Brett Wagner is member of the Bass section with the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra. Living as a freelance musician in Chicago since 2011, he also has performed with Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Illinois Symphony, South Florida Orchestra, Oistrakh Symphony, Southwest Michigan Symphony, Northbrook Symphony, as well as many other groups in the Chicago Metro Area and across the upper Midwest.
Native to Hutchinson, Kansas, Mr. Wagner earned his Bachelors of Music Performance at Wichita State University under the direction of Dr. Mark Foley. He also earned a Masters in Music Performance and a Performance Certificate at DePaul University under the direction of Chicago Symphony Bassists, Robert Kassinger and Michael Hovnanian. Additional studies include spending 2 summers studying with renowned bass soloist, Gary Karr, in Victoria, Canada, as well as studies with Chicago Symphony Principal Bassist, Alexander Hanna.
When not performing, Brett is a Senior Supervisor of the Ravinia Festival Box Office, summer home of Chicago Symphony as well as various classical and popular acts. He also enjoys following sports, engaging in politics, and being in the company of his family as well as the many friends he has met across all of his travels.
Member of the Orchestra since
Most memorable experience with the Orchestra
Tough to narrow down so I have 2. The first was when I played Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in my first Masterworks concert with DMSO. It was my first attempt at playing this monumental piece publicly. I had spent years prior, in numerous excerpt classes, learning various techniques, fingerings, and bowings for playing that difficult piece as well as possible. It was exhilarating to play this piece with such a good orchestra and fun to finally get a chance to put all that past work to use. My second memorable experience would be my first concert with my current stand partner, Jason Wells. Principal Bassist, Dominic Azkoul, as well as Jason and I were students at DePaul together. Dominic and I joined the Des Moines Symphony at the same time in 2016, and Jason a few years later. Ever since he joined, playing with the DMSO has been a great way for the 3 of us to keep in touch and to continue to perform together.
How I got started playing my instrument
I was in the 5th grade and the local music teachers tried me and my classmates out on all of the instruments, giving each of us a plus or minus for whether each instrument seemed like a good physical fit for us. My brother, was a successful jazz and ska saxophonist at the time and I wanted to play in a jazz band like he did. The only jazz instrument I received a plus on was the Double Bass so I went with that. Later on, I found that I could express my musical ideas better bowing the bass more than plucking the bass, so my focus switched to classical playing.
With over 400 years of music we play, it’s tough to single one out. If I had to choose a few, it’d be Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler.
Favorite solo piece
I like Bottesini’s Bass Concerto no. 2. In addition to being a Virtuoso Double Bassist, Giovanni Bottesini was also a conductor for Verdi, whose melodies heavily influenced Bottesini’s compositions. The piece lies well on the bass and allows the double bassist to play in a lyrical manner like an Italian operatic tenor.
Other than classical music _____ is on my iPod
What’s an iPod?! My playlists generally include The Beatles, Ben Folds, Boards of Canada, Bonobo, Cake, D’angelo, Flying Lotus, The National, Phish, Radiohead, Stereolab …I could go on but I’ll stop there. This American Life and Radiolab are my go to podcasts. I also really enjoy movie music scored by Mark Mothersbaugh.