Thornton “Tony” Hagert, musician, musicologist, dies at 86.

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   Thornton “Tony” Hagert, 86, of South Philadelphia, a lifelong musician, musicologist and retired federal government employee, died April 5 of lung cancer at Penn Wissahickon Hospice at Rittenhouse in Center City.

      Mr. Hagert was born in Philadelphia on June 24, 1930 to Henry Hagert, a designer and artist, and Eleanor Fischer, a model and graphic designer.   He was the second of three children and grew up near Rittenhouse Square.

   “One of his earliest memories was playing with the goat statue in the square,” said his son, Zachary Hagert.

           Mr. Hagert was the great-grandson of Henry Schell Hagert, a Philadelphia District Attorney and poet who lived in the city during the mid-19th  century.  His grandfather, Charles Hagert, studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and exhibited his work in galleries in the city. Two Philadelphia streets, Schell and Hagert, were both named after his great-grandfather.

           Mr. Hagert  attended Friends Select and  Episcopal Academy. He was a 1947 graduate of Central High School. 

         He studied coronet with a private tutor at Curtis Institute of Music and later continued his music education at Pius X School of Liturgical Music in New York.  As part of the music, poetry and art scene there, Mr. Hagert was surrounded by musicians such as  Charlie Parker, Ethel Waters, Jesse Milan, Jerome Pasqual, Sidney Bechet, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell and Thelonius Monk. 

      After starting college at the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Hagert  was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He later graduated with a business degree from  George Washington University in Washington, D.C. 

       He would go on to work for the Rural Electrification Authority,  part of  the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was later a loan administrator for the department. 

       “He once told me that he was most proud of his work at the Rural Electrification Authority, giving  grants  to small communities and helping them get electricity in the 1950s and 1960s,” Zachary Hagert said.  

       But on weekends, Mr. Hagert and his wife, Annie Stanfield,  a singer, whom he met when they were in a jazz band in Washington, played New Orleans jazz in local bands while they lived in the Washington, D.C. area.  

      Zachary Hagert said Mr.  Hagert’s true passion was for vernacular music research and he created a small archive of research for musicologists at

 “His life-long interest in American Vernacular music came from a respect for the sounds and experiences of those who would otherwise be forgotten,” his son said.  “This, music of the people, reflected his intellectual need to reveal what others might not notice or might discard as superfluous to the aims of ‘high minded’ culture.”

         In addition, Mr. Hagert produced albums for others such as “Come and Trip It” for the Rockefeller Foundation as part of its New World Record series of early American music. The Smithsonian Institution hired Mr. Hagert to produce the album, “An Experiment in Modern Music:  Paul Whiteman at Aeolian Hall.”   In this album, Mr. Hagert used period recordings from 1919 to 1924 by George Gershwin, Whiteman, Zez Confrey, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and others.  The album was nominated for two Grammys in 1986 for Best Liner Notes and Best Historic Album.   

 After retiring from the federal government, Mr. Hagert and his family moved to Cambridge, MD, where he was president of the Dorchester Art Center, formed the New Century Orchestra and provided free musical instruments for public school students.

   About 16 years ago, Mr. Hagert and his wife returned to Philadelphia and settled in South Philadelphia.

  In addition to his wife and son,  Mr. Hagert is survived by another son Geoffrey and a daughter, Eleanor  “Nora” Hagert.

         A memorial gathering is planned later this year in Philadelphia, where his ashes will be interred at Laurel Hill Cemetery in the Hagert family plot. Those who wish to attend, may provide their email contact information to

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