NATCHITOCHES – Tickets to Northwestern State University’s spring gala, the President’s Command Performance, are now available. The second annual event will honor three individuals who will be inducted into the Mrs. H.D Dear Sr. and Alice E. Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts. Honorees are former member of the art faculty Dr. Grady Harper, arts patron Jim Bob Key and Dr. Jack Wann, former NSU artistic director and professor of theatre. The President’s Command Performance is an annual celebration of the arts and will showcase the talents of Northwestern State’s CAPA student and faculty.
The President’s Command Performance will begin with music, cocktails and dinner at 6 p.m. in the Alumni Plaza in tandem with a silent auction and a retrospective exhibit of artwork by Harper entitled “Grady Harper: Vision” in the Orville Hanchey Gallery. The main performances, featuring musical ensembles, vocalists and dance performances, will take place in A.A. Fredericks Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.
The gala, a ticketed event, is being held in conjunction with investiture ceremonies for NSU President Dr. James Henderson, which will take place earlier in the day.
“We are very excited to host this year’s event in tandem with ceremonies planned to honor Dr. and Mrs. Henderson,” said Tiffany Chasteen, coordinator of the President’s Command Performance. “These are two separate events, but we hope that individuals who attend the investiture will want to attend the gala, which will highlight our very talented student vocalists, musicians, dancers and visual artists and recognize three special individuals. This year’s Hall of Fame Inductees had tremendous impact in furthering the arts in the community.”
Harper was a professor of art at Northwestern State from 1969-1990 where he served as chairman of the art department for three years, before serving as director of Northwestern Abroad, the university’s student international travel program. Harper enjoyed a long, successful and influential career as an educator and visual artist. A native of Pineville, he earned a bachelor’s degree in art from Louisiana College, a master’s in art education at NSU, a master’s of fine arts at Stephen F. Austin University and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University. He taught art at the junior high level beginning in 1955 and at the college level from 1959 until his retirement.
Harper is a specialist in watercolor and oil paintings and most recently adapted a technique of painting with coffee. Although style and subject have matured and developed through the years, most watercolor and coffee paintings are of local landscape, still-life, floral scenes and historical sites. He took art to the community with adjunct workshops, exhibits, demonstrations and international art study abroad programs open to students and the community.
During his career, Harper exhibited art in numerous galleries in the southern United States and in private collections nationwide and was recognized with many awards and accolades. He was admitted to numerous juried exhibits and art shows, often receiving awards or acknowledgements for work submitted. He served on the editorial board for Louisiana Life magazine from 1981-85 and authored many published works on painting techniques and art education.
Harper has been married to Sidney O. Harper for 62 years. They have a daughter, Becky Monrose of Lafayette, and three grandchildren, NSU students Brandon and Avery Monrose and Aaron Monrose.
A native of Winnfield, Key graduated from Northwestern State with a Bachelor of Arts in art and interior design in 1954. While at NSU, he played percussion in the band and timpani in the symphony. Key was also a member of the Gamma Rho Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Symphonia.
Key married Betty Sue Choate (1954) in 1955 and served in the U.S. Navy from 1955 to 1957.
After returning from his station in the U.S. Navy, Key went to work with his father-in-law, L.J. Choate, at Choate’s Interiors on July 1, 1957. He purchased the business in 1960.
In 1966, Key assisted in founding the Natchitoches Northwestern Symphony, where he is a past president and has served on the board for the past 49 years. Additionally, he was on the National Council of the Metropolitan Opera and served on the Regional Boards of the Shreveport Symphony and Shreveport Opera. Key served as a member of the Louisiana State Arts Council, which started the Louisiana Outdoor Drama Association (LODA) amphitheater at Grand Ecore.
Coupled with his involvement in music and arts, Key is a past president of the Natchitoches Rotary Club, served on the State Board of the Louisiana Mental Health Association and was a member of the Natchitoches Historic Foundation.
Key has three daughters, Pamela Key DeBlieux (1979), Susan Key Grayson (1981), and Patricia Key Repp (1987). He has eight grandchildren and is also the proud great-grandfather to three.
Wann was a member of Northwestern State’s faculty from 1990-2003, building one of the top undergraduate theatre programs in the South. Under Wann, Northwestern gained accreditation from the National Association of Schools in Theatre. Many of his students worked in summer stock companies each summer and many work professionally today.
Wann established the NSU Summer Dinner Theatre and regularly brought working professionals to Natchitoches to hold workshops for students. His 2002 published book, “Shakesperience!: An Approach to Performing Shakespeare” won NSU’s Dr. Mildred Hart Bailey Research Award.
Wann was named professor emeritus after his retirement and has maintained close ties with the university, returning to campus annually to teach theatre classes. In 2012, the former Loft Theater on the third floor of the A.A. Fredericks Center for Creative and Performing Arts was renovated as a state of the art acting and movement theatre and renamed the Jack Wann Theatre.
Sponsorship opportunities for the President’s Command Performance are available at the $2,000, $1,000, $500 and $250 levels. Individual tickets are $65 per person and $125 per couple in advance or can be purchased at the event for $75 per person and $150 per couple. Program ads are also available for $500, $250 and $100.