As we grow older, retire and change our whole pattern of life – and as friends, colleagues and relatives pass on – we realize how difficult it is to accept the inevitable “empty chair.” Our dear friend and cellist Seymour Benstock died earlier this year. He passed away on April 24 at the age of 92 after being a member of Local 802 since 1952. Seymour left his friends with wonderful memories of his great sense of humor, his musical insights and his fine accomplishments on cello.
Born in the Bronx, Seymour was a member of the first class of the High School of Music and Art, where he performed in the premier of Aaron Copland’s “An Outdoor Overture,” which was commissioned for that school. After serving in the Ninth Air Force in World War II, he studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music before returning to the United States and earning the first graduate degree in music ever offered by the Hartt School of Music. Among his musical accomplishments, Seymour was principal cellist and soloist with the Naumburg Symphony, and also conducted, directed and performed in many other orchestras and ensembles. He also performed on the original cast album of “Sweeney Todd.”
Seymour was director of the music program of the Hofstra Cultural Arts Center as well as a professor in the Hofstra Music Department for over 30 years, during which time he founded and guided the Hofstra String Quartet and directed the Hofstra Symphony Orchestra. His professional resume was vast: he established what is now the Joseph G. Astman Concert Series; he directed an international conference for the 300th anniversary of Bach’s birth; he organized conventions for the Violin Society of America; and he led various summer workshops, including several for instrument makers. His contributions left a great personal stamp of accomplishment and influence on his colleagues, and his teaching gifts were well known to his students.
Seymour’s children were all musical as well. His daughter Patricia earned a doctorate in violin performance and played in ensembles with Seymour, while his sons Joseph and John played cello, just like their father.
In 2013, Seymour published “Did You Know? A Music Lover’s Guide to Nicknames, Titles and Whimsy.” This was a just one example of Seymour’s passion about research as well as his wonderful sense of humor. Being with Seymour was a constant source of good cheer and happy moments. His exceptional musical mind will always be a joy to remember.
He is survived by his children Joseph, Patricia and John; his daughter-in-law Jane; his former wife of over 40 years, Constance; his sister Glory; his brother-in-law Milton; and his nieces and nephews and their families.