Conductor, Director of Orchestral Studies and Professor of Conducting Jan Wagner, Diploma and Korrepetitions Praxis, Academy of Music in Vienna (Austria), has announced his retirement from Shenandoah Conservatory at the end of the 2022/23 academic year. Wagner began working at Shenandoah in 2002 and will retire after 21 years of dedicated service to its artistic and educational community.
“One of the highlights for me during these past 14 years has been observing the extraordinary development of the Symphony Orchestra,” said Shenandoah Conservatory Dean and Professor of Music Michael Stepniak, Ed.D. “Professor Wagner has been inspirational to our students not only because he consistently brings a world-class level of musicianship to his work, but because he has such deep passion for students’ growth and skillfulness around their development. He departs Shenandoah Conservatory having made a transformative impact, not only on students and fellow faculty, but also on audiences. He will be greatly missed!”
As artistic director and conductor of the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, Wagner has undertaken two international tours to Spain (Zaragoza, Castellón, Murcia and Granada) in 2014 and Argentina (Córdoba, Paraná, Rosario and Buenos Aires) in 2017. He recently announced a third international tour for the ensemble, with plans to return to Argentina in May 2023. Wagner also serves as the music director of the school’s fully staged opera productions.
Wagner, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, launched his professional conducting career after winning first prize at the 1995 Nicolai Malko International Conductors’ Competition in Denmark. In 2002, he completed a five-year tenure as principal conductor of the Odense Symphony Orchestra in Denmark, which he led in more than 200 performances conducting more than 200 different works, both on subscription concerts and on two separate tours to the United States and Spain.
“It has been an absolute honor and a privilege to have made Shenandoah Conservatory my place of work and Winchester my home for the past 21 years and to have been a part of this wonderful community of artist students and faculty,” said Wagner. “I will forever cherish the wonderful bonds I have developed with many of my faculty colleagues, staff and hundreds of students over these past two decades.”
Simultaneous with his appointment in Denmark, Wagner regularly conducted the Danish National Radio Symphony, the Danish Radio Sinfonietta (including two tours to Paris and Sweden), the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the Helsinki Philharmonic and the Danish Royal Theater as well as most of the principal Danish and Scandinavian orchestras. Other notable orchestras he has worked with include the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (England), the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Stuttgart Radio Symphony, the Hannover Radio Symphony, the Halle Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Symphony, the West Australian Symphony (Perth) and the Melbourne Symphony.
“Mr. Wagner was an inspiration to all who worked with him,” said Paul Sanho Kim ’13 (Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting). “His expertise, experience and passion was evident in every performance he gave; dripping with sweat after every concert, he never held back on giving his all for the sake of the music and for the musicians and listeners who experienced it together with him. His genuine caring and patience, mixed with his high standards for himself and those around him, made him a role model for all of us, not just as musicians but as people. Thank you, Jan, for your admirable mentorship.”
In North and South America, Wagner has appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Jacksonville Symphony, the Aspen Festival Orchestra and the Aspen Chamber Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Minnesota Opera on a U.S. tour of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” the Philharmonic Orchestra of the U.N.A.M in Mexico City and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. He has also been a regular guest conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela, that country’s national symphony orchestra, since 1998.
“Professor Jan Wagner was one of my greatest teachers in music,” said Christian Hørbov-Meier ’07, ’09 (Master of Music in Conducting, Artist Diploma). “He taught me more things than I can list and showed me and my wife a friendliness and warmth that I will never forget. He was always ready for a debate about phrasing and musical structure and if you had your arguments ready, he would let you do it your own way. This was very inspiring for me. He also made me realize that conducting was my project to define as a student, and then he would help me with that project. Jan Wagner was an inspiration for me in many ways, especially as a musician, and as a teacher, and I hope to be able to pass on some of this to my own students.”
During the 2016/17 season, Wagner continued to serve as one of a few resident assistant/cover conductors for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra (ASO), an association that began in March 2016, and he made his conducting debut with that orchestra in November 2017.
Throughout his career, Wagner has collaborated with many distinguished artists such as clarinetists Richard Stolzman and Sabine Meyer; singers Anna Larsson, Bo Skovhus and Yvonne Kenny; cellists Ralph Kirshbaum, David Geringas, and Andrés Díaz; violist Nobuko Imai; pianists John Browning, Ivan Moravec, Grigory Sokolov, Andrei Gavrilov, Nikolai Demidenko, Vanessa Perez and John O’Conor; violinists Mark Kaplan, Arve Tellefsen, Kristóf Baráti and Anne Akiko Meyers; and trumpeters Håkan Hardenberger, Jens Lindemann and Wynton Marsalis.
Contemporary composers with whom Wagner has collaborated include Danish composers Poul Ruders (world premiere performance and recording of his Guitar Concerto), Per Nørgård, Anders Nordentoft, and American composers William Bolcom, Kevin Puts and Richard Wilson. The 2014/15 season brought collaborations with Jennifer Higdon and Wynton Marsalis as part of the world premiere performance of the complete “Blues Symphony” at the Strathmore Music Center with the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra. The 2016/17 season featured a collaboration with iconic American composer John Corigliano.
Wagner has also been very active recording for labels such as Denon (Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” and Debussy’s “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune”-DVD audio); DaCapo (works by Paul von Klenau which received a Danish Grammy nomination); Classico (world premiere of Poulenc’s “Les Animaux modèle”); Bridge Records (world premiere of Poul Ruders’ Guitar Concerto, works by Ginastera, Villa-Lobos, including the world premiere of Villa-Lobos’ ballet Emperor Jones, and Carl Nielsen’s Violin Concerto); Silverline (Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben” and “Vier letzte Lieder”-DVD audio); and Danacord (Mussorgsky-Ravel’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”). In 2010, Wagner initiated a long-term project with the Naxos label and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela to launch a new series called Latin-American Classics, featuring symphonic works by leading Venezuelan composers from the twentieth century.
He is a graduate of the Academy of Music in Vienna, Austria, where he completed his studies with Karl Österreicher and Günther Theuring. He has furthered his studies with Murry Sidlin and Lawrence Foster as a Fellow Conductor at the Aspen Music Festival and has participated in masterclasses with John Nelson, Leonard Slatkin and James Conlon. Following his studies, he was the top prize winner at the 1994 Leopold Stokowski International Conducting Competition in New York and was the recipient of the 1994 Conducting Prize at the Aspen Music Festival. He has also served as assistant conductor/vocal coach to John DeMain at Houston Grand Opera, to Lawrence Foster at the Aspen Music Festival, assistant/apprentice conductor under Edo de Waart and the Minnesota Orchestra and as assistant/cover conductor to Kurt Masur at the New York Philharmonic.