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Robert Rada at the CSO Alumni Association reunion, November 30, 2012 (Dan Rest photo)

The Chicago Symphony mourns the loss of Robert Rada, a member of the Orchestra’s trombone section from 1954 until 1957. He died in Hilton Head, South Carolina on February 17, 2019, at the age of 88.

Born on the south side of Chicago on August 14, 1930, Rada began playing the cornet in grade school, later adding the trombone in high school at the Farragut Career Academy. He performed with the Youth Orchestra of Greater Chicago and studied with Chicago Symphony Orchestra members David Anderson (trombone, 1929-1955) and Arnold Jacobs (principal tuba, 1944-1988). While attending the University of Chicago and Chicago Musical College, Rada was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago from 1948 until 1950.

During the summer of 1950, Rada was a member of the Denver Symphony Orchestra, performing on several occasions under the baton of Igor Stravinsky. Later that same year through the fall of 1954, Rada attended the United States Military Academy as a member of the West Point Band. While at West Point, he studied with Neal DiBiase, principal trombone of the NBC Symphony Orchestra, and he also performed as an extra with the ensemble on two occasions under the baton of Arturo Toscanini. During his years at the academy, Rada met his soon-to-be wife Lindsley Burnham, and he also developed a strong interest in aviation.

In 1954, Rada was invited by Fritz Reiner to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where he would serve through the 1956-57 season. His love of airplanes eventually led him to start his own aviation company, in which he sold corporate business jets. Rada occasionally subbed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and performed with the Kennett Symphony in Pennsylvania, and later he also was a member of the Hilton Head Orchestra. He was a longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association.

When interviewed for the Rosenthal Archives’s oral history project in 1995, Rada reflected on his years in the Orchestra under Reiner: “He made phenomenal music and he did it in a demanding way. He may have ruled with fear, but he produced a quality of music that I have never experienced before or since.”

Rada is survived by his wife of nearly sixty-four years, Lindsley; his three children; David (Sally), Paul (Anna) and Gretchen Willingham (John); and six grandchildren, Pamela, Michael, Molly, Madison, Sawyer, and Payton. A memorial service will be given on March 9, 2019, at the TidePointe Clubhouse (arrangements through Island Funeral Home and Crematory). An obituary also is posted here.

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