Alumni News

Bennington Stories: Martha Siegel ’72

The supportive and inspiring start Martha Siegel ’72 received at Bennington has propelled her through a long and satisfying career as a cellist and teacher.

Image of woman playing cello

Bennington Stories is a series of first-person messages that share voices from throughout the unique and multifaceted Bennington community.

Support and Inspiration: What Bennington Offered a Beginning Musician and Teacher 

I arrived at Bennington College in September 1968. I’m the third member of my family to attend. My sister Loren Siegel graduated in 1966. My sister Ellie Siegel was supposed to graduate in 1969, but tragically, she died in a car accident on April 7, 1969, just two months before her graduation. She was a music major, violinist, and we shared so much as sisters and musicians. 

I was a music major studying cello with George Finckel and later with Barbara Stein Mallow.  I loved lessons and all music classes with Vivian Fine, Lou Calabro, Jack Glick, and others. And I loved participating in community musical events in the greater Bennington community!

After Ellie died, the music department felt like a family cradling me in its arms. The love and support I received from the faculty and fellow music students sustained and comforted me for the duration of my stay there. I lived in Noyes House the whole time, and that community also supported me. I am very grateful for that.

My Field Work Terms, then known as Non-Resident Terms, were extremely helpful in shaping who I became and who I am now. Through all of the jobs and projects I did during my four years,I found out that I love teaching, playing cello, and coaching chamber music. 

For my Senior Recital on May 10, 1972, I had written a cantata called “Rally,” a musical setting of an anti-Vietnam war rally. Vivian Fine conducted it, and I played cello along with many of my music classmates. It was an extremely gratifying experience. It gave me an opportunity to express my horror of what was going on in the name of our country on the other side of the world.

When I was getting ready to graduate, I approached all of my musical mentors and asked them what they thought I should do after graduating. Jack Glick took my query very seriously. One of his suggestions was to go to Paris to study with the great cellist and cello teacher André Navarra. I took him up on this suggestion, and along with classmate Wissie (Priscilla) Hayes, traveled to Paris. We also studied composition with Betsy Jolas (a French-American Bennington graduate). It was a great year!

When I returned to New York City in the summer of 1973, I landed a job teaching cello at the United Nations International School. I am proud to say that this is my fiftieth year at the school. I also have been teaching cello and chamber music in my home studio in addition to organizing many community musical events in my neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn. So, my Bennington years are still alive and well in my heart! Thank you, Bennington!