For several years, Tony D’Agnese and his trumpet have been providing a comforting and familiar musical backdrop for those who work in or visit Roseburg’s downtown.
Story by Nate Hansen Photo by Thomas Boyd
Winter afternoons in downtown Roseburg are generally pretty quiet. Shoppers pop out one store and head down the street to the next. Business people toil away behind closed doors. Diners survey the streets for a parking spot near their lunch destinations.
With the echoes of downtown’s summer and fall bustle long gone, there’s still plenty of activity, just not a lot of noise to accompany it. Yet, if you time it just right, your trip downtown may well afford you the surprise opportunity to hear the live stylings of trumpet player Tony D’Agnese.
Routinely, but not predictably, D’Agnese makes the trip downtown, unfolds his camp chair or grabs a seat on a downtown bench, pulls his trumpet from its case and starts to play a sort of soundtrack for Roseburg’s city center.
The Rockaway Beach, N.Y., native discovered the trumpet in his sixth-grade band class. He thought he wanted to be a drummer, but D’Agnese quickly discovered his talent as a bugle player and by high school was competing in national competitions with his school’s marching band. Though he has lived in Oregon for several decades, D’Agnese still maintains a powerful connection with Rockaway Beach. “More people from Rockaway Beach died on 9/11 than any other area per capita, and many were firemen,” D’Agnese says of his hometown.
To honor those who died in the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, D’Agnese performs “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a memorial service each year.
He has also sold advertising for KPIC-TV and ran the Bagel Tree restaurant in downtown for almost a decade. That’s now one of D’Agnese’s favorite performance spots.
D’Agnese’s repertoire, diverse and ever-expanding, features everything from classical compositions to Irish drinking songs. “Streets of Laredo,” the classic western ballad about a dying cowboy, is one of his favorite. “It’s simple, and also very calming,” he says.
D’Agnese is perhaps best known locally for his rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” the song he was invited to perform at Jacoby Auditorium in 2015 at a memorial for the Umpqua Community College shooting victims. D’Agnese has since recorded a tribute album for the UCC victims.
On top of his skills as a trumpeter and fencer, D’Agnese has worn a remarkable number of hats, including that of a novelist and amateur boxer. But though he has a lot going on at any given time, D’Agnese has no plans to stop his regular performances downtown. He says he will continue to play at his favorite local spots and community events. “If it’s a nice day, I like to play,” he says.
Learn more about D’Agnese’s performance schedule, recordings and other endeavors at www.agdagnese.com