In Memorium: James A. Rago

 James A. Rago, 79, passed away on October 13, 2022. Jim was born in New York and grew up in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. He moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 1967 having been recruited by Jorge Mester, then conductor of the Louisville Orchestra. Jim performed as Principal Timpanist for the orchestra from 1967 – 2022. He was the longest-tenured current member of the Orchestra, having performed for 55 years.

Jim graduated from Lyndhurst High School, New Jersey, and entered The Juilliard School of Music in 1961, graduating with a master’s degree in 1967. He studied percussion under the acclaimed Saul Goodman, who revolutionized the design of the timpani and the art of playing, and Anthony Cirone, past Principal Percussionist with the San Francisco Symphony, who, as a high school friend, inspired him to apply to Juilliard. Jim performed at the Aspen Music Festival for many years. He was a consummate professional with exceptional musicianship, who taught a generation of students as a professor of music at the University of Louisville for 30 years. He especially enjoyed jazz and the big band sound, but classical music was his passion.

Jim loved life. To his family and friends, “Jimmy” was a smart and funny man who always taught you something. Jim was a loving husband, father and “Papa”. He loved the Yankees, watching boxing (especially Muhammed Ali), and cooking Italian dinners. He learned to make authentic Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs from his mother!

He loved being at home with his family. He said that outside the orchestra, life was all about family. He enjoyed each of his children and grandchildren and all the birthdays, holidays, ball games, and graduations that raising a big family entails. He also dabbled in oil painting and singing with the church choir. His philosophy of life was to be patient, work hard and you will find your place.

Jim’s life of giving musical gifts to the Louisville community will be greatly missed. He is preceded in passing by his parents, James Rago, Sr. and Helen Puntilillo Rago. He is survived by his loving wife of 29 years Cheryl Rago, his children Angela Gordon (Ron), Susan Epps (J.R.), Carole Jenkins (David), Jeff Maddox (Patti) and Amy Stewart (Tony.) He is also proud of his grandchildren Austin and Alyssa Gordon, William and Jenna French, Frederick and Vincent Jenkins, Beatty Duncan (Autumn), Cooper Duncan, Parker, Gunnar, and J.D. Maddox. He is also survived by his sisters Helen Lang (Billy) and Linda Oatis (Rick). The family requests memorial gifts be made to The Louisville Orchestra at https://louisvilleorchestra.org/support/online-donation/.