A Valentine To Boyce Lancaster

Sep 7, 2019

I've seen the pictures of his adorable grandchildren. I know his wife, the peerless Beverley Ervine, who was music here at Classical 101 for years. He has so many reasons not to want to be here at Classical 101 anymore. I've heard the news, but it's hard to believe that Boyce Lancaster is retiring, this time for good, on Tuesday, September 17.

I was hired at WOSU back in 1991. I was to come in 15 hours per week to shelve cds, and be prepared to go on the air should one of the hosts become unavailable. That happened sooner rather than later, and the results were a kick or catastrophic depending on who you asked. Me? Kick. Everyone else?....

Boyce became my teacher. I sat in with him for two weeks, from 5:30 to 10 a.m. Yup, he went on the air at 5:30 and stayed there for four-and-a half hours, Monday through Friday, winter and summer, spring and fall. There has been no one who so perfectly blends the necessary “get your butt out of bed" with the sublime, “Here's a Mozart symphony. He had to get out of bed to write this."

I listened to Boyce work the mic and realized two things, he loved music without being pedantic about it, and there was no one better to get you happy, motivated, hopeful or engaged early in the morning. Even I had to get in on the “I've been in bed with Boyce" jokes. (So did you!)

Eventually I got the call at 4:30 a.m. one morning to go in for Boyce. Columbus was grounded by an ice storm. I don't know who it was decided that since Boyce couldn't move I would have to. But, when you're the new guy you do what you gotta do.

I had to walk, from Clintonville to the WOSU studios in the Fawcett Center on Ohio State's campus. The roads were impassible. I fell on my—well, I fell down walking down the center of High Street more than once. A cop came by. "Are you okay?" he asked, before driving off. 

I wasn't, but I got there. Never mind the three minute Bach preludes on the playlist. I needed to thaw out. I threw on Scheherazade and 42 minutes later was beginning to thaw.

Boyce had a long and distinguished career in broadcast media long before I met him. One thing that still amazes me--I've seen the man arrive in the studio at 5:29 on a wintry morning, driving impossible roads in the dark, and with hat and coat still on, go on the air live fifty seconds later and hit every mark impeccably. His professionalism could be intimidating. Boyce himself never was.

In fact, this is one guy about whom I've never heard a bad word. I don't think its possible to be less than up and at your best in his company.

We got a reputation, the two of us, as fundraising bad boys. The riffs sometimes went off the rails. The guffaws eclipsed even Brahms (not Mozart) and my, my, my the phones did ring with pledges. Sometimes we'd get lost in the banter. There was one notable morning filled with tales of Ethel Merman and, well, I can't say more. We said everything on air except what we couldn't say and we damned near said that. The phones rang. The pledges came in. We got back to Brahms, Haydn, and Schumann. Everyone lived.

Thank you, Boyce. You shared your love of music. You shared your love...and formidable skills...for communication. You made this old man better, even early in the morning. Someday I hope you fully realize what you mean to people.

Kiss the grandchildren for me, and don't stay away too long.

The Classical 101 hosts will be meeting for coffee at Mozart's on Saturday, September 14 from 9-11am. It's at 4784 N. High St. if you'd like to come have your morning coffee with us and say thanks to Boyce for his years as your morning companion. The folks at Mozart's are Boyce fans, too, so they're making the space available to us...we encourage you to purchase coffee and a pastry while you're there.