Two of Lamar University’s Most renowned music alumni will take their places in Lamar Music Hall of Honor during an induction ceremeny Feb. 23.           

Jeff Laird of Spring and Don Rollins of Nashville , Tenn. , are the 2008 honorees. They will receive their awards during a noon luncheon in the University Reception Center of the Mary and John Gray Library. The event is part of Homecoming activities at Lamar.
Laird is in his fourth year as director of secondary performing arts for the Aldine School district , after serving for 18 years as Aldine’s director of bands. Rollins is an educator, musician and Grammy Award-winning songwriter who worked for 17 years as a band director in Texas schools before moving to the Nashville area.
The Music Hall of Honor , which inducted its inaugural class in 2007, shines the spotlight on the accomplishments of alumni who have been musical ambassadors for Lamar around the world. The honor recognizes alumni for their distinguished musical careers, for their status as mentors for other aspiring artists and teachers and for their dedication to their art.
“I am greatly honored by this selection into the Lamar University Music Hall of Honor,” Laird said. “In my many years in both the music education and performance fields, I am constantly reminded of what a valuable education I received from Lamar. My educational and practical experiences at Lamar prepared me for more than I could have ever imagined at the time and continues to serve me well on a daily basis.”

Responding to his honor, Rollins said: “What I treasure most about my days at Lamar was the freedom I had to chase my own music. In retrospect, I see that there was a songwriter trying to emerge from the saxophone guy, but the reality was that my teachers, especially Jimmy Simmons, gave me chances to do more things with my musical self than harness it in a syllabus. Jimmy and Wayne Dyess, who were the teachers I spent the most time with, were professional musicians first and foremost, and I was able to work with them far beyond the constraints of the classroom.”     

Today, in his administrative position at Aldine, Laird supervises 155 teachers of band, orchestra, choir, theater and dance in sixth through 12th grades. Under his direction, the Aldine High School Band was named outstanding ensemble at the Texas University Interscholastic League (UIL) state solo and ensemble contest and grand champion at band contests nationwide. In 2003, the band performed in the National Invitational Band and Orchestra Festival at Carnegie Hall in New York City . The marching band competed consistently at UIL area contests and made two appearances in Washington , D.C. , marching in the 52nd Presidential Inaugural Parade in 1993 and the National Independence Day Parade in 1999. Aldine was the only band from Texas invited to those parades.
Laird is a past president of the 8,000-member Texas Music Educators Association, the world’s largest music educators’ organization. He also has served TMEA as vice president, state band chair, 4A all-state band audition chairman and as Region XIX president. He currently serves on the UIL technical advisory committee. Other professional memberships include the Texas Bandmasters Association, Texas Music Adjudicators Association, Music Educators National Conference, Texas Music Educators Conference, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Phi Beta Mu international bandmasters fraternity and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia national music fraternity.
In 2004, Laird was inducted into the Lamar University Educator Hall of Fame. At the 2005 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago , he was named to the John Philip Sousa Foundation Legion of Honor.
Laird earned his bachelor of music in music education in 1982 and his master of music in music in 1984, going on to earn a doctor of musical arts in music education and conducting from the University of Houston . A native of El Campo, Laird is a graduate of Kirbyville High School .
He remains active as a clinician and adjudicator and still makes time for trumpet performances, having played for many years with the Jimmy Simmons and Wayne Dyess Orchestras, accompanying such artists as Burt Bacharach, Dionne Warwick, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Rosemary Clooney and others. Nationwide audiences see him annually as he directs halftime shows featuring thousands of high school and college musicians.
Laird and his wife, Lisa, live in Spring, where she is a seventh-grade teacher in the Klein school district. They have two children, Lindsay, who plays oboe, and Colin, who plays piano.
Rollins earned a Grammy and many other honors as the co-writer of “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” which became a chart-topper for Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett. Songs by Rollins had sold more than 7 million copies as of December 2007, when Rollins signed a new publishing agreement with First State Music Group of New York . “That will allow me to write more pop and other non-country songs – as well as what I already do here,” Rollins said.
A Beamont native, Rollins is a 1979 graduate of Vidor High School . He graduated from Lamar in 1983 with a bachelor of music degree – including four years of saxophone study and jazz band with Simmons. After graduation, Rollins began his career as a band director in Texas public schools, teaching in Humble, Little Cypress-Mauriceville, Hemphill and Vidor.
As a band director, Rollins achieved superior ratings in all UIL events – marching, concert and sight-reading – as well as leading the Vidor High Jazz Band to victories in regional jazz festivals. Rollins also achieved success as a saxophone teacher, placing students in regional, area and all-state bands. Several of them earned honors as outstanding soloists at state solo and ensemble contests.
Rollins continued a career as a saxophonist during his years as a teacher, performing with such groups as The Temptations, The Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Bobby Vinton and other touring groups. He performed with several regional groups, including more than a decade with Jerry LaCroix, former vocalist with Rare Earth and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Rollins’ interest in songwriting developed during time spent on the Texas club circuit with regional acts. He began writing songs with band mate Logo Loggins during a stint at Doc Holliday’s club in Beaumont and got his first song cut by legendary vocalist Ray Price in 1989.
Continuing his three-phase career as an educator, musician and songwriter, Rollins landed a publishing deal in 1997 with Warner/Chappell Music – one that would last more than 10 years. He moved to Nashville to pursue writing full time in 2001 and wrote “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” in 2003. The song spent eight weeks in the No. 1 position on the Billboard and R&R country charts. Its awards include Vocal Event of the Year from the Country Music Association and Single of the Year from the Academy of Country Music , as well as the Grammy for Best Country Song in 2003.
Rollins’ writing career has continued with cuts performed by Randy Travis, Neal McCoy, Ronnie Milsap, Ricky Skaggs and British artist Edwina Hayes. Most recently, he landed two songs on Reba McEntire’s “Duets” album, one featuring McEntire and Faith Hill and another with McEntire and pop songwriting icon Carole King.
Rollins has a daughter, Ashley, 17, who is an all-state oboist in Tennessee and a National Merit finalist. She is currently auditioning at colleges and hopes for a career in the symphony world, her father said.
Both Laird and Rollins are scheduled to return to their alma mater May 3 to perform at the Jimmy Simmons & Friends Encore concert in the Montagne Center .
Reservations for the Music Hall of Honor luncheon may be made with Lamar’s Office of Alumni Affairs, (409) 880-8921, or online at