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Rabin, popular Wis. music conductor, dies at 97

December 10, 2013

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Marvin Rabin, a music conductor who founded youth orchestras in Wisconsin and Massachusetts and whose students played at the White House and Carnegie Hall, has died after a brief illness, his family said Tuesday. He was 97.

Rabin, who died Thursday in Madison, was a music visionary who devoted his life to making music accessible to children, said his eldest son, Ralph.

“He was always trying to make musical expression a possibility for children,” Ralph Rabin said. “He just had such a passion and love for music — seeing the community that it brings together, the depth of emotion it can touch.”

Marvin Rabin conducted youth orchestras in 48 states, as well as Canada, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Europe, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. His teaching and conducting influenced generations of students, including some who went on to become conductors themselves.

Rabin was born in 1916. He took his first violin lessons in his hometown of South Bend, Ind., and he played the viola at the University of Kentucky. He later went on to conduct a youth symphony in Louisville, which was invited to play at Carnegie Hall in 1958, Ralph Rabin said.

“It was such a big deal. They had the performance, and when the kids came back they had a ticker-tape parade for their school bus,” he said.

Marvin Rabin later started the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra, which performed for President John F. Kennedy at the White House.

Eventually he came to Madison, where he founded the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras for musicians between the ages of 9 and 18.

“Marvin Rabin was the most passionate advocate for youth orchestras that the world has ever known,” said Bridget Fraser, executive director for WYSO. The organization plans to memorialize Rabin at its Winterfest concerts in March.

A memorial service will be held on Dec. 29 at the Unitarian Meeting House in Madison.

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