UNITED STATES—They are a breed apart. Certainly the classical DJ cannot be made but is born, the mixture of low-key charm and effortless erudition. No wonder bad-boy actor Alec Baldwin said he wished to be reincarnated as a classical DJ. The classical DJ has an inexhaustible store of good cheer and a steady supply of musical anecdotes. Most admirable is their store of goodwill and cheer, they have on tap every day. Off-stage: who knows. The point is I am utterly in awe of what they do and their success at burying the unbearable nastiness of life.
Classical DJs are not quite mortal. As the purveyors of a never-ending supply of even keel and benign emotion, I wonder indeed how they got that way: they seem to have no smirch of marital friction, their lives are one ongoing round of cruise ships, when they aren’t attending classes to steep them in nuggets about the lives of Rachmaninoff and the son of Bach who was a terrible executor and drunkard, who lost hundreds of his father, Johann Sebastian’s compositions. I am sure there was a dog in it somewhere, too; the dog must have munched an entire opus or two.
We get to hear about the vicissitudes of Peter Illych Tchaikovski, who perhaps was no greater a mal vivant than many of the greatest composers, but there was a keenness in what he said, so he will live on as the grief-stricken whiner of the insight into the slings and arrows of being human, but simply had the ability to express is better than anyone else. And there was always Beethoven, always Beethoven demanding his 61-bean-espesso at the Vienna Starbucks. The the waitress I interviewed, esoteric soul that she is, declared that she has found greater character in truckdrivers and that Beethoven was a terrible tipper.
Be that as it may, the local classical station, the one that makes the agonizing choice of living in Southern California seem rational, is honoring the classical DJ, Jim Svejda, on his stellar 40-year career in the Los Angeles airwaves. The poignance is that Mr. Svejda has been a part of our family since the early 2000s, since my daughter and I first heard his nightly broadcast and on the basis of his vocal qualities –reedy and resonant– built the picture of an elderly, restrained, and explosively witty gentleman, perhaps in his seventies. So this compelling delusion, thanks to the magic of radio, lends the status of miracle to his longevity on the airwaves. (Whatever you do, you cannot deny the power of imaginative ears over the petty facts that Jim and a much younger and more solidly built soul, Chekloslovakian stock).
So it it is with some trepidation and pang of separation anxiety that said station honors said DJ and credits him for generating the renaissance of Classical Music in our region. Furthermore, he had the vision, to hang on and be the lone person at the station still playing classical tracks and Deutschegramophone when, briefly, in the seventies the station briefly adopted an all-disco format. (This may not be exactly true, but the deadline looms; and to paraphrase the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, “It doesn’t matter whether an idea is true, but is it funny.”)
The witty, stalwart Svejda stick to the rich trove of Classical, music. He continues to curate it nightly from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight, ending always on note as fresh as the opening teasers. This kind of resiliency one cannot but envy as we grimly face the troughs and valleys of making it through the day. So we honor the classical DJ par excellence, Jim Svejda.
He’s still the youngest guy in the broadcast booth. Long may he reign.
Grady Miller is, well, Grady Miller. His comedy cavalcade compiliations, “Later Bloomer” and “Later Bloomer” are available on Amazon.