Northwestern State University honored three individuals for their lifelong contributions to the arts with induction into the Mrs. H.D. Dear Sr. and Alice Estelle Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts Hall of Fame. Induction was held in tandem with the third annual President’s Command Performance, a spring gala to celebrate the arts and showcase the talents of students and faculty in the School of Creative and Performing Arts.
Dr. Colleen Lancaster, Dr. Jerry Payne and Mrs. Lenn Dohmann Prince were selected for induction into the CAPA Hall of Fame based on their lifetime achievements and contributions to the life of the arts at NSU, Natchitoches, the region, the state, nationally and internationally.
The spring gala began with a cocktail party that included a champagne toast, an art exhibit, a silent auction and entertainment provided by the NSU Jazz Orchestra in Orville Hanchey Gallery. The celebration moved to A.A. Fredericks Fine Arts Auditorium for signature performances that complemented the work of each honoree.
Lancaster was a teacher and administrator for more than 30 years in NSU’s women’s physical education program where she directed the department’s multiple areas of dance, including ballet, folk and square, tap, ballroom and contemporary while working to establish accreditation for the Department of Dance. She was the coordinator of the very first aerobic dance program in north Louisiana. In 1979, she became the first chair of the NSU Department of Dance, formulating within the College of Liberal Arts, the School of Creative and Performing Arts, separating from the Department of Physical Education and Recreation.
Lancaster, a native of Mississippi, arrived in Natchitoches in 1946 as a junior majoring in physical education at Northwestern State. After graduation, she earned a master’s degree at Texas Women’s University and a Ph.D. from Indiana University, where she was an instructor, before returning to NSU. As a nationally recognized dance educator, Lancaster worked closely with local, state, and national programs and organizations. She helped organize the Louisiana Dance Symposium and directed NSU’s Christmas Dance Concert, which evolved into the enormously popular Christmas Gala.
After 30 years of teaching, Lancaster retired to New York City for 10 years where she was recreation director at a nursing home. She returned to Natchitoches in 1997 and is active in genealogy and volunteerism for the city and Natchitoches First Presbyterian Church, for which she was named a Natchitoches Treasure.
Payne is a resident of Marshall, Texas, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education at NSU in 1957 and 1968, specialist in education in 1969 and doctorate in music education in 1973. In a career spanning 45 years, he was a music educator for 20 years in Louisiana and 25 years in Texas, including four years as Director of Bands at NSU. During that time, Payne led his bands in numerous outstanding competitive performances and was recognized with several professional honors.
Payne attended NSU on a band scholarship and became the student leader for the popular Demonaires. During his undergrad years, he played a critical role in helping charter the Beta Omicron Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, serving in numerous leadership roles, including a term as president in 1957. He began his teaching and band director career at Alexandria Junior High School and Alexandria Senior High. After receiving his doctoral degree, Payne finished his final four years in Louisiana as director of bands at Northwestern State University, his alma mater. He then retired in Louisiana and moved to Marshall, Texas, hoping to rebuild the struggling band program there. Under his leadership, the program grew in size and quality and earned numerous UIL Sweepstakes awards. Fourteen years after his Alexandria Band was the Louisiana Honor Band at Four States, his Marshall Band was selected as the Texas Honor Band.
Payne has served as a guest conductor and clinician for numerous honor bands in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas and has been a clinician and judge for festivals and contests in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee. He is active in Phi Beta Mu, TBA, TMEA, TMAA, and is a Paul Harris Fellow in Rotary International. He is a semi-professional jazz and concert saxophonist, is active as an arranger of band and jazz ensemble music, and performs with the East Texas Baptist University Saxophone Quartet. Payne performed a solo saxophone concert at the Beta Omicron Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi’s 50th anniversary in 2006. He is a member of the NSU Band Directors’ Hall of Fame at NSU, the Louisiana Music Educators Hall of Fame, the Texas Bandmasters Hall of Fame and NSU’s Hall of Distinguished Educators.
Payne and his wife, the former Marilyn Pippin, have five children and 14 grandchildren.
Prince is a native of Opelousas who began studies at Northwestern State in 1972, where she was a member of the NSU Chorale and played French horn in the NSU Orchestra. She was a member of Delta Zeta Sorority and represented NSU in the 1974 Miss Louisiana Pageant as the Lady of the Bracelet. She graduated in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance education and later earned a master’s degree in vocal performance form the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
While living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Prince continued to continue her vocal studies with teacher and pedagogue Jane Snow, performing in many vocal ensembles in Albuquerque and Santa Fe and with the Southwest Opera Chorus in Albuquerque. While working towards her master’s degree, Prince was awarded a scholarship from the University of Miami to study in Salzburg, Austria, during the Salzburg Opera Festival where she studied and was coached by numerous world renowned opera performers and teachers. Some of her solo performances included the leading role of Sonia in Franz Lehar’s “Merry Widow” and Laetitia in Menotti’s “The Old Maid and the Thief.”
After moving to Ruston in 1992, Prince was host for many years to Northwestern State’s north-central Louisiana recruiting reception in her home. She was also a member of the Ruston Masterworks Chorus and the soprano soloist for many performances, including the Mozart’s “Requiem,” Vivaldi’s “Gloria,” Handel’s “Messiah,” Duke Ellington’s “Sacred Concert” and the Monroe Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Haydn’s “Creation.”
Prince and her husband Danny have four children and 11 grandchildren. They own and operate several businesses in several states, including nursing and rehabilitation centers, pharmacies and therapy companies, as well as Port au Prince restaurant on Lake Claiborne and Port au Prince Cross Lake. They are active in the NSU Foundation, supporting professorships in voice and music, as well as the renovation of the CAPA music library.
The next President’s Command Performance will take place in the spring of 2018 and will honor individuals with inclusion in the School of Creative and Performing Arts Hall of Fame.