On May 19 – 21, ukulele enthusiasts will gather in southern New Mexico to take their skills to a higher level at Las Cruces UkeFest 2017. The festival brings nationally-known instructors to the high desert to teach workshops, perform a concert, and lead a jam session. The festival is hosted by the Las Cruces Ukes, a non-profit community group of ukulele enthusiasts.
The festival kicks off Friday evening with a concert, featuring instructor/performers Jim and Liz Beloff, Daniel Ward,
Heidi Swedberg, and Danielle Ate The Sandwich. Saturday brings a
full day of workshops, a catered lunch, vendors, and prize drawings, as well as a fun jam session led by Jim Beloff. The festival wraps up Sunday morning with two more workshops, including “The Gospel According to Uke” facilitated by Gorton Smith, a retired pastor and member of the Las Cruces Ukes. There’s even a special stand-alone workshop for kids led by Heidi Swedberg Saturday afternoon.
Ukuleles, and ukulele festivals, are popular world-wide. The four-stringed instrument from the Hawaiian Islands is easy to play — and transport — and lends itself to playing as a solo instrument or with a group of friends. Ukulele clubs have sprouted up from England to Australia and Maui to southern New Mexico, encouraging new members and providing performance opportunities. The instructors coming to Las Cruces are well-known and in demand at festivals across the country and around the world.
Jim and Liz Beloff literally wrote the book on the ukulele. Their “Daily Ukulele” books are the source for music for countless clubs and their numerous Jumpin’ Jim songbooks are in about every player’s library. Heidi Swedberg was born in the Hawaiian Islands, grew up in New Mexico, and now lives in Southern California and spends her time sharing the love of the ukulele with players of all ages. Daniel Ward, another native New Mexican living in LA, brings a Latin flair to the four-stringed island instrument and will focus on teaching a wide range of strumming patterns. Danielle Ate The Sandwich hails from Colorado and is a indie-folk singer who writes her own songs and will help beginners to more advanced players improve their skills both playing and singing along. Ukulele players at any level, from beginner to advanced, will find workshops tailored to their needs. For those just giving the instrument a try, loaner ukuleles will be available to borrow at the festival.
More information about the instructors, workshops, venues, and drawing prizes, along with on-line registration, can be found at www.lascrucesukefest.com. Full festival registration, including the catered lunch, is only $100 through April 19, then goes up $10. Those who only want to attend the concert can buy a ticket for $15. The special children’s workshop is also $15 and includes the Fun and Games session immediately following.