Barbara Wagner, 80, the widow of the Reverend William G. Wagner, died February 17, 2017, in Getzville, NY. Born Barbara McCarthy in Lockport, she earned a BFA from University of Buffalo, then went on to graduate studies at Westminster Choir College, and advanced organ study at the Munich Conservatory in Germany. She was noted for having both a wit and an ability to personally connect with people, and she employed those attributes as she pursued her passion – music, particularly choral music.
She was in her 50th year directing the choir of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo when she retired as the church’s music director in 2012. During her tenure, the church became known for the high quality of its music. The church choir made two European tours, recorded for American Public Radio, and performed locally with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Barbara also taught vocal music at Nichols School for 25 years and served for 12 years as music director at Temple Beth Am. She had shorter term positions directing other community choirs, but is especially noted as the founding director of the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus, which she led for 10 years. Her vision for that chorus was that they would not be known for “camp and schlock,” as many gay singing groups are, but would have a repertoire which included many challenging classics.
She was a founding member of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network, served on the Hymnbook Commission which produced “Singing the Living Tradition,” and chaired the Task Force which compiled the hymnbook supplement “Singing the Journey.” In 2002 she was awarded the Erie County Music Educator/BPO Award for Excellence in Choral Education. In recent years, as Wagner’s health declined, she was able to hold onto music. As long as she could, she played the piano at her care center residence.
Barbara is survived by a sister, Jeanne Gunby; two daughters, Carrie Martin of Hamburg, and Molly Wagner of Sydney, Australia; and six grandchildren.