The Development of
by Lois Siegel
1925 - May 21, 2007)
Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Canada
Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, France
The Ottawa Citizen
Calvin Sieb was born in Newark, New Jersey. He attended
the Meadowmount School of Music and the Juilliard Graduate
School of Music. His teachers included Jacques Thibaud,
Ivan Galamian, Joseph Gingold and Nadya Boulanger.
Sieb was named Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres
by the Ministre de la Culture de la France (1989).
He was concertmaster for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra
1959-1979. The next 10 years, he was concertmaster for the
Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, France. He was
Professor of Violin, Viola, Chamber Music and Orchestra
Coaching at the University of Ottawa 1989-2001 and
taught at the Conservatoire de Music de Gatineau, Quebec.
As a soloist, Calvin Sieb performed with many eminent
conductors, including Charles Dutoit, Franz-Paul Decker,
Kyril Kondrashin, Zubin Mehta, Walter Susskind, Charles
Munch, Wilfrid Pelletier, and Pinchas Zuckerman.
The Early Years
Calvin with his parents
Augusta Adelaide Cyphers, (b. 1900, Newark, New Jersey)
was very musical and played the piano. Although evidently
talented, her family had limited means and aspirations and
could only give her the basics in music education. The family
was middle class, and in 1915, when she started piano lessons,
there was no thought of her becoming a professional. She
quickly learned the popular songs of the day and was always
called upon to play them for parties and to play the most
popular Protestant hymns at church gatherings.
Calvin's mother 1917
vivacious and was probably a bit of a flirt. Surprisingly
enough, of all the ‘wild’ boys that ran after her, the one
she ended up marrying was one of the “squarest,”
church going, ‘good’ and ‘righteous’ men: Robert George
Sieb, (b. 1892 in Irvington, New Jersey).
the President of the United States was the very ‘pure’ churchgoing
Protestant, Calvin Coolidge. So naturally my mother, who
admired this president, named her only son after him. Thus,
on May 30, 1925, I, the future violinist, Calvin Robert
Sieb, entered for the first time on the stage of life.
The Early Years: Read More
return to New York in 1951, I met Dr. Wilfrid Pelletier,
the Director of the Conservatoires de Musique et d’Art Dramatique
de la Province de Quebec. He hired me immediately to teach
at the Conservatoire in Quebec City.
exams at the end of my first year of teaching, 1951-1952,
two of my students won the first - First Prize and the first
- Second Prize ever awarded in the province of Quebec.
arrived at my first teaching post in Quebec, I brought with
me a conception of the newest ideas of performance technique
and sound production from New York City. The teaching in
Quebec at that time was rather old-fashioned. As a result
of my teaching, my students sounded more professional.
someone something, you must first find their intelligence
level and their language of communication. Then to communicate
with anyone, one must adapt to their level. Understanding
their intelligence level and their cultural background is
essential in being able to teach someone something.
I added the Provincial Conservatoire in Montreal to my Quebec
San Juan, Puerto Rico
was founded in 1957 in San Juan, where Pablo Casals had
years I was the Principal Second violinist of the Casals
Festival Orchestra under the direction of Pablo Casals,
Leonard Bernstein, Eugene Ormandy, and Zubin Mehta.
I became the concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra
a post I held for 20 years.
Montreal Symphony Orchestra: Read
As Concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony
Orchestra, I was often called upon to play alone. When I
became Concertmaster, the orchestra had no hall of its own
and gave concerts in the relatively small auditorium at
Plateau High School in Park Lafontaine. When the orchestra
moved into the new Place Des Arts, given the size of the
main concert hall, Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, it became clear
that I would need a better and bigger sounding instrument
than the Matteo Gofriller that I owned at the time. I required
an instrument that would project the sound to the back of
The Ex-Laub Stradivarius: Read
Canadian Broadcasting Company
The National Film Board of Canada
Igor Markevitch conducting
Later I became concertmaster of the Canadian
Broadcasting Company’s Radio and Television Orchestra, as
well as concertmaster of The National Film Board of Canada
Studio Orchestra. The National Film Board mainly produced
documentaries. We were not looking at a film screen while
playing. The conductor’s job was to coordinate the music
with the action, and we watched the conductor. Ninety-five
percent of the time the composer of the film music was conducting
his own music. He had originally conceived of the music
with the film, so he knew what he wanted as far as coordinating
the music with the action or mood.
who was responsible for hiring the musicians had to get
the best people because the work was demanding, especially
for the wind players who were each basically playing solos.
I did not choose the musicians, although they were usually
the same people who I worked with at the CBC or the Montreal
Symphony Orchestra. There were never many string players:
usually four 1st violins, three 2nd violins, two violas,
two celli, and one bass, plus winds. After recording with
an echo technique, these few strings could sound like a
full symphony orchestra.
few musicians meant that we had to play well together and
in tune. Timing was the responsibility of the conductor,
but we had to be quick to follow exactly what the composer/conductor
wanted. We had to follow him, and he had to follow the film
Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra
CBC Symphony Orchestra
'L'Heure du concert'/'The Concert Hour'
Jean Beaudet Conducting
Soloist: Calvin Sieb
Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse,
I was invited by conductor Michel Plasson to be Principal
Concertmaster of the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse
in France, a position I held for 10 years.
Created at the beginning of the 19th century
to serve the opera, the
National du Capitole de Toulouse
became a symphonic orchestra in 1945 and a national
orchestra in 1980 with over 100 musicians.
Sieb (left) with
Yehudi Menuhin (right), 1985, Toulouse
I was invited to join the Faculty of The University of Ottawa,
a post I held until 2001. I am presently Professor
of Violin, and Viola with classes in Chamber Music and Violin
and Viola Repertoire at the Conservatoire de Music de Gatineau, Quebec.
©Photo by Lois
future...I want to continue teaching and play chamber music
Violin Lesson at
Mount Orford Camp, Quebec, 1963
Kerson Leong, 4-years-old
Calvin with his son Patrick
I came up with the idea for
two creations, the Soft-pro
violin/viola chin rest pad
Inventions: Read More