June LeBell (M&A ’61), a professional concert soprano who became one of the first women to be hired as a staff announcer and interviewer in the male-dominated realm of commercial classical music radio broadcasting, died on Sunday, April 30, 2017 in Sarasota, Fla. She was 73.
There will be a service in Sarasota on Monday, May 8th, Church of the Palms, at 2pm, which will be streamed live on the internet at churchofthepalms.org A Memorial Service in New York will be held on May 20th sat 3pm at Marble Collegiate Church (1 W. 29th St, New York, NY 10001)
The Music and Art Class of 1961, Alumni & Friends of LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts along with the greater community of musicians, artists, friends and fans of June LeBell can keep her memory alive by contributing online to the June LeBell Memorial Vocal Music Fund or by check to Alumni & Friends of LaGuardia HS (100 Amsterdam Ave. Rm. 853, NY, NY 10023). Please specify June LeBell Vocal Music Award Fund in the check’s memo line.
June Wendie LeBell was born on April 29, 1944, in Manhattan to Irving LeBell, a pediatrician, and the former Harriet Adler, a painter. She graduated from the High School of Music and Art (now Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts) and the Mannes College of Music in New York and attended the Hartt College of Music (now the Hartt School of the University of Hartford).
After performing professionally as a soprano, she was also the host of a lecture series, “The Sound of Broadway,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and compiled a book of recipes from musicians titled “Kitchen Classics From the Philharmonic: A Culinary & Musical Celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the New York Philharmonic” (1992), which was illustrated by Al Hirschfeld.
After the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, a few blocks from where she lived, she retired to Florida, where she hosted a regular public radio program and a series on music at the Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning.
“She changed the face of classical music radio in this country from its former somewhat stodgy and patrician sound and format to a warmer, friendly and more conversational medium,” Mr. Alley said in an email. “The ‘smile in her voice’ was verbal honey for her millions of listeners.”
Ms. LeBell was 29 when she joined WQXR, an FM station then owned by The New York Times Company, becoming what the station described as its first full-time female host and the first woman on the staff of any major commercial classical radio station.
She built on the work of trailblazers like Gertrude Mittelmann, who was hired by WQXR in 1940 to adapt her interpretive “Come Dance Through the Ages” programs for radio.
Her marriage, in 2009, to Mr. Alley, who met Ms. LeBell when he was orchestra manager of the New York Philharmonic, was her first.
In addition to Mr. Alley, she is survived by her sister, Barbara Joseph. Read full obituary here.