The Band’s first conductor, Harry Lowe, led the group from its inception in the late summer of 1922 until resigning from the Band in August 1940. The Band’s Board of Directors then appointed Ernest G. Carr Interim Director until a more permanent appointment could be made. A native of Richmond, Carr was a clarinet player. He served as Interim Director from September 1940 through April of 1941. We know very little about him, as he seems not to have been a member of the Band for very long, but he apparently did a satisfactory job during his brief tenure.

At least one source states that Dr. Robert E. Lutz, a local dentist and clarinet player in the Band, also led the Band on some occasions during this interim period. Lutz was a member of the Municipal Band for some twenty years.

The search for a new permanent Music Director ended when the Board appointed Emil Rada to the post, starting in May of 1941. He would serve for nine years, finally relinquishing his baton in 1950 after leading the Band through the difficult and sometimes anxious years of World War II and its aftermath.

Emil Rada on right

Rada was born in Chicago on August 17, 1887. The Rada family moved to Virginia two years later. Emil began playing clarinet at the age of 7, first studying privately in Virginia and New York City and later at the Brussels Conservatory in Belgium. By 1910 he had attained a high level of proficiency and was performing with community bands in New York City and Washington, D.C. He also appeared as a clarinet soloist with the Washington Symphony Orchestra during 1914-15.

Much of Rada’s musical career before coming to Charlottesville was spent in either Army or Marine Bands. The story goes that as a young Army recruit his fellow recruits didn’t much appreciate his practicing in the barracks, especially while they might be trying to sleep. Quickly sensing that he and his clarinet were not welcome, Rada sought out a more private place to practice. Discovering a secluded cave somewhere on the base, he would retreat to its solitary gloom and dampness, where he practiced his music by lantern light. Eventually, a passing colonel heard the beautiful music coming from the cave and put a stop to Rada’s isolated exile, making sure that from that time forward the young recruit had a proper place to practice.

In 1919 Rada auditioned for and was accepted into the U. S. Marine Band, one of the most famous and talented musical groups in the world. He would serve in that band for 22 years, attaining the post of solo chair and often performing solos with the band. While a member of that band the group performed for five U.S. Presidents and many foreign dignitaries, including King George VI of England and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

Rada recalled often playing concerts on the Capitol steps for many members of Congress, and he got to know then-Senator Harry S. Truman particularly well. The two were in fact on a first-name basis, and when President Truman came to Charlottesville in July 1947 to speak at Monticello, Rada selected music for the Municipal Band to play that he knew were among Truman’s favorite pieces. One of Truman’s Secret Service detail afterwards passed on to Rada the President’s compliments regarding the music, expressing the President’s regrets that scheduling did not allow him to do so in person to his old friend.

The Band, 1950s; Emil Rada in foreground

Fortunately for the Municipal Band, when Rada resigned from the Marine Band he and his wife, Marian, moved to Charlottesville, where he settled into private teaching and was soon invited to be the third Conductor of the Municipal Band. Members of the Band and his students remembered him as being a fine conductor and excellent teacher. Former Municipal Band Music Director James Simmons noted Rada’s vast musical knowledge and called him “a gentleman of the Old School”.

Rada resigned from his position as Music Director of the Municipal Band in June 1950, citing declining health as the reason. He said of his time with the Band that it had been “a great source of pride and satisfaction” for him. He once told an interviewer “I only detest things not played well. Music is food for the mind and soul, just as bread and butter are for the physical part.” Without doubt the musicians of the Municipal Band under Rada’s direction did all they could to play as well as possible for their conductor and mentor, assuring that he would have little, if anything, to detest about their playing. After stepping down as Music Director, Rada was made an Honorary Member of the Municipal Band. He died on March 15, 1961 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.