(Robert) Bruce Chase was born on March 22, 1912 in Muscatine, Iowa.
The son of a violinist and piano teacher, he began to play violin at an
young age and was performing concerts locally by his early teens.
Following his graduation from high school, he found that work for string
players was scarce and began to play with dance bands, mostly as a
pianist. The bands needed to have their music arranged to suit
their instrumentation, and he took up this role as well and was able to
churn out numerous arrangements very quickly.
Chase's first widely recognized arrangement was of "I've Got Rhythm,"
which he created in 1939 for a Pops concert played by the Kansas
Philharmonic while he was a member of the violin section. With
this success, he then went to NBC Radio in Chicago and was initially
hired as a part-time violinist and music arranger. Soon after, he was
employed full-time as a staff musician, arranger and conductor and
worked for popular shows that included the Red Skelton Show, Fibber
McGee and Molly, and The Carnation Contented Hour. During World
War II he was stationed in the Great Lakes Naval Training Station for
two years, where, as chief arranger, he continued to write music
arrangements and conduct.
his service concluded, he worked for ABC (formerly the "Blue" or radio
division of NBC). From 1949 to 1955 he was the staff arranger and
conductor of the children's television show "Super Circus," and he
worked for other ABC children's shows that included "The Land of Ziggy
Zoggo." Chase was the staff arranger and conductor for the nationally
broadcast radio show "Don McNeill's Breakfast Club" from 1965 until it
went off the air in 1968.
to the influences of television and tape, the nature of live radio
programs changed and live music - on the scale of having a band or an
orchestra - became obsolete. Chase relocated with his family to
Connecticut and turned to making educational music albums published by
Chappell and Company for use in primary and secondary schools.
These included original music as well as arrangements of other tunes and
are still in use worldwide, mostly through the Hal Leonard catalog.
1972 he resumed playing the violin and auditioned for the second violin
section of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, which additionally
recognized his talents for music arrangements and hired him. He
remained as a member of the orchestra until he was well into his
seventies, and frequently conducted the orchestra in its performances of
his arrangements on its Pops concerts. In 1999 - after Chase had
retired and moved back to Connecticut - the Milwaukee Symphony played an
historic concert in Cuba and performed his "St. Louis Samba" as an
encore that brought down the house.
was active making music arrangements until about 1992. Among his most
popular are the medleys "Broadway Tonight," "Around the World at Christmas Time," "A Salute
to Ethel Merman," "Symphonic Reflections" (on music by Andrew Lloyd
Webber) and "Camptown Races."
Chase was married to violinist and teacher Fannie (Paschell) Chase
the father of four daughters with her, including violinist Stephanie
Chase. He had two additional children from a previous marriage. He
passed away from colon cancer on June 29, 2001 at a hospice in Branford,
was a direct descendent of Aquila Chase, a Massachusetts Bay colonist
and cofounder of Newbury, Massachusetts. Among his relatives are Salmon
Portland Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury under Abraham Lincoln and,
later, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and for whom Chase Bank is