Remembering June LeBell, a Pioneer of Classical Music Radio

She graced the airwaves of New York's WQXR from 1972 to 2002.

When June LeBell, the first female announcer hired by a U.S. commercial classical music station, passed away Sunday, April 30 after a valiant battle with ovarian cancer, her husband Edward Alley poetically framed the event on Facebook at one point as, ‘Elegant timing as always.’ That’s because April 29 was her 73rd birthday and May 1 would have been her eighth wedding anniversary with Alley.

WQXR

LeBell, for many years a fixture at New York classical radio station WQXR, moved to Sarasota, Fl. shortly after 9/11. She lived at the time three blocks from the World Trade Center. In an article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Alley had more warm thoughts, about both her professional and personal legacies:

“She had a way of burrowing into a community,” said Alley, who first met LeBell in the early 1980s during a radiothon fundraiser for the New York Philharmonic, where he was the manager. “She did so much for so many. She changed the complexion of classical music radio from being stodgy to being friendly and open and warm.” …

“June and I were blessed with eight years of what everybody hopes to have,” Alley said. “In every sort of way, it was an absolutely wonderful relationship. We were best friends. We had a wonderful time working together. It was almost a fairy tale romance. We just loved being together.”

In a piece published by The Observer Media Group, the company’s vice president Lisa Walsh recalls how LeBell pitched herself to the area newspaper chain once she had settled in Florida:

“She called me out of the blue and said she wanted to write reviews for The Observer,” says Walsh. “Of course, I knew who she was; I was taken back at first. She had such a beautiful voice–as smooth as velvet. She had me at hello. She brought such a wealth of knowledge, which along with her great personality, added so much to our artistic community.”

Among the many other things LeBell did in Sarasota was host a radio program on WSMR, June LeBell’s Musical Conversations, and host the annual weekly January-March live conversation series “Music Mondays.” A funeral will be held May 8 at the Church of the Palms in Sarasota and a future memorial service and reception are planned in New York at the Marble Collegiate Church. #RIP