By Idrissa N Snider
For The Birmingham Times
The Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) on Saturday awarded its “Very Inspiring Persons Awards” to three of Alabama’s finest.
The school honored Alabama state Senator and majority leader, JT Waggoner; University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB’s) Professor of Music Director of Music Technology, Dr. Henry Panion III and actress and patron of the arts, Lisa Gaines who attended ASFA when its doors first opened in 1967.
The three honorees were recognized as the school celebrates its 50th anniversary, “Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow.”
Grammy nominated and Tony Award-winning Broadway actress, Melba Moore performed during the event at the Tutwiler Hotel in downtown Birmingham.
Asked what motivates her to continue to give, Gaines said, “My husband, Rad, and I both grew up in homes where our parents were active in their communities, serving on boards, and supporting the arts and education.
“I saw how my parents, Marge and Jack Paden, made an impact on this city and the lives of so many. They were instrumental in founding ASFA.”
Waggoner has served in the Alabama Legislature for 44 years and said helping create ASFA was one of his proudest moments.
“My proudest moments would be my involvement in creating the Alabama School of Fine Arts,” he said.
Waggoner spoke about growing up in Ensley and how the community helped shape him.
“We didn’t know very much about the arts,” he said. However, he soon began to recognize its value and became passionate about helping provide artistic opportunities for local young students.
Panion, a highly accomplished producer, composer, and orchestrator has worked with world renowned superstars like Stevie Wonder, Aretha, and Birmingham’s Ruben Studdard.
The ASFA award is one of many Panion has received including two Grammys and two Doves. Panion’s dedication to education and the music industry have been important to the city’s art community.
“Those of us who are artists, are dreamers. As a musician, I’m just happy to play (music) and to have an audience to listen to it,” said Panion.