Corbin Wagner demonstrates a passage for students at the 2016 Horn Institute.
Corbin Wagner rehearses with the horn ensemble at the 2015 Horn Institute.
Interlochen Arts Camp Instructor of Horn Corbin Wagner is a highly regarded horn performer, teacher and longtime member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
A Kansas City native, Wagner received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1979. Following his graduation, he joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, remaining with the ensemble until his retirement in 2013. In 1989, Wagner received his master’s degree from the University of Michigan. He joined the faculty at Michigan State University College of Music in 2012; he has also served as an adjunct on the faculty of Oakland University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. He is an experienced clinician and gives clinics around the country.
As a performer, Wagner has received many honors, including third prize at the 1983 Munich International Horn Competition and first prize at the Heldenleben International Horn Competition (American Horn Competition) in hand horn, valve horn and horn quartet. He performs as a soloist in the Detroit area, as well as in ensembles including the Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings; the Peninsula Music Festival; the Palm Beach Opera; and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In 2014, Wagner released his first album, “The Wagner Trio,” a collection of new works for soprano, horn and piano. Wagner continues to expand the repertoire for this grouping through commissions. His newest album, featuring Spanish trio music, will be released in August.
We caught up with Wagner to learn more about this respected artist and instructor.
What’s your favorite piece to play and why?
I’m a performer, so for me it’s not about the piece: it’s the experience of performing that’s enjoyable. For me, a performance is sort of like a backyard football game where everyone goes long. That excitement can happen in any piece of music—from Mozart to Mahler—and that’s what is most entertaining to me.
Tell us about your instrument. What make/model is it, and does it have an interesting or sentimental history?
There are three types of horns that my students can choose from, so I like to show them all styles. I also have some specialized horns. I rotate through all of them so they can hear how the different types play differently.
Why did you pick the horn?
My band director was a family friend, and he talked mother into making me play an instrument. The only instrument still available was the horn.
If you had to play any other instrument, what would you play?
Who were your musical heroes/idols growing up? Who are your favorite artists now?
When I was a child, there were two soloists in French horn world, and Barry Tuckwell was my favorite; I loved his playing so much. Another big influence turned out to be Gene Wade, who was principal horn of my first employer, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He was every bit as much of an inspiration as Tuckwell.
Who was the best teacher you ever had? Why?
I really only had one: Louis Stout.
Would you rather read a book or watch a movie?
I would have to say watch a movie. After a long day of focusing on music with my students, it’s nice to get away from the printed page for a little bit.
What’s your favorite season?
I love them all; they’re all an adventure.
Are you a coffee person or a tea person?
There’s only one kind: coffee.