Letters from readers on what matters in Lafayette.

In Memoriam: Geraldine Hubbell, 1938-2024

A young Geraldine Hubbell at her piano
(submitted photo)

When Geraldine Hubbell passed away last week, we lost the person who has had the greatest impact on instrumental and vocal music in our community.

When I was young, I watched Geraldine, with her serene expression, play the organ at St. Pius X church, wondering if I would ever be able to play piano with the confidence that she brought to that instrument.

While I knew who she was — I mean, she was Mrs. Hubbell — we became acquainted with each other in the early days of the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana (the previous PASA). USL and PASA teamed up to launch a new musical, Napolean On the Bandstand, by James Edmunds, Richard Bernard and Raleigh Marcel. Beaman Griffin was the director, and Gerry was — of course — at the piano for rehearsals.

For decades, she accompanied students in the UL School of Music, playing for recitals, concerts, rehearsals and more rehearsals, as well as maintaining a studio of her own. One of the founders of Chorale Acadienne, she also sang with that ensemble.

The Hubbell house in Bendel Gardens was always abuzz with music, sometimes house concerts or rehearsals, sometimes the Krewe of Opera Nuts. Other times the Hubbells were sitting together in the study, listening to Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts or selections from their vast collection of recordings. They didn’t have just one Billy Budd recording; they had a collection, so if you were looking for a classical music recording, you’d probably be able to find it on Stephanie Drive. For the Hubbells, music was their fun.

Gerry shepherded singers and musicians to successful careers, including baritone Brian Schexnayder, who had a fabulous Metropolitan Opera career, the mezzo soprano Wanda Brister, and the Broadway actor Patrick Ryan Sullivan. These are examples. There are too many to list.

She gave bass baritone Andre Courville a push into his flourishing opera career. When she heard Andre sing during mass at Our Lady of Fatima, she insisted he enter the Metropolitan Opera competition in New Orleans. She coached him and accompanied him for the competition, during which a representative of the Academy of Vocal Arts (AVA) in Philadelphia heard him and recruited him. His talent and the career he enjoys today flourished at AVA. 

She was always at the ready to nurture talent and make music. Ben Blanchet — a local attorney with talents beyond the legal field — decided to perform Schumann’s Leiderkreis, a very difficult song cycle. Ben called and asked if he could hold his recital at our house. I was delighted at the request. Ben is such a talented friend and — bonus — Gerry had been his collaborative pianist for many years. She’d be playing my piano!

Gerry’s husband, Gerald, who held a music degree as well as a medical degree, shared her passion, especially for opera. They traveled the world, pursuing fabulous productions, following their favorite artists and leading others to that performing arts form they loved so much. 

In the days of Lafayette Community Concerts, Gerry was hired by Columbia Artists Management Inc. (CAMI) to accompany singers and musicians who were performing in Lafayette on the Community Concerts seasons. On occasion, I hired her for PASA performances. During one of our visits, as she was consolidating her life’s collection, she handed me a folder, saying, “Would you be interested in these?” In the folder were all of her CAMI contracts. Of course, I wanted them! What a gift.

After a decades-long career at UL, Gerry became the executive director of the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra and, under her guidance, the symphony hummed.

When the Hubbells decided to sell their home, my husband and I were looking to make our own move, and we quickly made an offer on their home. The deal was not meant to be, but I still imagine living in their home — it would always be the Hubbells’ house — which held their spirits so strongly.

There was so much to admire about Gerry: a mother, a wife, a musician, a teacher and a champion of music. I look around at those of us in the generation that followed hers, and I have not yet found anyone with her talent, her generous spirit or dynamic drive who can ever replace her in our cultural scene.