six days a week by appointment with the instructor. They also offer a variety of instruments for sale. For more information, call (575) 525-1367.