We, the members of the Oklahoma Community Orchestra are profoundly saddened by the passing of our Orchestra’s Music Director and Conductor, Dr. Irvin Wagner. Doc was a titan, with an impossible legacy to follow and experiences that took him around the world performing music. He presented music with groups around the world as a conductor and trombonist, and regularly brought out the spoons as a means of showcasing unique ways of making music. He was a prolific trombonist, a composer, arranger, and conductor with a lifetime of experiences enriching the lives of everyone he knew. Irv believed that music was but one of many ways, possibly the best way, to bring people together. Doc directed the OCO in rehearsal right up until the end.
Doc was the very definition of what a musician should strive to be. OCO meant a lot to Irv. He often talked about how many members of the orchestra have become like family to him and to each other. An orchestra is like a second family to us. We didn’t just lose a music director, we lost a friend, a colleague, a mentor, and a member of our musical family.
Irv isn’t truly gone, though. His vast numbers of students, colleagues, and those with his musical imprint will continue on in his spirit of fine musicianship, professional tenacity, and enough charisma to win the world over. This orchestra, his legacy, will continue to grow in his absence and bring music to the masses. We need to take a moment, right ourselves, and remember: The show must go on. Now as Doc would say, “Let’s Make Some Music!”
Our season will continue as planned. We look forward to celebrating his amazing life in the near future.
Sincerely, all of us at the OCO.
Dr. Irvin L. Wagner is now serving in his sixth season as Music Director and Conductor of the Oklahoma Community Orchestra. Dr. Wagner is a positive, enthusiastic musician who has the goal of sharing the joy of music with whomever he can. From conducting major orchestra to directing young musicians in schools, from playing the trombone at the highest artist level to communicating with people in a nursing home, from serving as President of the International Trombone Association to playing the spoons for children, from performing for the Pope in Rome and four Presidents of the United states to giving concerts in hospitals he has given joy to literally millions around the globe.
Born on a rural farmhouse on the Kansas prairie, he started his musical journey by joining his parents in family singing. His father recalls standing him on a chair at the age of 5 in order for the audience to see him when the family sang various programs. From those experiences music became a part of the passion he has shared with audiences the world over whether it is conducting, playing trombone, doing research on old music, writing music, or teaching.
As a conductor he has had engagements as a guest conductor of the Austin, Texas Symphony Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, the Orquestra Sinfonica de Santa Fe, Argentina, the Orquesta Sinfonica de Paragury, the Kansas City Philharmonic, the Russian Imperial Orchestra in St Petersburg, Russia, and the Cannes Symphony Orchestra in France. Whether conducting traditional classical literature or “pop” music for Symphony Orchestra he has shown that music is to be shared and enjoyed from young to old and from rich to poor.
As a trombonist, Irv served as President of the International Trombone Association for a two year term during which he traveled completely around the world performing, teaching, and organizing national trombone chapters in such countries as Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Israel, Greece, and Great Britain. This world-wide activity resulted in his being “the Most Listened to Trombonist in the World” as he has been heard by more than a quarter of the population of the world through television and radio as well as by the Pope in Rome and four Presidents of the United States. He has also performed and conducted many times in China, Brazil, and Kazakhstan.
Before coming to Oklahoma Dr Wagner taught at Louisiana State University and performed with the Baton Rouge Symphony. Prior to that, he was Director of Bands at McPherson College in Kansas and a member of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.
Dr. Wager holds two distinguished titles of David Ross Boyd and Regents Professor of Trombone at the University of Oklahoma. He also was a trombonist in the Oklahoma City Philharmonic for 25 years. He was named “Oklahoma Musician of the Year” by the Governor in 1988.
Dr. Wagner holds a Bachelor’s Degree from McPherson College in Kansas, as well as Master’s and Doctorate Degrees from the Eastman School of Music. At Eastman he was a student of the later master teacher of the trombone, Emory Remington.