CLASS OF 1968: ROBERT WUAGNEUX ✯ Living in Tune … with Himself
Robert Wuagneux ’68 approaches life exactly the way he approaches performing: authentically, and with wild abandon.
“For crying out loud, just go do it!” he exclaims, exhorting anyone who may doubt their own passions and abilities to believe and to act.
Wuagneux speaks from decades of experience. Enthralled with music at a young age—especially the doo-wop his uncles listened to—he sang on the neighborhood street corners of New York City as a teen. Nevertheless, he relegated this talent to second chair upon enrolling at Norwich as an education/psychology major at the age of 16.
He thought he would teach. And teaching would become an important passion in his life. But the music beckoned, too. Acting on the encouragement of language professor Fred “Fritzy” Powell, Wuagneux (pronounced ONE-you) took a detour abroad to Valencia, Spain, for his junior year. It changed his life.
“I was there to study Spanish,” he recalls. “But music just exploded for me during that time. Being exposed to flamenco inspired me to learn the guitar, and I ended up singing and playing all over Spain.”
After Norwich, Wuagneux earned a master’s degree in languages from Middlebury College. At a crossroads, he knew he had a choice to make. And, after a year of teaching in New Jersey, he made it.
“I just didn’t see myself, at 22, wearing that tweed jacket,” he recalls. “I needed to be true to myself—and that truth was music.”
In 1973, he skipped town for Miami Beach—where his exploits are legendary. He befriended Richie Havens and jammed with musicians who would later form the Miami Sound Machine. He taught Julio Iglesias to speak better English. He wrote and recorded a song, “USA 423”—a triumphant chronicle of the U.S. hockey team’s “Miracle on Ice” defeat of the USSR during the 1980 Winter Olympics. The song appeared on new wave/punk charts and inspired a cult following that endures today. Unfortunately, fans can’t purchase the original vinyl; Wuagneux and a buddy used all but one of the 45s for skeet-shooting practice.
After many creatively inspired years of writing and performing in Miami and across Europe, Wuagneux ultimately returned to teaching, and to Norwich. With a PhD in education from Nova Southeastern University, he currently serves on the faculty of Norwich University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies, and also teaches at Castleton University.
But he will never abandon music. Heeding his own advice, he has remained true to his passion—seizing every opportunity as a singer-songwriter to perform. His body of work includes eight CDs, and he maintains a healthy YouTube presence. Ever the educator, he serves as a willing and repeat subject for Castleton’s Video II class—composing rock operettas and performing them in front of the camera while students fine-tune their craft.
“In today’s pop-musical environment—where everything is staged, lip-synched and overproduced—the kids have chosen me. I don’t really play their kind of music, but I think they appreciate my authenticity.” – Jane Dunbar