Wednesday, January 25, 2012

JPMorgan Chase Donates $5,000 to Arts Council for Arts Programming

Arts Council Executive Director, Matt Young, with Rodney "Poncho" Seaford of JPMorgan Chase

On Friday, January 13th, at the Chase downtown branch, Rodney “Poncho” Seaford, President of the Southwest Louisiana Market for JPMorgan Chase, presented a check for $5,000 to Matt Young, Executive Director of the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana. The grant was awarded to the Arts Council for arts and cultural programming which benefits the cultural economy in Southwest Louisiana. For more information about the Arts Council, call 439-ARTS.

Art Associates Elects New Board Members

Art Associates Board President, Bobbi Yancey
During its annual board meeting on January 5th, 2012, Art Associates of Lake Charles elected a new executive committee and appointed new members to its board of directors. Bobbi Yancey, arts educator at Lake Charles Boston Academy of Learning, was elected Board President for another year. Also serving on the executive committee include: Gayle Cline as Vice President, Kempa Pierce (IRS Retiree) as Treasurer, Kay Crosby as Corresponding Secretary, and Brigette Martin (Brigette Martin Piano Studio) as Recording Secretary.

Four new members were appointed to the board: Chad Moreno, owner of Killer Websites and, Dr. Delma Porter, Director of McNeese’s Write to Excellence Center, Valerie Smith, owner of Stellar Beans Coffee House, and Kim Anderson, owner of Hope Therapy Center.

Art Associates of Lake Charles is a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding the audience for art in Southwest Louisiana, and it operates Art Associates Gallery at Central School. For more information about Art Associates, its gallery, and programs, visit

First Friday Reading Series presents J.D. Hibbitts and Scott Thomason

On Friday, February 3rd, the First Friday Reading Series will present a fiction reading by J.D. Hibbitts and Scott Thomason at 7 p.m. at the Porch Coffee House & Café in Lake Charles. The reading series, co-sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana, is held on the First Friday of each month at the Porch and is designed to promote local and regional poets and writers.

Hibbitts, originally from Southwest Virginia, is currently an MFA candidate in McNeese State University’s fiction program. After completing his service commitment to the United States Air Force, Hibbitts received his BA from Emory & Henry College in Virginia. His work has appeared in Sugar House Review, Ellipsis, and The Sierra Nevada Review, among others. Thomason is a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and holds a BA and MA in American history from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is also an MFA candidate at McNeese in fiction.

The Porch is located at 4710 Common Street in Lake Charles, and live music follows each reading. For more information about the reading series, contact the Arts Council at (337) 439-2787 or visit

Central School to Host Contemporary Music Workshop and Concert

Marcus Johnson, Lake Charles middle school band director and guitar instructor, along with the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana and Baton Rouge Music Studios (BRMS) are combining efforts to ignite a spark in young musicians of Southwest Louisiana. The plan begins with a showcase of fifty students in ten bands from BRMS performing in Southwest Louisiana schools throughout the day on Friday, March 16th, then performing a free concert at the Central School Theater later that evening. This event will be an introduction to a new kind of music camp that Johnson is planning for the Lake Charles area. The camp is set to take place at Central School from Monday, June 11th to Friday June 15th, culminating in a concert by the students.

In addition to being a band director, Johnson has over a decade of experience as a professional guitarist in music genres ranging from jazz and blues to rock and zydeco, and he is passionate about working with young musicians who may not fit the school band mold or who want to supplement their school music experience with contemporary music. With a passion for popular music, Johnson has a drive to initiate a new music school for area youth that focuses on contemporary music.

In order to see this project come to fruition in the near future, Johnson has met with the BRMS director of programs, Doug Gay, who is currently running a contemporary music school in Baton Rouge. Johnson and Gay discussed all of the possibilities to start a new venture together in Lake Charles and decided that a summer camp would be a good litmus test to see if there is enough interest to one day start a full-fledged school of contemporary music and music technology, similar to the school Gay has built in Baton Rouge.

Originally from Lake Charles, Gay is excited about the possibility of helping Johnson build a community of young musicians, parents, and local music professionals in his hometown. Over the past 6 years, Gay has built a school of contemporary music from the ground up, and his student base is now growing faster than ever with over 250 students per week. Now he works with a full staff of administrators and instructors and multiple programs in music performance and technology. Gay is confident that Johnson has the passion and drive to create these same opportunities for young musicians in Lake Charles. 

Young Band Nation is the nickname of Gay's flagship program at BRMS, officially labeled the “Young Band Development Program.” The program consists of 50 students in 10 bands, some of whom will be performing 4 major music festivals this year including Festival Internationale in Lafayette and The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The students learn a variety of genres and learn the intricacies of a career in music. They rehearse several hours a week, create Facebook pages and websites to market their bands, learn how to use audio and video hardware and software, and write and record original songs that they release through BRMS’s mastering and CD duplication studio, as well as on SoundCloud and YouTube.