Cover photo for Dr. Irvin  L.  Wagner's Obituary
Dr. Irvin  L.  Wagner Profile Photo
1937 Irvin 2023

Dr. Irvin L. Wagner

February 14, 1937 — September 15, 2023

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.

At the University of Oklahoma, he has been recognized as a David Ross Boyd Professor as well as a Regents Professor of Trombone. Through his work with the International Trombone Association, he not only helped found ITA chapters in a variety of countries as he traveled around the world during his time as the ITA President (1982-1984), but he was awarded the Neil Humfeld Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2013 and the ITA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.

Along with his position at the University of Oklahoma, Irv has played with the Wichita Symphony, Baton Rouge Symphony, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and most recently has been the Musical Director and Conductor of the Oklahoma Community Orchestra. From his appearance on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour where his signature act of Bye Bye Blues with his spoons and trombone together, to playing for Pope John Paul II and for 4 presidents, Irv has had a lasting impact on people around the world. He has taught, performed and conducted on six of seven continents.

Dr. Irvin L. Wagner died peacefully on September 15th at the age of 86. He is preceded in death by his parents Orval and Florence Wagner, his sister Velva Butler and her husband Don, and his wife of 63 years, JoAnn Bielefeldt Wagner. He is survived by his three daughters, Brenda Wagner of Norman: Janet Gorton (James) of Norman; Karen Wright (Sally) of Overland Park, Kansas; and his four grandchildren Joshua (Rhian) and Jayson Gorton and Lucas and Sarah Wright.

Irvin L. Wagner Memorial Concert will be Sunday, March 24, 2024 at the Nancy O'Brian Center for the Performing Arts located on the campus of Norman North High School. It will be a Trombone Choir concert with a service woven between the musical numbers. The event will start at 2:30 PM.

Memorial Contributions may be made to the Dr. Irvin and JoAnn Wagner Family Scholarship fund at McPherson College, McPherson, KS. Contributions can be made online at Select “Scholarships” from the Select Gift Designation Required drop down menu and type “Wagner Family Scholarship” in the Comments box. Memorial gifts may also be mailed to:

McPherson College

Advancement Office

1600 E Euclid St

McPherson, KS 67460

*Please note “Wagner Family Scholarship” on the check memo line.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Dr. Irvin L. Wagner, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Starts at 2:30 pm (Central time)

Nancy O'Brein Performing Arts Center

1903 Stubbeman Avenue, Norman, OK 73069

The facility will be open around 11:30 AM

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