Rice University Shepherd School of Music orchestra conductor Larry Rachleff dies at 67

Larry Rachleff conducting the Shepherd School symphony at Carnegie Hall in 2014. (Rice University and photographer Jennifer Taylor)

HOUSTON – The music world and Rice University are mourning the loss of Larry Rachleff, a longtime music orchestra conductor at the Shepherd School of Music. He was 67.

Rachleff died on Aug. 8 after a long battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to the university. He will always be remembered in the classical music world for his musical understanding and interpretation of scores and rapport with performance ensembles.

“Those of us lucky enough to have followed his baton from the stage will remember Larry as a once-in-a-generation musician and educator of the highest caliber,” said Matthew Loden, the Lynette S. Autrey Dean of Music at the Shepherd School. “On the podium, he was a clear and inspired conductor who routinely expected his ensembles to collectively outperform individual talent and ability. Teamwork, disciplined listening and joint responsibility for bringing the best possible music to an audience are just a few of the legacies of excellence that Larry leaves behind.”

Larry Rachleff (Rice University)

Rachleff has been with Rice University since 1991 and was described as a dynamic, exacting maestro who expected – and elicited – the very best performance standards from his students and helped bring the Shepherd School to world-class standing, according to a news release.

Before joining Rice, Rachleff was a faculty member of Oberlin Conservatory, where he was also music director of orchestras and conductor of the contemporary ensemble, the release stated. He also previously served as conductor of the opera theater at the University of Southern California, music director of the San Antonio Symphony, and as a principal conducting teacher for the American Symphony Orchestra League, the Conductors’ Guild and the International Workshop for Conductors in the Czech Republic. In 2017, he concluded 21 years as music director of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra.

Rachleff was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in the fall of 2017.

He received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s of music from the University of Michigan. He held honorary doctorates in music from Roger Williams University and Providence College, Rhode Island, according to Rice University.

He is survived by his wife, Susan Lorette Dunn; their son, Sam, who will attend the Shepherd School in the fall; his mother, Naomi; and a brother, Peter Rachleff.

The Shepherd School said it will honor Rachleff at the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra opening performance for the 2022-2023 season on Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m. in Stude Concert Hall. More details, including ticket information, will be available at music.rice.edu/events.


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