Words Of Wisdom From Radio Host John Van Driel

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Photo: Peter Dazeley

To call John Van Driel a classical music fan is an understatement.

Born in Edmonton, Van Driel dedicated his life to listening, broadcasting and promoting every composer, orchestra and solo artist worth knowing in the genre. Thirty-three of his 60 years were spent at the New Classical 96.3 FM—and with signals also in Cobourg, Ont. (103.1 FM) and the Georgian Triangle (102.9 FM)—it is one of the most listened-to classical stations in North America.

“I could have continued at ZoomerMedia [which owns the station] and eventually ride off into the sunset,” admits Van Driel. Instead, he recently took his famed baritone south of the border, becoming chief content officer for the University of Southern California Radio Group in Los Angeles. It’s a major leap when most would be considering retirement. “It was a big decision, but the challenge was too enticing, and I eventually get to ride off into the sunset in California,” says Van Driel, who drove his family from Toronto to L.A. “Besides, an opportunity like this at my age only comes once. If I turned it down, I’d probably always live with the regret. So it’s onward and upward.”

What advice do you wish you’d given your 25-year-old self?
Be willing to take more risks.

What advice would you give your 80-year-old self?
Exercise…meet and make new friends.

What do you know for sure?
Classical music is timeless. It spans centuries of history, emotions and life experiences that will speak to all generations today and tomorrow.

What have you learned?
Follow the Golden Rule and keep discovering new possibilities.

What will you never learn?
Heart transplant surgery and to appreciate the finer points of soccer.

Best piece of advice?
Believe that you are capable of more than you realize or what other people think you are capable of.

Did it work?
Absolutely. I wouldn’t be at this point in my life if it didn’t.

What inspires you?
Selfless moments and gestures of gratitude and empathy.

The moment that changed everything?
When my children were born. Nothing else comes close.

Happiness is…
An evening with friends and family with good food, fine wine and inspired music.

A version of this article appeared in the March 2017 issue with the headline, “Wisdom of the Ages,” p. 96.