Jazz saxophonist, educator, and author, Jack Wagner, grew up in Enfield, Connecticut. He received his B.M. Degree in Jazz Studies and Performance from William Paterson University and his Masters Degree and Teaching Certification from Ithaca College. Jack studied with Steve Wilson, Gary Smulyan, Jerry Bergonzi, Rufus Reid, John Riley, Steve Turre, David Berger, Conrad Herwig, Steven Mauk, Harold Mabern, Todd Coolman, Dave Demsey, Steve Brown, Mariann Ploger, and Kenny Burrell.
Community High School
Jazz Program Director
Jack has performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Mexico. He has performed with Michael Brecker, Joe Williams, Hamiett Bluiett, Bill Mays, Brian Lynch, Nick Brignola, Muhal Richard Abrams, Stephen Riley, Jane Ira Bloom, Mark Shim, Steve Houghton, and Carl Fontana. Jack has gigged in such NYC clubs as Birdland and The 55 Bar. He had the good fortune of playing with Joe Salzano and the Blue Devils for the New Millennium International Swing Dance Festival in Ensenada, Mexico, where the Lindy Hop innovator and legend, Frankie Manning, was the guest of honor with hundreds of dancers from around the globe.
A devoted educator, Jack taught public and private school bands in New York State for five years and then became the Jazz Studies Director at the Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts (AASPA) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from 2002-2008. Jack's AASPA combo, the "6 O'Clock Jazz Combo," won First Place as "Best Performing Arts High School Jazz Group" in the prestigious international 2006 Downbeat Magazine's Student Music Awards contest. Jack's private student also won Best Jazz Soloist in the same Downbeat competition.
Jack now serves as the Jazz Program Director of Ann Arbor Community High School, where he was hired in 2008. Directing 8-10 high school jazz combos at Community each semester, Jack's focus is on small-group jazz and improvisation. He founded the Community High Jazz Guest Artist Series, which has hosted or co-hosted five Grammy Winners and musical luminaries such as Victor Wooten, Benny Green, Dave Liebman, Tia Fuller, Billy Hart, Bill Stewart, Ingrid Jensen, Robert Hurst, Dave Douglas, Steve Wilson, Hal Galper, Rodney Whitaker, Matt Wilson, Gary Versace, Michael Weiss, Randy Napoleon, Jim Snidero, Ambrose Akinmusire, Christian Howes, Divinity Roxx, Marcus Belgrave, Emmet Cohen, and many more. The Community High combo “Superbad” was honored to perform for and with Wynton Marsalis at the 2014 UMS/Ford Honors Gala and again for Marsalis in 2018. CHS also opened for recent Kennedy Center Award recipient Mavis Staples at The Ark in Ann Arbor.
Under Jack's direction, Community has won numerous awards and competitions. These include the most difficult to win in the world, taking First Place in the 2017 and 2018 international Downbeat Magazine competitions for "Best High School Jazz Group" and Second Place in the 2010, 2016, 2019 and 2020 Downbeat contests. Community High's recent CD releases include High Point (2019), 2016's Time Flies, 2013's Super Nu and Jazzspring (2010). Jack is the author of the jazz instruction book The Straight Ahead Toolshed. In June, 2013, Jack was the recipient of the Ann Arbor Public School district's Celebration of Excellence Award for Customer Satisfaction and Innovation.