The Finding Aid of the Joseph Wagner Papers 0029

Finding aid prepared by Jamie Henricks
The processing of this collection and the creation of this finding aid was funded by the generous support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Pepperdine University. Special Collections and University Archives.
24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA, 90263-4786
(310) 506-4434
March 2013

Title: Joseph Wagner papers
Identifier/Call Number: 0029
Contributing Institution: Pepperdine University. Special Collections and University Archives.
Physical Description: 36.4 linear feet (26 boxes, 2 photo albums, 3 vinyl record albums)
Date: 1910s-1970s
Abstract: The collection contains materials created by, collected by, and about conductor and composer Joseph Wagner. Materials include music scores; symphony orchestra sheet music; loose music manuscripts; vinyl records; audio and video recordings; subject and correspondence files; photographs; Wagner’s publications; and colorful sheet music covers. Items range in date from approximately the 1910s to the 1970s.
Location note: Pepperdine University. Special Collections and University Archives.
Language of Materials: Materials are in English.
Creator: Wagner, Joseph, 1900-1974

Conditions Governing Access

Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

[Box/folder# or item name], Joseph Wagner papers, Collection no. 0029, Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries, Pepperdine University.

Biographical/Historical note

Joseph Frederick Wagner was born on January 9, 1900, in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was a composer, conductor, and author. He started piano lessons at the age of 8. Wagner graduated from Technical High School in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1918, then served in the United States Army from 1918 to 1919. After leaving the army, he studied piano full-time with Felix Fox and studied organ with Louis Whilemann. He attended the New England Conservatory of Music, graduating in 1923 and receiving the Encidott Prize in composition. In 1924, he was appointed Assistant Director of Music in Boston public schools, then founded the Boston Civic Symphony in 1925. He served as the conductor for the Boston Civic Symphony for eighteen years.
Beginning in 1929, Wagner held a teaching position at Boston University (as an instructor for orchestration and band scoring) and simultaneously studied to earn his Mus.B. degree in composition, which he received in 1932. In the 1930s and 1940s, Wagner traveled making guest conducting appearances and studying. He studied in Paris from 1934 to 1935, learning from Nadia Boulanger and Alfredo Casella for composition, and learned conducting from Pierre Monteux and Felix Weingartner. He also wrote ballets while abroad, including the Dance Divertissement and Hudson River Legend. In 1945, Wagner was made Special Instructor at Hunter College, and in 1946 became an assistant professor at Brooklyn College in New York.
Wagner served as the resident conductor of the Duluth Symphony from 1947 to 1950, and then spent approximately a decade writing and conducting around the world. The years 1950 to 1954 he spent in Costa Rica, serving as the Musical Director of the Oquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Costa Rica -- he was recognized with an honorary doctorate degree in 1953 because he was the first American to be a permanent conductor of a Latin American orchestra. Wagner conducted at appearances in Cuba, Canada, Chile, Finland, Panama, Sweden, and other countries. He was also the first native-born American to conduct as a guest director of the Orquesta Filharmonica De Habana in 1949, presenting the first American program performed in the Cuban capital.
Wagner published two music books, Orchestration: A Practical Handbook and Band Scoring, and two accompanying workbooks. He moved to California in 1959 after receiving a grant from the Huntington Hartford Foundation, and was appointed head of the Theory Department of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music in 1960. In 1963, he was appointed Composer-in-Residence of Pepperdine University, and stayed there for a decade. Wagner died in Los Angeles, California on October 12, 1974.

Scope and Content

The collection contains materials created by, collected by, and about conductor and composer Joseph Wagner. Materials include music scores composed by Wagner and collections of scores by others; bundles of symphony orchestra sheet music parts for musicians; loose sheets of music manuscripts (like drafts, or with notes); vinyl record albums of Wagner's work and other music; recordings of Wagner's compositions on magnetic audio reels; video reel recordings from Wagner's travels; subject files and unorganized papers including programs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, publicity, and other items; photographs and photograph albums of pictures of Wagner's and also groups of photographs of other musicians with personal inscriptions given to Wagner; workbooks and books written by Wagner; and a small collection of colorful sheet music. Items range in date from approximately the 1910s to the 1970s.

Related Archival Materials

Collections with materials related to music include the Pepperdine University Performing and Fine Arts collection 0081 and the Blanche Ebert and Frank R. Seaver papers 0008 (Blanche Seaver was a pianist and composer).

Processing Information note

The collection was arranged and described by Jamie Henricks in March, 2013.


Items in the collection are arranged by type of material.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Pepperdine College.
Pepperdine University.
Wagner, Joseph, 1900-1974
Composers--United States
Conductors (Music)--United States
Fliers (Printed matter)
Orchestral music
Photograph albums
Sheet music
Universities and colleges--Faculty

Box 1-2

Subject Files

Box 3-7

Audio Reels and Film Reels

Box 8-10

Symphony Parts

Box 11-16

Musical Score Books

Box 10, 17-18

Loose Music Notes and Manuscripts

Box 19

Colorful Song Sheet Covers

Box 20-26

Cataloged Music

Oversize Album 1-3

Record Albums

Oversize Photo Album 1-2

Photo Albums