Musical Wagners Play It From the Heart

Americana, Hometown Heroes, People, Traditions
on June 3, 2001

Multiple births werent as common 20 years ago as they are now, so when the Wagner quadruplets were born near San Diego in 1981, it caused quite a stir. Among other things, members of the San Diego Padres gave each of the boys an autographed baseball when they were a day old.

Last July, the quads again made their presence known with the team, this time by singing the national anthem at a packed stadium before a Padres home game.

It was a musical high for the entire family.

The quads had been taking music lessons since they were two, formed their own band a few years ago (Brothers4Ever), and have auditioned for major recording studios in Los Angeles. They are, however, just one more example of the musical impact a generation of youngsters have felt from the boys father, Larry Wagner, of Jamul, Calif. (pop. 2,258).

Wagners life is filled with music. Music is his world. He sings and plays the piano and trumpet. His wife, Janna, sings and plays the flute. His mother, 84, who once ran a tap dance school, also still sings. And the four Wagner sonsBrett, Ben, Chad, and Kylesing, write their own music, and play a variety of instruments.

It runs in the family, and it comes from the heartbut it has to be fun, explains Larry Wagner.

My experience with music was that the things that were fun, my mom taught us, he says, and the things that were tedious were the things (I learned in school).

What did his mom teach him? Among other things, the boogie-woogie, when he was 4.

Wagner quit music lessons when he was 11, because it was more work than fun. Every song was a struggle, he recalls. There was no breathing room. He took up lessons again three years later and vowed as an adult to make it his personal ministry to help other kids get through the struggle of mastering the keyboard so they can just play it from the heart.

Wagner studied music in college, where he met Janna. She graduated with a performance degree in flute. He dropped his studies during his last semester when the nearby Yamaha Music School asked him to help develop a music program for children. Wagner says hes never regretted that decision.

His desire to teach the fun aspects of music, along with the necessary skills, was the deciding factor.

Theyre still little, he explains, and I want them to thoroughly enjoy this level before they start to set grand expectations.

For 10 years, while Wagner taught music to children, he and Janna also sang and played at weddings, receptions, and parties. After the quads were born, they stopped performingexcept with their church choirto have more family time. Eventually, life with the quadruplet boys settled down, but life was more like The Marriage of Figaro than a lullaby, Janna recalls.

We used to converse in mock operatic tones to get the kids to be quiet, she says with a grin.

When their sons were still young, Wagner was asked to help develop a new music school for children, and he jumped at the chance. In the school, originally named for Wagner but now called Time4Music, students, ages 5 through 12, learn the joys of music in small groups, beginning with the basicsdancing, singing, and playing musical games or acting out musical stories.

The Wagners own children learned music early, and their first lessons consisted of finger play, games, and musical stories. After mastering keyboard basics, they chose the instruments they play today: Brett, trumpet and bass; Chad, trombone and electric guitar; Kyle plays drums, while Ben plays sax and piano.

The brothers are away at college now, and the Wagner home is quieter than it once was. Over Christmas and spring breaks, when the boys are home, the house often erupts into musical pandemonium again.

Its always musical at the Wagner house. And its always fun.