Ralph R. Pottle and his building


File Photo

The Pottle Music Building is named after Ralph R. Pottle Sr. who first developed the university’s music program. The university was then still known as Southeastern Louisiana College.

Maiah Woodring , Staff Reporter

Seen as a brick structure bordering Friendship Circle, the Ralph R. Pottle Music Building carries the history of the man who developed the university’s music program. 

Ralph R. Pottle Sr. founded the music department in 1934 when the university was known as Southeastern Louisiana College. 

After his job as a music educator in Amite, Pottle organized a small dance band. Linus Sims, the first president of the university, went to the Oaks Hotel dining room to hear his son play with the band. He later asked Pottle to form a music department. According to the history page on the music department’s website, Pottle described the music program as, “It was not a music department, necessarily, but just a bunch of kids who wanted to take saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, tuba.”

In 1934, Pottle formed the university’s first all-purpose band that played at the school’s football games. Though the members had no uniforms at first, the 1936 Le Souvenir yearbook described the band as the “second best in the state.” Pottle served as department chair for 30 years.

Pottle’s dream to construct a building for the growing music program came to fruition in 1940. The music building was named in his honor after his death in 1989.

According to Department Head of Music and Performing Arts Dr. Jeffrey Wright, the building was officially renamed in the early ‘90s.

Professor of Music Dr. Glen Hemberger discussed the changes he has seen at the university in his 20 years with the department.

“When I first got here, we did not have the marching band because we didn’t have football,” said Hemberger. “And when football came back the marching band came back, and that’s really helped the visibility of our department a great deal.”

Hemberger shared how the department has grown from having around 110 students when he joined in the ‘90s.

“It has gone from a relatively small department to over 250 music majors over the course of time, and of course it fluctuates a little bit, but that has been really important to see more music majors come up for it,” said Hemberger. “We’ve been more recognized throughout the region as an important part of the culture.”

Hemberger explained the increase in the number of students in the music program.

Hemberger said, “I think it has been that we have recruited high quality faculty and that our ensembles have gained notoriety and are recognized as something people want to be a part of, which dates all the way back to the beginning of this department, in 1934, when Pottle founded this department. So, we’re really proud of the fact that we’re recognized throughout a lot of the South as a premier department.”