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White’s Music Box celebrates 75th anniversary in Las Cruces


A fixture downtown since it opened at the corner of Main and May not long after the end of World War II, White’s Music Box is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2023.

It is one of the oldest locally owned retail business in Las Cruces and is certainly the oldest music store in the Las Cruces-El Paso area, said Mike White, who has owned the business for 40 years.

Original owner Mark Wechter gave up his job as a record salesman for a subsidiary of Capitol Records to open The Music Box in 1948.

“There was a record shop in every little town,” White said. “They were like video stores in the 1990s.”

The business moved temporarily across the street when the original building was demolished in the early 1970s as part of the nationwide urban renewal program – White paid members of the Mayfield High School Band $100 to move merchandise across Main Street – moving back to a new building at the old location few months later.

Initially, The Music Box carried not only records, phonographs and transistor radios, but also organs, pianos and other musical instruments. At the request of the band director at Gadsden High School in the 1950s, Wechter began stocking musical supplies.

A native of Boston, Massachusetts, White came to New Mexico State University on a music scholarship.

He gave up his job as band director at Alameda Junior High School to go to work at The Music Box in 1967, calling on elementary, junior high and high school accounts throughout Las Cruces, El Paso and southern New Mexico – something he still does today.

Record sales stopped in 1968 when the Kmart store on El Paseo Road began selling records “cheaper than we could buy them,” White said.

White and his former wife, Marcie, bought the business from Wechter in 1983. They opened a second location in El Paso in 1986, and White is still operating both stores.

His connection to school music programs, parents and students has always been a major part of White’s success at The Music Box.

“We’re a school music business,” he said.

At age 81, it is still “a labor of love” for White, selling, renting and repairing musical instruments and watching students evolve into professional musicians, music makers and teachers, he said.

“I spend most of my time out in the schools,” White said. “I’m a band director that owns a music business.”

White remembers a 12-year-old Peter Podruchny coming into the store with his mother to rent his first clarinet. Podruchny later earned a four-year music scholarship to NMSU and is today the band director at Sierra Middle School.

Mike Cano rented his first trumpet at White’s Music Box, went on to graduate from NMSU and join the U.S. Army Band in Washington, D.C., beginning a career as lead herald trumpet, White said.

“There are thousands of success stories over the years,” White said.

White and fellow Las Cruces music legend John Schutz were part of the NMSU search committee that hired William Clark as director of bands at the university in 1985. Clark, who was named Las Cruces citizen of the year in 1988 and New Mexico Music Educator of the Year in 1992, joined with White to create the Greater Southwest Honor Band at NMSU, New Horizons Band of Las Cruces, Mesilla Valley Concert Band and a band for local home-schooled students.

White, Clark and Schutz came up with the idea for the concert band “sitting around one Saturday afternoon, shooting the breeze,” White said.

“We knew a lot of people in town who used to play,” he said.

Nearly 50 people turned out for their first rehearsal, with Clark directing.

The band continues to perform in 2023 (its 24th season) with NMSU Band Director Michael Mapp as conductor.

“I can’t wait for Aug. 28 when we start rehearsing again,” said White, who plays clarinet in the band.

White and Clark also came up with the idea for the Middle School Honor Band that continues in Las Cruces.

Instrument repair is also “a big part of the business,” White said.

He recently purchased an ultrasonic cleaner that not only cleans and sanitizes musical instruments, it vibrates at such a high frequency that it also improves the clarity and sound quality of instruments that are placed in its fluid-filled tank or even set on top of it.

“You can hear the difference before and after,” White said.

Local musician Danny Garcia is part of White’s repair staff. Garcia bought his first horn at The Music Box at age 12, played lead alto saxophone in the U.S. Air Force Band, played for the Glen Miller Band in Las Vegas, Nevada, and even played with Elvis Presley. Garcia has been repairing musical instruments since 1981.

White’s repair staff also includes Erica Tovar, Mike Cerrillo, Rudy Torres and Fred Navarrete.

Business Manager Paula Faulkner has been with White for 35 years and store manager Don Entsmiger has been with him for 30 years.

“We’ve got a great team of people,” White said. “These people know what they’re doing. I don’t have to know anything.”

When asked if he would consider selling, White said, “Yeah, if they give me a job. I just want to keep calling on schools.”

White’s Music Box, 200 S. Main St., can be reached at 575-526-6677. Visit whitesmusicbox.com.