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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biographical note
  • Arrangement
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Processing Information note

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: Pepperdine University. Special Collections and University Archives.
    Title: Joseph Wagner Papers
    Identifier/Call Number: 0029
    Physical Description: 15.29 Linear Feet (21 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1923-1974
    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 1923 to the 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 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, under Nadia Boulanger and Alfredo Casella for composition, and under Pierre Monteux and Felix Weingartner for conducting. 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. From 1950 to 1954, he lived 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, as well as 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.


    The collection is organized into the following series: 1. Subject Files; 2. Audio Reels; 3. Film Reels; 4. Symphony Parts; and 5. Record Albums. Within each series, materials are arranged alphabetically.

    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 1923 to the 1974.

    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 finding aid was created by Jamie Henricks in March, 2013. The collection was further arranged and described by Melanie Greer and Rachel White in February, 2015, under the supervision of Katie Richardson.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

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