New York, NY (September 20, 2021)—The Metropolitan Opera announced today that it has appointed Debra Lew Harder as the new host of its radio broadcasts, the longest-running classical music program in American radio history, which began 90 years ago in 1931. Only the fifth person to serve in this capacity, Ms. Lew Harder follows in the footsteps of former legendary voices of the Met, Milton Cross (1931–1975), Peter Allen (1975-2004), Margaret Juntwait (2004–2015), and, most recently, Mary Jo Heath (2016–2021).
Ms. Lew Harder comes to the Met from WRTI, the classical music and jazz public radio station in Philadelphia. At the Met, her responsibilities will include hosting the Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera Saturday Matinee Radio Broadcasts that air from December through June, and the twice-weekly broadcasts on Met Opera Radio on SiriusXM Channel 355 throughout the season. Ms. Lew Harder’s duties will begin with the September 27 SiriusXM broadcast of Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones, marking the opening of the Met’s 2021–22 season.
“With a rich background as a host, interviewer, and performer, Debra is a perfect fit for the Met,” said Met General Manager Peter Gelb.
“I’ve loved opera since I was a little girl at the piano, accompanying my tenor dad in his favorite songs and arias,” said Ms. Lew Harder. “Now, to be part of the incredible team that brings the greatest opera house in the world to the world, is a dream come true. I’m imagining someone else’s dad or mom, sister, brother, or friend—perhaps halfway around the world, perhaps unable to leave their house, perhaps without a cent to spend on anything but the necessities. Suddenly, they turn on the radio, and because of the Met broadcasts, they are transported by the power, beauty, and genius of opera. This is what can elevate a life, and a community. Connecting with that person—this is what I’m so honored to have been asked to do.”
Ms. Lew Harder joined the on-air staff of WRTI in 2016. She hosted and produced a range of programming across WRTI on-air and digital platforms, such as Midday Classics and Saturday Morning Classical Coffeehouse, in addition to serving as an artist interviewer for the Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts. She is a concert pianist who has performed with orchestras and in recitals, including at Wigmore Hall in London, the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series in Chicago, and Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. She has also recorded two solo piano albums.
Ms. Lew Harder holds Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Medicine degrees from Kent State University and Northeast Ohio Medical University. She practiced as an emergency room physician before earning a second doctorate in music from the Ohio State University, where she studied piano with the American virtuoso Earl Wild.
Ms. Lew Harder served on the applied music faculty of Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges, and she is the co-director of Medicine + Music, a co-curricular program at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University that works closely with medical students through coachings, rehearsals, workshops, and performance opportunities to enhance their happiness and development as physicians.