After spending 55 of his 75 years at Loyola University New Orleans, including half a century as a professor of music and nearly that long as the school's beloved band director, Joseph G. "Doc" Hebert Jr. ‘63, Ph.D., will retire at the end of the semester.
Hebert's final band performance, featuring the Loyola Wind Ensemble and Concert Band, will be held on Sunday, April 26, at 3 p.m. in Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall. In tribute, all alumni musicians are invited to perform on the last two selections. The free concert will be followed by a free wine and cheese reception at 4 p.m.
A fixture at Loyola for more than half a century, Hebert has taught music classes, recruited, helped promote and improve the music program, coordinated the wind and percussion activities and directed Loyola's jazz and concert bands, which have performed at festivals and conventions across the country. His student ensembles have toured Mexico, Europe and the U.S. For eight years, Hebert hosted the John Philip Sousa Foundation National High School Honors Band, and from 2009 to 2012 he hosted the Sousa National Community Band. He also has judged competitions at festivals from Canada to Mexico and from the East Coast to the West. He is a member of the prestigious American Bandmaster's Association and is on the Board of Directors of the John Philip Sousa Foundation, among many other organizations. After receiving the International Association of Jazz Educators' Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992, he was elected into their Hall of Fame in 2007. He was inducted into the Louisiana Music Educators Association Hall of Fame in 2004.
Hebert has performed with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein, the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski and with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the New Orleans Opera Association Orchestra. He has been a guest conductor with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (formerly the New Orleans Symphony). He was the founder and served as the music director and conductor of the Crescent City Wind Symphony in New Orleans.
For 24 years Hebert also conducted the New Orleans Saints Band, originally a Loyola student-based jazz ensemble, which was a staple on Saints sidelines — first at Tulane Stadium then in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It was disbanded after Hurricane Katrina, when the live musicians were replaced by piped-in music.
"I always enjoyed the students," said Hebert, who estimates he has taught more than 4,000 students over the years. "I enjoy being around them. The students always came first."
Hebert said that he still will teach tuba and play with the faculty brass quintet. He also has a long "honey-do list” from his wife of 52 years, Irene ‘63, a clarinetist. They have two children, four grandchildren and a boat he would like to learn to enjoy.
"In our field, there are world-class musicians and world-class educators, but Joe Hebert happens to be both," said Nick Volz, assistant professor of classical and jazz trumpet at Loyola and a former student. "The fact that he taught at Loyola for 50 years means that he has been an integral part of building the success and national reputation of the School of Music. He was forward-thinking enough to have started the jazz studies and music industry programs at times when most music schools in the country did not recognize either. To say that I would not be where I am today without the mentorship of Dr. Hebert is a tremendous understatement. There are 50 years worth of musicians, educators, and industry professionals around the world that would not have achieved their success without Joe Hebert."
"Doc is a very bold teacher," said Sam Bradley ‘10, also a former music student and now Loyola's assistant director of alumni relations, who is helping organize Hebert's finale. "People always laugh about it after they get out of it, talking about how tough he is. He's always telling kids to do better and to work harder and everyone thinks he's tough. Then they get out in the real world and see how he really prepared you. He just brings a wealth of knowledge to the classroom. I always thought he really was gifted, and he has a gift for explaining things. And he could play practically anything."
"Hebert’s absolute priority has always been developing men and women of excellence," Volz said. "His true mission has been serving Loyola and its students, but he was able to make great music along the way."
After graduating from Loyola in 1963, Hebert earned a master's degree in tuba from the Manhattan School of Music in New York while occasionally performing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Bernstein. A gifted musician who specializes in tuba and string bass, he began his teaching career at St. Aloysius High School (now Brother Martin), followed by a stint at Warren Easton High School. While at St. Aloysius and Easton, he also was the assistant band director at Loyola and on the staff at Delgado Community College. He earned his doctorate and was appointed the director of bands.
"His legacy is the increased size of the music program at Loyola," Bradley said. "He played a huge part in that, and he put a lot of the pieces together."