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Jazz Big Band to honor Wagner

October 23, 2023


NEWBERRY — In its fall concert next week, Newberry College’s Jazz Big Band will pay tribute to longtime member and professor emeritus Dr. John Wagner. The performance will be held Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m. in Wiles Chapel.


Wagner, 87, served as a professor of music at Newberry College for 37 years until his retirement in 2002. After having educated and inspired generations of musicians, the clarinetist and flutist stayed on as a regular member of the Jazz Big Band. Since his retirement, his “John Wagner & Friends” concerts at the Newberry Opera House have become an annual favorite.


“Rarely can it be said that someone has been a part of the music scene in a small town for almost 60 years,” said Dr. Jerry Gatch, director of bands. “To say ‘thanks’ is hardly sufficient for a lifetime of service, so we want to honor Dr. John Wagner for his dedication to his students, his service to Newberry College and our community, and being part of our lives.”


During the performance, Wagner will be featured as a soloist on several pieces and formally recognized by the band.


A native of the Chicago area, Wagner and his wife, Bobbi, moved to Newberry in 1965, when John came to Newberry College and Bobbi began her career in local public schools. They are active members of Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Newberry, where Bobbi served as organist until her recent retirement. The couple has two sons, Ben and Dan, and two grandchildren, John and Hannah.


“Together they have touched the lives of many students and countless members of the Newberry community through their selfless service to others,” added Gatch.


Wagner holds a doctorate in musicology from Indiana University, a master’s in clarinet performance from Florida State University, and a bachelor’s in music education from DePauw University.

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