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In memoriam: Robert E. Nagel Jr., trumpet

Robert E. Nagel Jr. was on the Yale School of Music faculty from 1957 to 1988
June 9, 2016
New York Brass Quintet From left: John Swallow, Allan Dean, Paul Ingraham, Robert Nagel, Thompson "Toby" Hanks

New York Brass Quintet
From left: John Swallow, Allan Dean, Paul Ingraham, Robert Nagel, Thompson “Toby” Hanks

Trumpeter Robert E. Nagel Jr. passed away on Sunday, June 5 at the age of 91. He was a member of the Yale School of Music faculty from 1957 to 1988, and was named Professor Emeritus in 1988.

He is best known as the founder and director of the renowned New York Brass Quintet. In addition to paving the way for brass chamber music, Nagel was an active and highly respected performer as well as a prolific composer. In 1959, Nagel founded a publishing company, Mentor Music, in an effort to make brass music more available to the public. He leaves a legacy of numerous seminal recordings such as the 1961 recording of L’Histoire Du Soldat (conducted by Igor Stravinsky) and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (conducted by Pablo Casals).

Born on September 29, 1924 in Freehand, Pennsylvania, Nagel began studying trumpet, piano, and composition as a child and youth. He studied composition at Juilliard with Peter Mennin and Vincent Persichetti, and during his summers at Tanglewood, he studied trumpet with George Mager (Boston Symphony) as well as composition with Aaron Copland.

Working as a freelancer in New York City after the completion of his studies, Nagel performed with celebrated conductors such as Leopold Stokowski, Leonard Bernstein, Pablo Casals, and Igor Stravinsky. During this time, he also performed with the Bach aria group, the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and the Aspen Music Festival.

Nagel joined the Yale School of Music faculty in 1957 where he collaborated with other members of the brass faculty (pictured above), and performed as the New York Brass Quintet. For over thirty years, the NYBQ performed in major concert venues across the U.S. and Europe.

During his pedagogic career, he also taught at the New England Conservatory, Juilliard, the Manhattan School of Music, the Hartt School of Music, North Carolina School of the Arts, and Rutgers University. Nagel was also the founder of the International Trumpet Guild.

Robert Nagel – Part 1 from RNagelMusic

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COMMENTS ( 5 )

Beautiful comments. Bob Nagel was a giant in the music business and had a profound impact on my life and career. Thank you for posting. We will all miss him dearly. Doug Wilson MM 81

June 10th, 2016 | Douglas Wilson

I studied with Bob back in the late 1950s and he taught me the true meaning of legato. He was a busy guy back in those days so finding time for a lesson was always tricky. He was a true gentleman.

June 10th, 2016 | Stephen Jablonsky

I had the privilege of studying with Robert Nagel at YSM from 1974-76. He was an extraordinary musician and a gracious gentleman with a dry and sly sense of humor. He left a great musical and pedagogical legacy – I’m very grateful for my time with him as my teacher.

June 13th, 2016 | Hank Mautner

Mr. Nagel was an incredible musician and such a gracious person.
I have owned his recording of L’histoire Du Soldalt for many years and I consider it a milestone performance. I had two sessions with him in the early nineties while he toured in Kansas with his daughter who accompanied him on piano. What a privilege! In the seventies I heard the New York Brass Quintet and it was sensational. He will be sorely missed.

Bob Grim

February 19th, 2017 | Robert C. Grim

I met Robert Nagel when he was the “Featured Trumpeter” with our High School Band in an Arkansas Music Festival. That occurrence was 50+ years ago, but I’ll never forget the precision with which he played his rapid staccato lines. Yes, he made our band sound, well, really good! Most people strive to excel at something, and most would say that Mr. Nagel achieved that goal beautifully.

April 7th, 2017 | Allen Young