Irvin LeRoy Wagner was born February 14, 1937 to Orval and Florence Wagner on their family farm in Osborne County, Kansas. Irvin “Irv” grew up working on the farm with his parents and sister and as a family they sang gospel quartets together. As a boy, Irv sang the bass part an octave higher than it was written and often while standing on a chair. At the age of 10, while Christmas shopping with his parents, a trombone caught his eye in a shop window. His parents consulted the local band director about Irv playing trombone. When he said yes, they bought the instrument for their son. A humble beginning to Irv’s 76-year journey with the trombone.
After graduating with a music education degree from McPherson College in McPherson, KS in 1959, Irvin married JoAnn Bielefeldt. The two met while staffing summer camps for the Church of the Brethren in Iowa, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. They were married on June 7, 1959 in South Waterloo, Iowa.
After they were married, the young couple moved to Rochester, NY where Irv started his Masters of Music Education at the Eastman School of Music, studying trombone with the legendary Emory Remington. Irv finished his Masters in the spring of 1961 and went back to McPherson to teach at McPherson College. He would move back to Rochester to complete his doctorate in trombone performance and pedagogy. After earning his doctorate in 1968, Irv and JoAnn and oldest daughter Brenda moved to Louisiana where Irv taught at LSU. In 1969, Irv and JoAnn moved with daughters Brenda and Janet to Norman, where Irv became the first and until now the only person to hold the position of Professor of Trombone. “Doc” as his students often refer to him, grew the trombone studio from a handful of players to a large studio of undergraduate and graduate students that is recognized for its excellence across the United States and internationally.
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