Born in Iowa City, Iowa, Rachel Goldstein began violin studies at the age of five. At 16, she entered the music school of the State University of New York at Purchase, but switched her major to geology midway through her degree. After six months, she resumed studies in music, which was a loss for the field of geology but a win for the music world. Goldstein graduated from Purchase at the age of 19 and went on to earn a master’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Her teachers included Felix Galimir and Isadore Tinkleman. Before joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1989, she was a member of the Sacramento Symphony (now Sacramento Philharmonic) for two years.
Rachel Goldstein is married to CSO bass Stephen Lester. Her hobbies include wildlife photography and knitting.