Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of people walking around with ukuleles in Las Cruces this weekend. Ukulele enthusiasts, musicians, and teachers are gathering from around the country for the second Las Cruces UkeFest, with concerts, workshops, open mic, jam sessions and prize drawings all being part of the two-day festival. The festival is hosted by Las Cruces Ukes, a group that was founded five years ago by Cheryl Fallstead. Singer-songwriter Mark Baker, one of the festival’s performer/teachers, met Fallstead five years ago when he got stranded in Las Cruces during a summer monsoon while biking across the country. He saw a Las Cruces Ukes poster at a coffee shop, called Fallstead, and eventually wrote a song about his adventures, “Till the Highway Turns to Sea.” Both Baker and Fallstead came to the KRWG studios to talk with Intermezzo host Leora Zeitlin about the festival, their friendship, their love of ukuleles, and the international resurgence of interest in the instrument.
Baker is a passionate teacher and performer who says he can teach the rudiments of the ukulele in ten minutes. “It’s easy to play,” he emphasized, and “as soon as I learned, I couldn’t wait to teach someone else.” Baker will teach a workshop for young players at 10 a.m. at the festival on Saturday morning. “It’s just such a cool feeling to be able to put this in someone’s hands and watch their face light up.”
In this interview, Baker also performs the song he wrote about his cross-country bike ride. Listen in and you’ll also learn the proper way to pronounce “ukulele” and “uke”!
Other performer-teachers participating in the festival are Lil' Rev, Rachel Manke, Craig Chee and Sarah Maisel. The concert is Friday, May 18, at 7 p.m. at the Atkinson Recital Hall, and the festival takes place at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum on Saturday and Sunday.
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