Announcer, Producer, Chef, Writer
The Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club’s Speaker Series Fundraiser Luncheon, “From Opera Stage to Microphone” was held on Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in the Fete Ballroom at the Polo Grill with June LeBell, award winning broadcaster, music critic, singer, author and chef as the featured speaker.
June LeBell , who has just been honored by the Broadcasters Club of Florida with their Lifetime Achievement Award and currently hosts her own series, “June LeBell’s Musical Conversations,” on Public Radio’s WSMR, shared highlights of her exciting and multi-faceted career. With pathos and humor, she provided an up close and personal look at her fascinating life.
Her musical talent started early and she was singing by the age of two. As her passion for classical music blossomed, June honed her skills by attending the High School of Music and Art, the Mannes College of Music in New York City and the Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut, and was a private student of Adele Addison. So it is not surprising that June’s initial career was as a professional concert singer.
A woman of many talents, June expanded her horizons and became a trailblazer in the broadcasting field when she was hired in 1973 by WQXR in New York City as the first female announcer on a major commercial classical music radio station in the U.S. June revealed that when she became an announcer she could sing in 13 languages and years later she could sing in 18 languages. She candidly admitted, however, that while she has great pronunciation, she does not claim to have amazing multi-lingual skills.
June remained at WQXR, the nation’s largest and oldest commercial classical music radio station, for almost 30 years. Desiring to be more than an announcer, she started to produce, write and host. She earned more than 18 major awards for outstanding broadcasts, and for hosting, writing and producing special programs with such sponsors as IBM, ITT, Tourneau, restaurants, and various airlines (including American Airlines, Finnair and Air Force One).
June worked 12 to 14 hours a day and considered herself ‘lazy’ because it came easy to her. In that time, she also interviewed hundreds of musical celebrities, had articles published in Opera News, Gourmet, Stagebill, The New York Times and wrote acclaimed cookbook entitled “Kitchen Classics from the Philharmonic,” published by Doubleday that sold out early in the first year it was published..
Classical Music Cookbook
The ladies were particularly fascinated with the wonderful personal stories that June shared about the creation of her classical music-themed cookbook. June’s unique book, with 50 great illustrations by Al Hirschfeld, includes 150 terrific recipes from people affiliated with the NY Philharmonic in its first 150 years (from Toscanini to Pavarotti), short, pithy text about how these great performers ate before, during and after a concert, their favorite restaurants and, just for fun, music to listen to (complete with record or CD number) while preparing or eating the delectable dish. She also warned us that some of these are really bad puns – – a chopped chicken liver recipe is set to music by Frederic CHOPPIN – – played by Emanuel Ax…). The recipes were given to June by classical music celebrities on her daily cooking show on WQXR in New York City. They were each tested and tasted for quality, ease of preparation and proper measurements and she assured us there are absolutely no ‘poisonous recipes in this excellent cookbook.
A popular lecturer, she hosted her long-running series, “The Sound of Broadway,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as speaking engagements in a variety of venues in New York City (Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum, Kosciuszko Foundation, etc.) and in Sarasota, including her Musical Conversations at SILL’s popular (and sold-out) Music Mondays.
June’s talks about opera go beyond the plot with insights into the music, staging, composers and performers. She also presents pre-performance lectures for the Santa Fe Opera and the Perlman Program in Sarasota, and other appearances in important venues around the country. June currently writes for the Observer Group, where she is the Music Critic and a contributing columnist.
On June 8, 2009, June LeBell married the love of her life, Edward Alley (a conductor and arts administrator). June and Edward enjoy living in Sarasota because it is a cultural treasure that rivals NYC with the added benefit of year round sunshine and great beaches. June and Edward also collaborate on Musical Conversations,” a series that they co-produce on Public Radio’s Classical WSMR, 89.1 and 103.9 in Sarasota and Tampa, Florida. This popular one hour series, heard twice a week, is written and hosted by June and features noted international musicians from Marilyn Horne to Leonard Slatkin.
June also revealed that she is a strong supporter of philanthropy and has personally sponsored Fundraisers for NY Philharmonic, Joy in Singing, LaGuardia High School of Music and the Arts, Berkshire Choral Festival, New York Chamber Symphony, Gloria Musicae, Florida West Coast Children’s Chorus. She told the audience that she was delighted to be speaking at a fundraiser for charities that do so much for our Sarasota Manatee community. Encouraging generosity in giving, she profoundly said, ‘don’t give until it hurts; give until it feels good!”
Prior to the luncheon, the attendees had the opportunity to purchase silent auction items including a plane trip to Key West, a boat tour of local waters by Reelin & Chillin, several orchestra packages donated by the Sarasota Concert Association and a gold and diamond necklace donated by Vanessa Fine Jewelry. Split-the-pot tickets yielded four $100 prizes. All proceeds raised will help fund the critical needs of the WC’s three 501(C)(3) adopted charities (HOPE, SOLVE & SMART.)
LWRWC President, Shirley Taradash and Recording Secretary, Janet Stickel were co-chairs of the event.