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Reuben Lillie

Award-winning baritone who strives to be average guy to sing Chicago premiere at Orchestra Hall on Oct. 30

Posted: 10/24/2012
Roosevelt University graduate voice performance student Reuben Lillie always strives to be a regular kind of guy, which is why he readily agreed earlier this year to tell his story about craving sliders to the marketing team at White Castle Hamburgers.

Lillie’s story, including his downing 13 sliders for the first time at his bachelor’s party at a White Castle in 2011 and the many cheap dates he has had with his newlywed wife at White Castle ever since, recently won him the honor of being inducted into the White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame in Columbus, Ohio. Nearly 8,000 people have applied for Hall of Fame status since 2001, according to White Castle’s website. Approximately 80 have been inducted thus far.

“It puts a smile on peoples’ faces.  It makes me feel like an average guy and I like that,” said Lillie, who will take an all-expenses paid trip to Columbus for the induction ceremony into the White Castle Hall of Fame on Oct. 25.

Lillie, 25, a resident of Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood and a native of Greenville, Pa., is anything but average.  A spectacular baritone who will receive his Master’s degree in Music from Roosevelt in May 2013, Lillie is the winner of Roosevelt’s Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) solo competition contest.  Although still a student, Lillie is already a member of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, which recently performed at Carnegie Hall.  He also has been accepted into the prestigious Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Singers Program, one of only 43 singers selected from more than 1,200 applicants.  On Oct. 30, the singer will be giving the solo performance of his life, performing the Chicago premiere of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center.

“He has an easy baritone sound with a lot of flexibility,” said David Holloway, head of the voice program at CCPA and Lillie’s personal instructor. “He can go both low and high easily and beautifully.”

Lillie is the first to tell you there is no real connection between his love for White Castle and his singing.

“My love for White Castle has more to do with my marriage, my wife and my friends,” said Lillie, who is being inducted into the White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame based on his story of waiting to try a slider until his friends, many of them from Pennsylvania, were there with him at his bachelor’s party – an occasion that was 10 years in the making.  After that, his love for sliders grew, as he and his wife attended a family birthday party for 30 at White Castle. In addition, Lillie and his wife, in an attempt to save money, frequently have spent evenings out at White Castle, including the night they moved into their new apartment, on an anniversary, on the day after Christmas and on New Year’s Eve.“It’s been a fun part of my life and part of my journey,” said Lillie of his White Castle story.


Lillie will perform Songs of Travel, which is based on poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson, with the CCPA Orchestra.  The Symphony Center concert will be conducted by Sarah Ioannides, who has conducted both nationally and internationally. Formerly assistant conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Ioannides currently is music director of the Spartanburg Philharmonic.

 “One of my main goals as a performer is to show my audience that I’m a real person, and not just a pretty voice on a stage,” said Lillie, who has been interested in Songs of Travel, which draws on the 19th Century idea of the wanderer or vagabond who travels about for a long period of time in solitude.

While Lillie learned some of the songs in the piece in high school and as a college undergraduate, he mastered the entire cycle of nine songs while at Roosevelt – and began to think about the possibility of performing the songs along with orchestra.  Although they have been performed many times in a version for voice and piano, the orchestral version has not been done before in Chicago.

“Just as White Castle is part of my journey, so, too, is the Songs of Travel. Singing this cycle of songs with orchestra in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center will be the pinnacle in a career that I hope to continue building upon,” Lillie said.

The CCPA Orchestra under Ioannides also will perform Gabriel Fauré’s Pavane , Claude Debussy’s La Mer and Benjamin Britten’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell.  The concert is free and open to the public.  For information, contact the CCPA Performance Activities Office at 312-341-2352.