The Cactus Cuties
Written by: Cactus Cuties' Artistic Director, Cami Caldwell
In 1994, my parents, Don and Terri Caldwell, opened The Cactus Theater here in Lubbock, Texas. The theater was created as a venue to give opportunities to entertainers/musicians in and around West Texas and to generate local support for entertainment within the community. My mother, Terri Caldwell, founded Terri Caldwell Music, a mentorship/coaching program to encourage, support, and direct students toward reaching their full vocal potential while promoting positive self-esteem and an even greater love for singing. The Cactus Theater houses Terri Caldwell Music vocal recitals and concerts throughout the year providing students with a professional performance environment to gain stage experience.
After graduating from high school in 2000, I attended Belmont University in Nashville, TN (Mike Curb School of Music Business), after the first semester, I knew my heart was with my family in Lubbock, so I transferred to Texas Tech University and began performing at the theater and teaching voice at Terri Caldwell Music.
My mother had begun a youth performance group called The Cactus Kids, and after I got involved in 2001, she suggested I select a younger group of kids and call them The Cactus Cuties. So, in 2001 I selected seven talented kids between the ages of four and seven, and formed The Cactus Cuties. None of the existing four Cuties were in that original group.
The Cactus Cuties began performing for civic and private events around the area, and as they gained exposure, more kids began auditioning and were added to the group. At one time, there were as many as nineteen Cactus Cuties, but through the years for various reasons, the group has evolved and been molded into the existing four members, Baylee Barrett (age 16), Blaire Elbert (age 13), Makenzie Patton (age 12), and Madeline Powell (age 11).
At the beginning of 2008, we began having requests for The Cactus Cuties to perform The National Anthem as a group, so my mother arranged the parts, and we taught the Cuties the Anthem. In about two weeks, they had the arrangement down and performed it for the first time at the Texas Tech Lady Raiders vs. Texas basketball game on January 20th, 2008.
The audience was truly taken by the Cuties’ performance of The National Anthem, and we were really happy with the performance, but never dreamed what would unfold. Madeline’s grandfather, Pop, wanted to show the performance to a family member in South Texas, so he posted the video on YouTube. In less than three months, the video had over five million hits. We began receiving calls from all over the US inquiring about the Cactus Cuties and requesting booking information.
In May 2008, the Cuties performed at their first professional game. They performed the National Anthem and halftime show for NBA San Antonio Spurs vs New Orleans Hornets in a huge playoff game. They have spent the rest of 2008, 2009, and 2010 performing all over the country. They have been featured on The Disney Channel, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Rachael Ray, The 700 Club, The Jerry Lewis Telethon, numerous NBA, MLB, and NFL games, and many high profile military events. In December of 2008, we were honored to receive an invitation from The White House. The Cactus Cuties were thrilled to perform for President (at that time) and Mrs. Bush and their family at a private Holiday Brunch in The White House in Washington D.C.We are humbled by the thousands of comments, emails, and letters we have received from people who have been inspired with a new sense of patriotism after hearing The Cactus Cuties’ video of The National Anthem. Many soldiers have contacted us from all over the world after listening to our own little Cactus Cuties. We cried after reading a comment from one soldier who was so moved by The Cactus Cuties that he played them over the loudspeakers at a base in Afghanistan.
The Cactus Cuties' videos on YouTube have now garnered over 15.5 million views and growing. We all feel so blessed with such incredible opportunities and can’t wait to see where God leads us!