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Arts Features

Mary Jo Heath, host of The Metropolitan Opera, announces her retirement


On Saturday, May 8, 2021, Mary Jo Heath informed listeners that she has decided to retire as the Met’s radio host at the end of this season.  Mary Jo began her radio career at WXXI-FM, hosting the Saturday afternoon shift each so she could hear the opera while working on her degree at ESM.

WXXI Classical Program Director reached out to her long-time friend to learn of her plans.  "This year working from home, and not commuting for the first time in 30 years got me thinking," said Heath.  "I wasn't tired all the time from the former 6 day weeks, 50+ hours. I love my job and the Met - I will always cherish that; but I started thinking that maybe it was time to move on while I still have the energy and enough brain cells to do it. After 33 years in music school followed by 33 years in the music biz, I've decided that I'm ready to do other things." 

Credit https://www.rochester.edu/newscenter/eastman-alumni-among-this-years-most-inspiring-commencement-speakers-165892/
Mary Jo Heath '88E (PhD) delivers the 2016 Eastman School of Music commencement address. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

A native of Norman, OK, Heath has a Ph.D. in music theory from the Eastman School of Music and Bachelor and Master’s degrees in music from the University of Oklahoma. In May 2016, Heath was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award of the Eastman School of Music and spoke at the commencement ceremony. Heath encouraged Eastman’s graduates to “get comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable,” and to put themselves “in the path of inspiration.”

After working in the classical music world in various capacities, including a manager at Philips Classics Records, Mary Jo Heath became senior radio producer at the Metropolitan Opera in 2006. She became radio host in 2015 following the death of Margaret Juntwait. She is only the fourth regular host of the broadcasts since they began in 1931. In June, The Met will announce details of their 2021-22 radio broadcast season.

Credit https://www.classical915.org/people/mary-jo-heath
MJ and co-host Ira Siff

Mary Jo has enriched met broadcasts with her deep knowledge of music and broadcasting expertise, while her personal warmth and zest for opera have been hallmarks of every broadcast she has hosted.  "Personally I will miss her," says WXXI Classical PD Ruth Phinney. "Each week when the Met begins, I always say 'Hi MJ' back to her on the radio."

When asked, what's next, Heath replies, "I want to travel (already 2 trips planned), golf, playing more piano, reading, happy hours and generally relax."