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January 22, 2009

Annual benefit concert features ULM graduates

Temple B’nai Israel will present their third annual concert, “A Tribute to Jewish American Composers,” at 7 p.m., Jan. 24. The concert features graduates of the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

West Monroe native Lisa Lee McCalman earned a Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance from ULM and has served in several capacities at area churches including music director and cantor at St. Paschcal’s Catholic Church, and as the contemporary service leader at First United Methodist Church in West Monroe.

She has performed 15 years with Rod Allen Payne, also a former ULM student, most recently every Friday evening at the Brandy House in Monroe and at various private functions. She sings with the Lawrence Gibbs Orchestra, a jazz ensemble of popular acclaim, and has performed for several pop symphony concerts, including the 2008 “A Tribute to Jewish American Composers.”

ULM graduate Lawrence Gibbs is the principal Clarinetist for the Monroe Symphony Orchestra. He also performs with the South Arkansas Symphony, the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra and is the founder and director of The Russ-Town Band, a select community band based in Ruston. In addition, he directs his own band, the Lawrence Gibbs Orchestra.

In a five-year stint in Las Vegas with the Billy Ledbetter Show Band, Gibbs performed with such notables as Bob Hope, Liberace, The Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Connie Francis, Susan Anton and the gospel group “The Martins” and others.

He joined the Louisiana Tech University faculty in 1989, where he directs Tech’s Jazz Ensemble, the University’s Symphonic Band, and assists with the Marching Band of Pride.

Bastrop’s Hallie Yarbrough, winner of the 2008 Louisiana State Fiddle Championship, transferred to the University of Louisiana at Monroe for her last year of college and graduated with a four-year degree in education.

She has played classical violin for almost 40 years and has performed as a solo violinist for the Monroe and Fort Worth symphony orchestra.

Another performer with ULM ties is jazz flutist Tony Cortellini, who will perform a limited number of selections during the concert. He is married to Sandra Lunte, an associate professor of music at the university.

Payne has arranged an all-new concert program for the benefit concert, which will include a special tribute in remembrance of Billie Ledbetter. A reception will follow the concert, with proceeds benefitting the Historic Jewish Cemetery in Monroe.

Temple B’nai Israel is located at 2400 Orell Place, Monroe. Tickets are available by calling the Temple Office at 318-387-0730. For additional information, contact Elaine Smith at 318-345-0252, or 547-6462 or E-mail her at

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