OKLAHOMA CITY — A musical historian will tell you that trombones are among the oldest instruments in the orchestra. Evidence of them goes back a thousand years.
If you want to know anything else about the trombone you can ask Irv Wagner, who’s parents bought him one from a music store window when he was a kid. “I stayed with it,” he smiles. “It treated me well. I’ve gone all over the world, played on every continent.”
Irv has become known as ‘Doc’ Wagner since his arrival at OU in 1969, Before he was a ‘Doc’ though he was a graduate student in Rochester, New York who remembers a little baby toddling around. Wagner and my father studied together at the Eastman School of Music in 1964 and 1965. “I remember a little guy around your house,” says Wagner. “You would have been just one year old.” “I was bothering you I’m sure,” I say. “Probably messed with your trombone.”
Doc’s had a mostly student trombone group for more than 40 years. He always preferred to call it a choir. “No one ever calls their trombone group an ensemble. They call it a choir. Ensemble is too fancy.”
His students get accustomed to playing the wide variety of music left to the trombone throughout history. “And if there isn’t then Doc writes more,” says one of his pupils.
On this night he and the rest of the choir rehearse with the Oklahoma Community Orchestra, playing several compositions he’s written over his career.When the Symphony plays with this many trombones it’s a big parade whether there are 76 of them or not. Turns out sliding into Oklahoma life proved easy for the both of us.