Famed conductor Rachael Worby fights for social change through music
By LA Stories Staff Los Angeles
PUBLISHED 5:00 AM PT Jul. 31, 2023
Rachael Worby says she didn’t have much growing up, but one thing her parents always had was a piano. Her parents instilled in her a love of music and the arts from a very young age.
By 8 years old, Worby knew exactly who she wanted to be like when she grew up: conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein.
“He wrote music for Billie Holiday, wrote Broadway musicals and conducted the New York Philharmonic and embraced all American music,” she said. “And he was Jewish. This was my guy.”
In the latest episode of “LA Stories,” Worby shares with host Giselle Fernandez the difficulties she faced in her pursuit of following in her idol’s footsteps.
From the start, many told her that she should not even try to be a conductor because she was a woman. Worby was turned down by many instructors, had an entire trumpet section walk out on her and was once told she would have to bind her breasts and fix her hair up to look more like a man — which she did.
Worby let nothing stand in her way and eventually went on to work at both Carnegie Hall and the Wheeling Symphony in West Virginia before taking over at Pasadena Pops.
“I like calling myself a disruptor,” she said. “I’m just really trying to both open doors and build doors.”
Today, Worby continues to open doors through her foundation, Muse/ique, a performing arts nonprofit formed with the goal of bringing live music experiences to all.
By creating a space for people of all genders, races and socioeconomic status, Worby hopes to make the arts more accessible for everyone.
Each show of hers promotes inclusivity and celebrates the human spirit, often encouraging the audience to participate by dancing or singing along. Worby explores all styles of arts and music and pushes the boundaries between art and civil rights.
“It’s not just another performance of a Mozart symphony. That’s another person’s job,” she said. “That’s not my responsibility. My responsibility is social change through live music.”