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Obituary: Rebecca Lewis Wagner

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Professional Harpist


Rebecca Lewis Wagner, 86, of Carolina Meadows, Chapel Hill, died Tuesday March 18th, 2003 in the Health Center at Carolina Meadows.

Rebecca was a professional harpist and a homemaker. She began studying the harp as a teen in her home town of York, PA. While in high school she became the harpist for the York Symphony under Sylvan Levin. At Levins recommendation she competed for and won a scholarship at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. At Curtis she became a protege of Legendary harpist Carlos Salzedo.

While at Curtis she was first harpist for the Curtis Symphony under Fritz Reiner. She was a founding member of the Barton Harp Quintet, a member of the Angleairs and with those groups toured North America in the 1930's.

Among her classmates were famed list pianist, Jorge Bolet who accompanied her in auditions, cellist Leonard Rose, violist-conductor Oscar Shumsky, flutist Anton Winkler and many others. During her third year at Curtis she filled a temporary vacancy with the Philadelphia Symphony under Eugene Ormandy. Ormandy encouraged her to accept a permanent position with the Indianapolis Symphony from Curtis. While in Indianapolis she met Herbert T. Wagner, M.D. They were married October 5, 1940 in York, PA.

In the early 1950's Mrs. Wagner was First Harpist for the Utah Symphony under Maurice Abravanel

while living there. After moving to the New York City area she declined opportunities with the NBC symphony under Auturo Toscanini, the Metropolitan Opera under Fausto Cleva and the Radio City Symphony Orchestra to raise her three children. She did continue to perform local concerts and recitals and was Salzado's associate at the Summer Harp Colony of America in Camden, ME.

While a resident of Bronxville, NY from 1952 to 1964 she performed several times with the Bronxville High School Orchestra. All three children graduated from BHS. She coordinated Mothers March of Dimes in her area while her husband was N.E. Regional Director of National Foundation for Infintal Paralysis and worked closely with Jonas Saulk in achieving public acceptance of the Saulk Polio Vaccine.

She lived at 1510 Wasatch Drive before the road was paved. Husband, Herbert T. Wagner was director of Crippled Children's Hospital when built in 1950 - 1951. Recorded with Utah Symphony 3/25/50, 5/15/50 and 4/28/55 are among the few recordings of her music. The Wagners became good friends of Richard Evans, then an apostle of The Church of Latter-day Saints.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 52 years, Herbert T. Wagner, M.D. and is survived by her three children, Herbert T. Wagner III of Eureka, MO; Calvin F. Wagner of Sterling, VA; and Rebecca Ordbona of McLean, VA; five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A burial service will be conducted at the grave site in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, IN at 1:00 March 27, 2003.