Ron Della Chiesa's Life In Radio: From Pavarotti To Tony Bennett

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Ron Della Chiesa on the air, past and present. (Ron Della Chiesa/Facebook)
Ron Della Chiesa on the air, past and present. (Ron Della Chiesa/Facebook)

For over five decades, Ron Della Chiesa has been on the radio in Boston, broadcasting Boston Symphony Orchestra performances, interviewing both classical and jazz legends like Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Tony Bennett and Diana Krall as well as doing an all-Sinatra show every weekend.

Now he's written a memoir, "Radio My Way." He tells Here & Now's Robin Young that though he grew up listening to classical broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera and going to jazz concerts in Boston, he had a lot of trouble getting into broadcasting at first, because of his pronounced Boston accent.

Getting Rid Of A Boston Accent

"I got my first tape recorder, and worked on it over and over again," Della Chiesa said. "I realized that I had to really work hard to get rid of it. So that was a major breakthrough for me, finding my voice."

One of Della Chiesa's first interview subjects was opera singer Eileen Farrell, considered one of America's best dramatic sopranos. He remembers feeling intimidated by her.

"I said, 'Miss Farrell, it's wonderful that you're singing at the Met.' She said, 'I'm not singing at the Met anymore, kid,'" Della Chiesa says. "I said, 'Well, what happened?' She says, 'Well, the Met needs me now. I have no intention of going back there, they give me all this junk to sing.'"

Though he recalls that "junk" wasn't quite the word she used.

"She was one feisty lady," he says.

Della Chiesa says he loved being able to talk to his subjects for hours.

From Dizzy Gillespie To Stan Getz

"Dizzy Gillespie was always a treat," he said. "He'd puff up those big cheeks. He was always fun. Stan Getz - I always say if Mozart could play the saxophone it would sound like Stan Getz."

One person Della Chiesa never got around to meeting or interviewing, however, was Frank Sinatra.

"But I feel like I know him," he says. "He changed everything about singing the American Songbook. His phrasing, the way he'd use the best arrangers like Nelson Riddle and Billy May behind him. There was so much joy and exuberance in his voice because I think he knew the depths of tragedy and came back. He's the comeback kid."

Della Chiesa's all-Sinatra show, "Strictly Sinatra," which airs Sundays on WPLM-FM, features five hours of Frank Sinatra, which he feels isn't even enough time.


  • Ron Della Chiesa, radio host

This segment aired on March 21, 2012.


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