Archive for the ‘Obituaries’ Category

Funeral Service and Interment for June Lebell

May 7th, 2017Posted by admin

June LeBell Alley, 73, of Sarasota, FL, formerly of New York, New York, died on April 30, 2017.

Services will be held at 2:00 PM on May 8, 2017 at Church of the Palms, 3224 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, FL.
The event will be livestreamed.

PDF for the Celebration of Life

Interment will be held at 11:00 AM Thursday May 11, 2017 at Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Rd. 72, Sarasota, FL 34241.

Instead of flowers, contributions may be made to Sarasota Orchestra, Sarasota Opera or Tidewell Hospice.


June LeBell, Pioneering Radio Announcer, Dies at 73

May 3rd, 2017Posted by admin

WQXR Archive Collections

Obituary written by Sam Roberts found on

June LeBell, 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 in Sarasota, Fla. She was 73.

The cause was ovarian cancer, her husband, Edward L. Alley, said.

Ms. LeBell produced, wrote and hosted programs on WQXR in New York for nearly three decades beginning in 1973 after she learned from the station manager that he was looking to hire a minority announcer. She recommended a black friend, who tried out for the job and then rejected it.

Ms. LeBell contacted the program manager again and asked, “What do you have against a nice white girl?” she told The Bradenton Herald in Florida in 2012. He replied that she had misunderstood, and that his meaning of minority included women.

“He said, ‘I offered it to you but you turned me down,’ ” Ms. LeBell recalled.

This time, she accepted.

She became a familiar voice on the station, hosting “IBM’s Salute to the Arts” and “Kitchen Classics,” which coupled her favorite subjects, music and food.

“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.

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.

Her marriage, in 2009, to Mr. Alley, who met Ms. LeBell when he was orchestra manager of the New York Philharmonic, was her first. When she was 27, she was engaged to the violinist Michael Rabin, who suffered from a neurological condition and whom she found dead in his apartment at age 35 after he had slipped on his freshly waxed floor and struck his head.

In addition to Mr. Alley, she is survived by her sister, Barbara Joseph.


Remembering June LeBell, the voice of Sarasota’s music community

May 2nd, 2017Posted by admin

Known for her warmth and expertise, the singer, music critic, radio personality and lecturer died Sunday, April 30.


Originally published in The Observer
Date: May 1, 2017
by: Nick Friedman | Managing Editor of Arts and Culture

One didn’t need to meet June LeBell to feel like she was a friend. In fact, many felt a connection to the music writer, radio personality and lecturer through her voice alone.

June LeBell died Sunday, April 30, after a five-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was 73.

For those who knew her —and for many who didn’t — LeBell’s voice is the first thing to come to mind.

For 30 years, it rang out across the airwaves in New York City to greet WQXR’s evening listeners. As the first female announcer on a major commercial classical music radio station, she interviewed some of the biggest names in the arts — composer Aaron Copland, former artistic director of the New York City Ballet George Balanchine — and countless others. She earned 17 awards for her broadcasts, as well as the Florida Broadcasters Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

A graduate of the High School of Music and Art and the Mannes College of Music in New York City, and the Hartt College of Music in Connecticut, she lent her voice to both creating music and sharing her love for the art. In addition to being a radio host, she was also a professional concert singer, as well as a lecturer, leading her long-running Metropolitan Museum of Art series, “The Sound of Broadway” and Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning’s Musical Conversations.

No matter the outlet, she loved connecting musicians and music lovers.

“Through those live interviews and performances, thousands of people got to know her,” says Joseph Holt, artistic director of Choral Artists of Sarasota, who shared hosting duties at Musical Conversations’ Venice sessions. “In the same way you see actors onscreen and they resonate with you, watching June, you felt like friends. A lot of people felt very close to her — not only through her experience on the radio in New York City, but also down here. You could look up at a room of 800 to 1,000 people, and all of them feel like they’re best friends with the commentator. She had a unique gift for making that happen.”

Following 9/11, LeBell left New York City and moved to Sarasota, where she wrote for The Observer as music critic. Observer Group Vice President Lisa Walsh recalls the first time they spoke.

“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.”

LeBell wrote weekly music reviews and other columns for The Observer, where she fostered the growth of local musicians with both a critical ear and gracious writing. She especially loved opera.

Richard Russell, executive director of the Sarasota Opera, first met LeBell in 2005, when she was directing the performing arts center at The Glenridge and he was starting a position as the opera’s marketing director.

As he reached out to Sarasota’s journalists, LeBell was one of the first on his list.

“I had known June’s voice for many years,” says Russell. “I grew up in the New York City area, listening to WQXR, so I was familiar with her voice, and I was excited to meet her in person after having listened to her for so long. For someone with such an incredible career and so much knowledge and experience, she was such a warm person. She made me feel so welcome, like I was talking to an old friend. I had scheduled an hour for our lunch, but we stayed and talked for much longer. Anyone who went to one of her SILL lectures recognized her warmth. I hope she’s remembered for that.”

LeBell went on hospice care Tuesday, April 24, updating friends and family on Facebook.

“We called in hospice. They’re coming to us, and they seem wonderful. Bringing a hospital bed today. They’re here for both life and transition. It’s time. I’ll try to stay in touch and update you as much as I can. You’ve all been great supporters and the love and prayers have helped tremendously. I can’t thank you enough! I’m hanging around a bit. Maybe. Not scared. Very calm and at peace. Love you!”

LeBell’s husband Edward Alley says her sparkling personality — and trademark grace — shone through until the end.

“June was a truly remarkable human being,” he wrote online in a statement Sunday. “Talented, loving and gifted beyond belief in so many ways. We will all miss her very much. Yesterday was her 73rd birthday, and tomorrow is our eighth wedding anniversary. Elegant timing as always. My thoughts go out to all of you who will also miss her so very much.”

Alley says a funeral service and reception will be announced soon in Sarasota and a memorial service and reception will be held at Marble Collegiate church in New York City. In lieu of flowers, contributions should be made to Tidewell Hospice, Sarasota Orchestra or Sarasota Opera.


June LeBell, a pioneering classical music radio host and interviewer, dies at 73

May 2nd, 2017Posted by admin

Herald-Tribune photo/ Thomas Bender

June LeBell with Marvin Hamlisch

June LeBell with Marvin Hamlisch

June LeBell with Jacques d'Amboise

June LeBell with Jacques d’Amboise

Article from

SARASOTA — Even in “retirement” in Sarasota, June LeBell never stepped far away from a microphone.

After an early start as a professional singer, she turned her love for classical music into a groundbreaking career on WQXR in New York, where she became the first female announcer for a commercial classical music station in the country. And she carried on as the host of lecture series and radio shows and as an arts leader after she moved to Sarasota in 2002.

Before her death Sunday after a long battle with ovarian cancer, LeBell built up a popular conversation series, “Music Mondays,” for the Sarasota Institute for Lifetime Learning that outgrew its longtime home in Holley Hall, and regularly attracted more than 900 people each week after moving to Church of the Palms. She wrote music reviews for The Observer newspaper group, and hosted “June LeBell’s Musical Conversation” for two years on the classical radio station WSMR.

“She had a way of burrowing into a community,” said her husband, Edward 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.”

LeBell’s passing came one day after her 73rd birthday and a day before the couple’s eighth wedding anniversary.

A graduate of the High School of Music and Art in New York and the Hartt College of Music, LeBell was offered a job at WQXR, the classical station owned for many years by The New York Times, in 1972.

“I thought I can use everything I’ve ever learned about the voice and classical music and languages and make money at it, and really have a career,” she told the Herald-Tribune in 2014.

During her nearly 30 years there, she interviewed thousands of artists, celebrities and politicians, from Beverly Sills and Luciano Pavarotti to Rudolph Giuliani, Jacques d’Amboise and Marvin Hamlisch. She even got many of them to share recipes for her 1992 book “Kitchen Classics from the Philharmonic.”

She also brought an intense curiosity and personality to her work.

“She was such a sparkling character. She had such a great love of life and a love of people and music and art in general,” said Joseph Holt, who became artistic director of Gloria Musicae in 2008 while LeBell was serving as executive director.

The 9/11 attacks triggered her move to Sarasota. She recalled being thrown from her bed by the force of the planes slamming into World Trade Center just a few blocks from her Manhattan apartment. She was forced out of her home for more than three months and decided it was time to leave the city.

Her retirement was brief. Not long after arriving in Sarasota, she became the programming director at the Glenridge retirement center and sang with Gloria Musicae. She also served on the boards of directors of numerous organizations.

Making time for friends

Despite a busy schedule, she also made time for friends.

“She never seemed to give less than 1,000 percent to everything she did, whether a friendship, a lecture, or a review or a dinner party,” said Joan Golub, a close friend. “She was fiercely loyal in her friendships as she was in her determination to live her life to the fullest. And she never quit until she no longer had the energy to do it and that’s just been in the last couple of weeks. She was the kind of friend that you knew if you needed her, she was there, and those friendships are hard to come by.”

D’Amboise — the former New York City Ballet star, a decade her senior — first came to know LeBell when she was a child. Her father, Irving LeBell, was pediatrician for the dancer’s children and frequently asked his daughter to perform during social gatherings in their home.

“Irving and his wife, Harriette, swelled and pulsated with pride every time they spoke of June,” d’Amboise recalled in an email. “She was not yet a teenager, but she already had the stage presence and aplomb of an opera star. Music was always center to their family and music was the sea that June felt most comfortable in.”

D’Amboise was among the many celebrities who appeared in LeBell’s lecture programs.

Alley and LeBell reconnected not long after he moved to Sarasota with his wife, the singer Nancy Williams. A few years after Williams’ death, he had his first date with LeBell at a party on the stage of the Sarasota Opera House.

“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.”

Alley said LeBell believed “that the more you give, the more you get. Her legacy is the good will and love that she gave to so many people and that was returned I think.” Her Facebook page has been filled with hundreds of tributes since news of her death was posted there Sunday evening.

She inspired many in recent years with her open and frank Facebook postings about the ups and downs of her cancer treatments, through a long period of remission to a reoccurrance within the last six months.

Last week, she sent a note to friends that her chemotherapy treatments were no longer working and that Hospice had been called to her Sarasota home.

“I’ve been very blessed and lucky through all this. I was able to work through 10 of 12 SILL lectures and write reviews most of the winter season,” she wrote. “But this is no quality of life.” She had already completed planning for another season of SILL lectures, Alley said.

In addition to Alley, she is survived by an older sister, Barbara of Simi Valley, two nephews, Andrew and Robin Joseph, a cousin Paige Farr of Sarasota, and many other cousins and her beloved toy poodle, Rosy.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. May 8 at Church of the Palms, 3224 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. Instead of flowers, contributions may be made to Sarasota Orchestra, Sarasota Opera or Tidewell Hospice.

Staff writer Carrie Seidman contributed to this report.