For twenty years from 1949-1969, Ezra Rachlin was the Musical Director and Conductor of the Austin (Texas) Symphony Orchestra.  He was a true pioneer, gradually introducing new works to an eager audience who were at first a little set in their musical tastes.   Always keen to try out new ideas to bring great music to people from all walks of life, he began giving hugely successful concerts in a drive-in cinema where the orchestra wore jeans, the ushers were on horseback and the audience applauded by hooting their horns!  This innovative new idea resulted in a major article with photographs in Life magazine. Rachlin often used to play and conduct in Austin and made a sensation when he got Steinway to make him a clear Perspex lid for the piano so that he could see the orchestra and they could see him.

Ezra’s letter to his parents re the Drive-in

Nov 19 1949

Dear Mom and Pop,

Just a hasty line to let you know that the repercussions of the Drive-in Concert are still repercussing like crazy! Enclosed is a typical sample, selected for your edification, because it was the front page of the Los Angeles paper.

I thought you might like to have this particular copy. It also made the front pages of the New Orleans, Dallas, Waco, San Antonio, St Louis papers at present report. Acme News and picture service is preparing a rotogravure picturepage on it for the Sunday supplements and I’ll let you know when that appears. I think Newsweek is all set with pictures for an early issue and we are still waiting for information from LIFE magazine. Within the next week or two we should know a lot more about all this, but in the meantime I can tell you that we really made a sensational news story It was heard over the air, by the way, in LA, Chicago, and New York and since it was a coast-to-coast hookup, over NBC all over the country. It’s quite a triumph, isn’t it? I’m very happy with the results to date…….


From 1965-1971, Rachlin was also the Music Director and Conductor of the Fort Worth (Texas) Symphony Orchestra.  Always ahead of his time, Ezra initiated Project Muse, an excellent programme which involved his orchestra musicians going into the schools and then bringing the children to specially  designed Young Persons’ Concerts.


Rachlin served as Chairman of the Jury of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1966, when he also conducted the finals.  It was Rachlin who introduced the idea of an international jury of famous pianists with successful careers instead of music teachers.   In 1968 he travelled to Europe by sea to meet with Artur Rubinstein in London , Aram Khachaturian in Russia and other notable performers in Prague, Berlin and Scandinavia.

It was during his voyage on the SS France that Rachlin met George and Perle Lyttleton, who, on May 26th 1968 on arrival at Waterloo Station in London, introduced him to their daughter  Ann who was meeting them in.   Ann and Ezra were married one year less a day later on May 25th 1969 in London.


During this time his association with Leopold Stokowski led to his appointment as permanent Guest Conductor of the Houston Symphony and Musical Director and Conductor of the celebrated Summer Symphony Series.

Ezra meets in Yehudi Menuhin on his arrival in Texas to perform with the Austin Symphony Orchestra

Ezra meets in Yehudi Menuhin on his arrival in Texas to perform with the Austin Symphony Orchestra