2023 LMEA Award Recipients

LMEA Hall of Fame

Katrice LaCour - Hall of FameKatrice LaCour

Katrice LaCour was born March 13, 1966, in Chicago Illinois to Rainey and Nazy LaCour. His teaching career covers twenty years in Natchitoches Parish. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music education in 1991 from Grambling State University. His major instrument is the double bass with a minor on trumpet. He was an active member in the Grambling State University Tiger Marching Band, Grambling Orchestra, Ruston Civic Symphony, Grambling Jazz Ensemble, and a member of Kappa Kappa Psi honorary band fraternity.

His first position after obtaining his degree was Orchestra and Band Director at Campti /Lakeview Jr/Sr High School in 1991/92 school year. Throughout his teaching career, LaCour remained active as a guest conductor, adjudicator, and clinician of numerous Honor Orchestras and Festivals. His ensembles have participated in numerous L.M.E.A. and National Festivals since 1991. Additionally, on numerous occasions he was a recipient of the Mayor’s Award in Natchitoches Louisiana for his community service with the orchestra.

He currently is the Orchestra Director for the Northwestern State University Elementary/Middle Laboratory schools in Natchitoches Louisiana. In 2017 his middle school orchestra won Gold in the high school division at Festival Disney followed by a Performance at Carnegie Hall in 2019. That same year the Orchestra performed for Louisiana Governor John Bell Edwards. In 2014 he was elected Orchestra Division chairman for L.M.E.A. and has held that position for the past 10 years. During the 2022 – 2023 school year his orchestra would return to Disney and receive Best in Class and First Place overall. The same year he and the N.S.U. Middle Lab School Orchestra would be recognized for their accomplishments on the House and Senate Floor of the State Capitol with Senate Concurrent Resolution No 35 and 36.

Mr. LaCour also has an extensive performance career. He along with his brother Rainey LaCour performed in the U.S and abroad as a signed act for Entertainment America. Katrice entertained military troops performing USO and MWR tours in the United States and South Korea for 7 years. Between USO/MWR tours he was a guest entertainer for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. He toured the Eastern and Western Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Hawaii, and Alaska. During this period, he entertained guests for Royal Caribbean covering a span of 150 cruises. In October 2020, he was inducted into the Folk Music Hall of Fame by Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser for his performance of French Creole Music on the accordion across the state of Louisiana and Texas.

LAJE Hall of Fame

Mike Sambola - LAJE Hall of FameMike Sambola

Mr. Sambola is a graduate from Southeastern Louisiana University with a bachelor degree in Music Education.  He has taught as an itinerant band director with the Baton Rouge diocese where he covered instrumental music from elementary through high school level.  He is now a retired band director from Fontainebleau Jr. High School in St. Tammany Parish with 43 years of teaching experience where his bands have constantly received Superior Sweepstakes ratings at both the District and State levels.  He is a lifetime member of the American Federation of Musicians Local 174-496 and has performed with artist such as Bob Hope, George Burns, Frank Sinatra Jr., Ray Charles, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Spinners, Regis Philbin, Frankie Avalon, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Della Reese, The New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra, The John Mahoney Big Band, The WWII Museum’s Victory Swing Orchestra, The Jay Zainey Orchestra and The Pat Barberot Orchestra.  He still performs with other artists in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Gulf Coast areas.

LMEA Distinguished Legacy Award

Beginning in 2022, LMEA will announce recipients of the Distinguished Legacy Award. This award recognizes lifetime achievement. It is reserved for LMEA members with thirty or more years of distinguished service in support of the mission and goals of the Louisiana Music Educator Association. These goals include elevating character, advancing professional interest, and otherwise promoting the cause of music education in the State of Louisiana. No more than two LMEA members may be recognized within a calendar year.

Tom D. WaferTom D. Wafer

Tom Wafer, was a native of Ouachita Parish, graduated from Ouachita Parish High School in 1950 and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education from LSU.

To begin his teaching career, he returned to Ouachita Parish where he was band director in four elementary schools, then West Monroe Junior High, and then Ouachita Parish High School.  After nine years in the Ouachita Parish Schools, he moved across town where, for six years, he was band director at Robert E. Lee Junior High, Sallie Humble Elementary and Lexington Elementary in the Monroe City School System.

In 1970, Wafer returned to LSU to work on his doctorate.  He served two years as a graduate assistant in the LSU Band Department, with responsibilities for charting the halftime shows of the LSU Tiger Band.  He was then appointed as instructor of music at LSU, where, in addition to his charting duties, he taught four classes of music appreciation.  Also, for two years, Wafer served as Assistant to the Dean of the LSU school of Music.

In December 1977, Wafer was appointed State Supervisor of Music Education in the Louisiana Department of Education.  One of the accomplishments of Wafer’s years at the Department of Education was the development of curriculum guides for elementary and secondary music education.  He retired as State Supervisor of Music Education in July of 1986, completing a 31-year career in music education.

Tom Wafer was a member of the LMEA Board of Directors for twenty-five years, serving in such capacities as District Director, Editor of The Louisiana Musician, State Advisor for Student MENC, and as State Supervisor of Music Education, an “ex officio” position on the LMEA Board.  He also served LMEA as State Convention Chairman and State Festival Chairman.

Tom Wafer was inducted into the LMEA Hall of Fame in 1989.  From 1993 through 2018 Tom served as Chairman of the LMEA Hall of Fame. In 2006 MENC honored him for 50 years of continual active membership and leadership in LMEA. In 1999 he also spearheaded the first compilation of LMEA Hall of Fame inductee resumes into a single document for preservation. He started the document with the initial inductee of Bob Gilmore (1982) and continued through the 1999 inductees (Mabel Smith, Michael Genevay, Lamar Robertson, and Mike Spears).  Years later, Tom’s compilation was expanded to include all the newer inductees. After he left the state department as supervisor of music, he worked for several Baton Rouge hotels (Holiday Inn at some point) and played a vital role in arranging hotel space for the LSU teams and their weekly rivals for home games. The LSU athletic department used him as their go-to guy in making these complicated reservations for visiting teams in the few Baton Rouge hotels that could handle these large teams with rooms, meals, and meeting space…along with the required security.

Tom D. Wafer will be remembered most fondly in his later years of service to LMEA for helping to hold down the registration table for the LMEA conference.  Tom knew most everyone attending conference, and if he didn’t know you – he was certain to get acquainted with you as you made your way through registration.  LMEA lost our dear friend in March of 2020.

LMEA Standard of Excellence

Willie Martin
Central Lafourche High School, Raceland

Willie Martin is the Director of Bands at Central Lafourche High School in Mathews, Louisiana, having accepted this position in the Fall of 2011. A native of Murphysboro, Illinois, Mr. Martin attended Louisiana State University, studying tuba under Dr. Joseph Skillen where he received his Bachelor of Music Education degree.

Under the direction of Mr. Martin, the bands at Central Lafourche High School have consistently received Superior ratings at all regional and state level assessments. The marching program has received statewide notoriety, winning the 2019 and 2022 Louisiana Showcase of Marching Bands State Championships. The program’s active Winter Guard International groups have garnered national recognition receiving the honor of being named the 2017 WGI Winds Open Class World Champions in Dayton, Ohio.

Mr. Martin was named District VII Band Directors Association Band Director of the Year in 2020 and 2012. He accepted the honor of being named Teacher of the Year while teaching at Raceland Middle School in 2010 and was awarded the Outstanding Young Music Educator Award by the Louisiana Music Educators Association in 2011. Mr. Martin has also been a multi-time recipient of the Teachers Who Made A Difference Award by Nicholls State University. Mr Matin was inducted to the Louisiana-Mississippi Color Guard and Percussion Circuit Hall-of-Fame in 2022.

Mr. Martin is a member of the Louisiana Music Educators Association, The National Association for Music Education, Phi Beta Mu, and the District VII Band Directors Association.

Joseph Nassar - Standard of Excellence AwardJoseph Nassar
St. Amant High School, St. Amant

Joseph Nassar received his Master of Music (MM) and Bachelor of Music Education (BME) from Louisiana State University, and has completed post-graduate work in Educational Leadership. He holds National Board Certification in Early Adolescence/Young Adulthood Instrumental Music, and is a certified Teacher Leader.

Mr. Nassar has served as Band Director at Donaldsonville High School, Prairieville Middle School, and since 1999, Band Director at St. Amant High School in St. Amant, Louisiana. At St. Amant, Mr. Nassar conducts the Marching Band, Wind Symphony, Concert Band, and Jazz Band, and has served as the Color Guard faculty sponsor. All bands under his direction have earned numerous sweepstakes awards at LMEA state events, and the Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Symphony have been ranked first many times in their respective divisions in LMEA competition.

Mr. Nassar is active as a concert band and marching band clinician and adjudicator throughout Louisiana, and is a member of the National Association for Music Education, the Louisiana Music Educators Association, Phi Beta Mu, and the District IV Band Directors Association. Additionally, he has received many awards and accolades for teaching including:

  • Selection by School Band and Orchestra Magazine as one of “50 Directors Who Make a Difference”
  • Louisiana Music Educators Association State Band Division Chair
  • Charter Member and Vice President of the Louisiana Music Adjudicators Association
  • President of the LMEA District IV Band Directors Association 2007-present
  • Induction into Phi Beta Mu, the National Bandmasters Fraternity
  • Performer at the 25th Annual International Horn Symposium, Tallahassee, Florida.

Robert L. Wilhite Award of Excellence

Miles Schexnayder - Robert Wilhite Award RecipientMyles Schexnayder
Lakeview Jr/Sr High School Band, Campti

After graduating from Belaire High School in Baton Rouge in 1977, Myles Schexnayder attended one year at LSU before auditioning for and being accepted into the United States Marine Corps Field Band Program in 1978 where he played Euphonium and was the lead singer for the Show band which toured the country.

Upon his discharge from the Marine Corps, Mr. Schexnayder enrolled at Louisiana Tech University to study under world renowned euphoniumist Raymond G. Young.  While there, Mr. Schexnayder was the principal euphoniumist in the wind ensemble during his entire collegiate career. In the spring of ’89, he was awarded the prestigious “Chairman’s Honor Recital” award. He graduated from Louisiana Tech with a Bachelor of Arts in Instrumental Music Education later that summer.

In August of 1989, Mr. Schexnayder began his career as a music educator at Ringgold High School. The following year, he was transferred to Arcadia High School, a K-12 school, where he started the band program with only three band members. When he left Arcadia 4 years later the band had received its first superior ratings in over 20 years and had grown to 150 members which included beginner to advanced level students in a school with a population of about 400.

In 2002 his Ouachita Parish High School Symphonic Winds were honored as the featured guest ensemble for the Ark La Tex Band Clinic.

Mr. Schexnayder has taught at several high schools throughout his career, including Neville, Ouachita Parish, Franklin Parish, and Farmerville high schools. His bands have consistently earned superior and excellent ratings at every school he has taught at both the district and state levels.

After retiring in 2009, Mr. Schexnayder returned to teaching in 2019 at Ville Platte High School. In January of 2021, he accepted the position as band director of Lakeview Jr/Sr. High School. When he arrived, there was only one student enrolled in the band. After recruiting several former members, he managed to put together a small ensemble of 10 students, 2 of whom were beginners. Although he did not have time to prepare the band for large ensemble assessment, he was able to take them to Solo and Ensemble festival where they earned a superior rating for their performance. The following year, he took another ensemble of 12 students, eight of whom were wind players and consisted of 3 beginners, to large ensemble assessment where they earned superior ratings from each stage judge.

Mr. Schexnayder attributes his success to many mentors, including his father, the late Carl Schexnayder, the late Dr. Michael Spears, Frank Ramsey, Steven Pederson, and Myron Turner.

He is a 5-time recipient of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, The Hixon Teacher of the Year Finalist (currently known as the Golden Apple Award) and has been recognized for Exceptional Achievement and Contribution to Music Education by The National Adjudicators Invitational Board, which includes such notable composers as Elliot Del Borgo, David Holsinger, Alfred Reed, and James Sweringen.

LMEA Outstanding Young Music Educator

Molly JonesMolly Jones
Sulphur High School,

Molly Jones serves as the Choral Director at Sulphur High School in Sulphur, LA, where she directs the Beginning and Intermediate Treble Choirs, Tenor-Bass Choir, Mixed Choir, Advanced Treble Choir, Select Choir, and Swing Choir. She attended McNeese State University, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Vocal Music Education in 2017. She was named the District V Vocal Music Educators Association Teacher of the Year in 2022. She currently performs with several local ensembles, including BonaVox, Louisiana Vocal Arts Ensemble, and the Louisiana Choral Foundation. Her professional affiliations include LMEA, ACDA, Sigma Alpha Iota Professional Music Fraternity, and the Vocal Music Educators Association. 

Jess LambertJess Lambert
Northshore High School, Slidell

Jess Lambert is in his third year as assistant band director at Northshore High, and fifth year overall following his time at Lutcher High School. Mr. Lambert is also the director of the Northshore High jazz band and helped curate the first annual Slidell Community Jazz Concert, combining both Northshore and Slidell High School jazz bands.

Mr. Lambert is a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University where he was awarded the Dr. James Wilcox Award for Music for most outstanding graduating music major.

Mr. Lambert is a member of the National Association for Music Education and the Louisiana Music Educators Association, and he serves as the High School Honor Band Chair for the District IX Band Directors Association.

Tom D. Wafer Outstanding Administrator

Michelle ChaissonMichelle Chiasson, Principal
E.D. White Catholic High School,

Michelle Chiasson, a 1986 graduate of E. D. White Catholic High School, earned a B.S. degree from LSU in 1989 and a M. Ed. degree from Nicholls State University. Michelle began her teaching career at Woodlawn High School and then moved to E.D. White Catholic High School in 1991 as an English and social studies teacher. During her 32 years at E. D. White, Mrs. Chiasson served as dance team moderator, Student Council moderator, Student Activities Director, Admissions Director and Academic Assistant Principal. Since 2011, she has served as Principal.

Michelle Chiasson was born to be an educator — a passion that is literally in her blood as a third-generation teacher. Chiasson said, “I have countless reasons to love the school that has been home to me and my family for over 38 years.  As an administrator, I encounter Christ on a daily basis in the students and faculty, as I witness tremendous sacrifice and support from parents who want the very best for their children.  I am blessed to call this amazing ministry my job.”

Debbie Dixon, Principal
Pine Wood Elementary, DeRidder

Debbie Dixon has been an educator/administrator for 40 years in Beauregard Parish – she received both her Bachelors’ and Masters’ degrees from McNeese State University.  In 1983, Ms. Dixon began her teaching career at K.R. Hanchey Elementary, moved to be the Guidance Counselor at East Beauregard High School, Guidance Counselor at DeRidder High School, Assistant Principal and Principal at DeRidder High School.  She is currently the Principal at Pine Wood Elementary in DeRidder.   She is married to Tom Dixon and has two daughters, Melissa and Amanda, and seven grandchildren.

Throughout her career in education, Miss Dixon has always been an avid supporter of the music programs in Beauregard Parish.  She consistently ensures that the scheduling of the arts is a high priority.  Her love for music and her enthusiasm for the students at her school to be involved has made a huge difference in the DeRidder schools.

Mrs. Dixon has always been a band fan. She chaperoned her first band trip when her daughter was a member of the DeRidder Junior High School Band under the direction of Carolyn Herrington.  Her great joy now is to watch her granddaughter dance with the DeRidder High School Band under the direction of Aaron Theall.  Even on her busiest day at DeRidder HS – she would make time to listen to rehearsals!  Debbie Dixon creates ways to allow her music teachers to be the professional.  Her door is always open, her greatest desire is to help her teachers and students succeed.

Dr. Grant Eloi
Superintendent, Natchitoches Parish Schools

Dr. Grant Eloi is Superintendent of Natchitoches Parish Schools. He began his tenure in Natchitoches Parish on April 20th, 2020 a month after the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. He successfully navigated the pandemic, two hurricanes, one ice storm, all while transitioning the parish through massive cultural and strategic changes.

Dr. Eloi believes that educators today have to believe in equity, promote a growth mindset, and engage in empathic thinking in order to be successful. He believes that leadership and culture are extremely powerful tools to change the trajectory of students, schools, districts and ultimately our nation.

Dr. Eloi started his career as a social studies teacher at Pineville High School in Rapides parish where he also coached varsity boys Soccer. After six years in the classroom, he transitioned into the Assistant Principal role at PHS. After two and a half years he moved to the Louisiana Special School District where he was the Regional Coordinator of 5 Special School programs, providing education to some of the most disadvantaged students in the state of Louisiana.

Dr. Eloi has successfully improved the SPS of every school he has served at. While at Pineville High he helped move PHS from a “C” to an “A”. Later, while serving as Regional coordinator he increased the graduation rate at Renaissance Home for Youth and moved Pinecrest, a school for students with developmental disabilities, out of failing status. While in his current position, Dr. Eloi has overseen Natchitoches improve from a “C” to a “B” district and be recognized for the highest proficiency growth in the state.  During his tenure the district has implemented the first pay raise for staff in over 14 years and been recognized as an “A” district for growth.

Dr. Eloi holds a Bachelors of Science in Secondary Education from Louisiana State University as well as a Masters in Educational Leadership from Northwestern State University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Dr. Eloi’s greatest accomplishment is being husband to Lauren Eloi and father to Ella, Charlotte, and Percy. The Eloi’s reside in the city of Natchitoches where they enjoy everything the city has to offer.  As a family they love to camp, boat, and collaboratively have a passion for all things Disney.

Toby QuarlesToby Quarles
Music Supervisor, Caddo Parish

Toby Quarles is a 1997 graduate of Northwestern State University where he received a Bachelors of Music Education. He has taught in both the public and private school settings and internationally for over 20 years. He received his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Supervision from LSUS. He currently serves as the Music Supervisor for Caddo Parish Public Schools. It is his joy and privilege to serve students, teachers, administrators, and parents in this role. Toby has been married for over 25 years and has three adult children who all pursue music in various capacities. In his free time, Toby enjoys fishing, hunting, and playing in the church orchestra with his wife and son.  His future goals include continuing to promote music locally and in the state of Louisiana.