March 5, 2021

Rich Daniels, conductor, civic leader, composer

I have long wanted to profile Chicago music power house, Rich Daniels and his City Lights Orchestra. I first met him at the Fairmont Hotel when it was in full musical swing. The Moulin Rouge was the hotel’s impressive show room featuring name entertainment like Tony Bennett or Peggy Lee and the occasional touring big band.

I happened to be performing in an elegant room across the Fairmont lobby called the Metropole. There was a wonderful interplay between the two rooms; I would sneak into the Moulin Rouge and catch acts and the show musicians would take their breaks in my room. One evening, I peaked into the show room and saw a guy named Rich Daniels playing the occasional saxophone solo while leading a top notch group of brass, wind, percussion and string instruments known as the City Lights Orchestra. I was mightily impressed.

His City Lights Orchestra has been the “go-to” band in Chicago for accompanying entertainers such as Ray Charles, Mel Torme, Garth Brooks, Rosemary Clooney, Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, Michael Buble and David Foster.

Daniels composed music for the pilot of Emmy-award winning tv show “Boss” starring Kelsey Grammer and has been the music director for the hit Fox tv show, “Empire.” He has also been traveling the country conducting orchestras performing a “Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration.”

His charitable work has been impressive as well. He was the former board chairman of The Mercy Home For Boys and Girls and is current board chairman for the DePaul University School of Music. He also serves on the boards of the Illinois Arts Council and the Chicago Federation of  Musicians. I have included a photo of the City Lights Orchestra performing a tribute to the late Cardinal George.

As a history buff, I also note that Rich Daniels has organized musical programs that feature the words of U. S. Presidents. When does this fellow sleep?

I count myself an admirer and friend of this happily married, father of four who is a remarkable Chicago musical treasure.

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