GUIDE TO THE COLLECTION
Collection Title: Oscar Maxfield / Lake Charles Lions Club Collection
Accession Number: 089
Archives and Special Collections Department
Lions Club Theatre Programs
Lions Club Meeting Rosters
Curtain Time in Lake Charles
McNeese State University's Department of Music received its biggest boost when it was learned that the opera would no longer come to town. Illogical? No, not when one knows the whole story.
In 1946, Louisiana State University announced that it was unable to continue bringing its annual opera production to Lake Charles, Louisiana. Lake Charles, however, was the home of small McNeese Junior College - enrollment 640 - and an energetic group of men, the Lake Charles Lions club. Neither, as it turned out, had any intention of allowing their city to be deprived of a popular cultural attraction.
The Lions immediately began making plans to stage a similar project the following year on the campus of McNeese J.C. and the college's music department called for volunteers from the student body to help stage a do-it-yourself musical. All production costs, ticket selling, publicity, and program advertisements became the responsibilities of the Lions while the college faculty and students went about auditioning and rehearsing. The result: In the spring of 1974, the curtain went up on Gilbert and Sullivan's, The Gondoliers, and the Lions had initiated what was to become an annual attraction that would ultimately benefit over 200 students and help develop a widely acclaimed department of music.
Now a fully accredited university with an enrollment of 5,600 students, McNeese State will begin its second quarter century of association with the Lions this March 3-4-5 when the hit musical, Mame, is offered to hundreds of Lake Charles area citizens. Last year, for its 25th Anniversary program, the Lions and McNeese presented Mozart's, the Marriage of Figaro. The production raised $4,200 and the Lions put the money, as they had since Gondoliers, toward their special scholarship program at the university.
During these 25 years, funds cleared from the productions have allowed the Lions to award 387 scholarships to deserving McNeese students, primarily those majoring in music. These are one-year scholarships and must be renewed. Consequently, many students have received more than one grant.
Recipients of the scholarships are both high school seniors who will enter the college the following fall or students already enrolled at McNeese. For the latter, a "C" average is necessary to hold a scholarship or audition for renewal. Two committees function to select recipients. A committee of the McNeese faculty ranks the applicants according to their (a) promise to perform a major role in light opera, (b) academic scholarship, (c) general musical ability and training. The Lions Scholarship Committee then reviews this ranking submitted by the college committee and gives primary consideration to the financial needs of individual students. This committee submits its recommendations to the club Board of Directors who finally approve the awarding of the scholarships. The Lions and college committees negotiate all doubtful cases.
In addition to the music scholarships, two grants are awarded each year to students in the Department of Speech and one to a student in a department other than speech or music.
Two special memorial scholarships in honor of deceased Lions C. W. Adams and Ralph Squires are also awarded. Both men were closely connected with the Lions Club-McNeese Scholarship Project during their Lives.
This is, by far, the most important project of the Lake Charles Lions. It is not an isolated weekend activity promoted each year to see how much money can be raised. The Lions have dedicated their efforts to financially aid students, help develop and educational institution and enhance the cultural climate of the community. The entire club is mobilized to assure the success of the campus musical productions. A number of committees are set up to sell tickets, handle publicity, sell advertisements in the printed program, and coordinate other areas to bring about a financially successful presentation. When the first program was staged in 1947, adult tickets sold for $1.00 and .50 for students. Ticket prices have increased with the cost of production and are now $3.00 for adults and $1.50 for students.
The Lake Charles Lions had, in fact, been providing general scholarships to McNeese since 1940, but it wasn't until the institution of the opera productions that the Lions' assistance began to significantly increase. Fred Land, 1964-65 president of the Lake Charles club, emphasized this in an address during intermission at the 1965 production of My Fair Lady. "While it is true that the college and club have worked closely together since they both came into being in 1939," he said, "it was not until we took the people of Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana into partnership with us, so to speak, that we were able to assist more than a very few students each year."
It has, indeed, been a cooperative effort between the Lions, the school, and the townspeople. What began in a small way became a community project of considerable scope. Lion Oscar Maxfield, Opera Treasurer and one of the organizers of the project, lauds the "splendid support given by individuals and businessmen in the area" and adds that the sustained and continuous effort by the Lions club has "provided strong leadership and an interested, working membership."
The objectives of these productions, staged in the McNeese auditorium, have been to not only raise money for scholarships and offer a cultural program for residents, but also to provide students with an opportunity to produce and direct as well as perform in a variety of musical presentations. The McNeese State University Orchestra is also featured at the annual attractions. This total involvement of the Department of Music is geared to enrich the students' stage experiences and improve their skills. As a result, audiences have enjoyed a wide range of performances, from Cavalleria Rusticana and Madame Butterfly to such light operas and operettas as The Mikado, The Merry Widow, H.M.S. Pinafore and The Student Prince and Broadway hits, The Sound of Music, South Pacific and Oklahoma.
Many scholarship holders have gone on to become respected members in their field. Herman Vincent, for example, an early scholarship recipient who played trumpet in The Gondoliers, is a major in the United States Air Force and just completed an assignment as Bandmaster at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
Two other scholarship holders, Sanford Linscome and John LeBlanc have received their doctorates and are now holding responsible university positions in music: Dr. Linscome at Colorado State at Greeley and Dr. LeBlanc at Lamar in Beaumont, Texas where he is director of Choruses.
The Lake Charles Lions have been important contributors to the development of the McNeese Department of Music. Their sponsorship of the annual musicals has served as a public relations function. The Lions have called the people's attention to the accomplishments of the college and its needs and, in so doing, have promoted the school's growth. Also, in order to interest area high school seniors in attending McNeese, the Lions invite classes from six parishes to attend productions as guests of the club and the university.
Soon, the sounds of Mame will fill the McNeese Auditorium, a spirited tribute to a group of Lions whose foresight and hard work helped build a university and make the general public especially proud of "their" school.
-------From "The Lion," February, 1972 (P.22-23,31)