news item appears on the WAMC Northeast Public Radio website (www.wamc.org).
It is reproduced here without permission.)
Alan Chartock: Thank You, Robert J.
There is a feeling of tremendous nostalgia at
as Robert J. Lurtsema leaves our air after nearly thirty wonderful years
at his perch. As anyone with an extended institutional memory knows, Robert
J. has enjoyed some wonderful victories and suffered some disheartening
setbacks during his many years on the radio.
For me, Robert J. has become a member of the family, having stayed at
our Great Barrington home many times. Anyone who has followed the career
of this great man knows that he is passionately devoted to classical music.
When you put him up against anyone else out there, his character and devotion
comes shining through. He has always had the courage to be himself.
At a time when the state of classical music is so precarious in America,
Robert J. has been out there taking no prisoners and refusing to compromise
his integrity. His style is distinctive and his delivery is recognized
by most of us. When program directors were putting out secret lists of
musical no-no's, based on listener surveys and the like, Lurtsema was defying
the bosses and the odds. When dicta like "No vocal music before ten in
the morning," rolled off the official typewriters, Robert was telling his
colleagues to be brave and to do what was right. He led by example, encouraging
all of us to try something new that we'd never heard before.
I'll never forget the morning I was at home in Great Barrington and
people were calling to complain about some sitar music they believed had
been going on for far too long. Ditto the time that he played what sounded
like a full opera. This flew in the face of all those classical DJ's who
sound exactly the same and who followed the rules of shorter and shorter
pieces that one could cook eggs and cut carrots by.
Then there were those wonderful interviews that none of us can forget:
the ones with Yo-Yo Ma or Seiji Ozawa or Arlo Guthrie or just about any
musical genius you can name. And yeah, the people who didn't like Robert
J.'s style would call up the fund drive and make jokes about the long pauses
or some of the foreign pronunciations.
It is no secret that Robert believes in himself. That's what made him
so good at his job. It is also why, when WNYC in New York dropped
him and Vermont Public Radio dropped him, and Connecticut Public
Radio dropped him, and Maine Public Radio dropped him, Robert
felt particularly disappointed and made no secret about it. But in each
of those cases, and despite the fact that huge numbers of our listeners
wanted NPR's Weekend Edition played early in the morning when the
rest of the nation heard it, we stayed with Robert J. "May he live a thousand
years, nay, ten thousand years," I would intone. Stay with him we did,
until he began to disappear
from the air for long stretches of time.
Well, you've heard him, you know that he's had problems with his health.
It's time to do what so many of our listeners have been asking for us to
do — to let him get on with his remarkable life and to let us get on with
With our new schedule, we have not lost an hour of classical music.
Edition will be on when people want it and Robert J. will ride out
a hero with his boots on, remembered with fondness by so many of us for
all the good he's done for us. We'll never forget all the good programming
and all the good teaching that he's done. We are much in his debt.
©2000 by WAMC Northeast Public Radio, Inc.
Reproduced here without permission.