Personal Life: A Biographical Overview

Photograph of Regine, Allan, Sabine, and Enid Shapiro with an unknown family member circa 1920Regine, Allan, Sabine, and Enid Shapiro with unidentified family member ca. 1920

Jacob Kohos Siskind received his middle name from his maternal grandfather, Kohos Shapiro. The Shapiro family specialized in clothing design and manufacturing and emigrating from Austria-Hungary to Montreal in the 1920’s. Siskind’s mother was an artist.

Class photo of teacher and students posing in rows on stairs at front entrance of buildingClass photo of Rose Goldblatt Studio, Siskind appears second row from front, second from left

Jacob Siskind’s interest in music was fostered by respected Canadian musicians. His first piano teacher was Rose Goldblatt, a promoter of Canadian classical music giving performances on CBC Radio. Her accolades include performing as a soloist in the Montreal Women’s Symphony Orchestra, joining McGill’s Faculty of Music in 1955 as well as being made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts of Great Britain in 1997, among other honors and tributes (The Canadian Encyclopedia).


Portrait of Benno MoiseiwitschPianist Benno Moiseiwitsch

Some of Siskind’s other instructors include Alfred Laliberté and Helmut Blume, both contributors to Classical music in Canada, and Benno Moiseiwitsch, Ukrainian-British pianist. At the Conservatoire de Musique de Québec à Montréal, Siskind studied with Yvonne Hubert, accomplished pianist in the French tradition and founder of Montreal's Alfred-Cortot Piano School. Other instruments he studied included the violin and organ. These instructors informed his musical tastes early in his life, which likely influenced his criticism.

Photograph of Jacob Siskind with his parents posing on staircase in formal attrireJacob Siskind and his parents

He spent summers as a boy and a young man with his immediate and extended family in Montreal and Vermont, which is documented extensively in his collection of personal photographs. In his adulthood, Siskind’s mother, Sabine Siskind and her sister, Regine Shapiro came to live with him and he tended to them through the last years of their lives. As Siskind was active in the Jewish community in Ottawa and Montreal, he had trees planed in Israel in memory of his family members.

Besides his vocation in journalism, Jacob Siskind studied English, music and physics at McGill University in Montreal. Siskind noted that before he began writing he intended to study architecture. He wrote fiction under a pseudonym for American pulp magazines before finding employment as a journalist under his own name. Jacob Siskind spent the majority of his life exploring classical music and performance art. Through journalism, Jacob Siskind connected with audiences and readers with rudimentary to expert comprehension of classical music. His profound knowledge and passion for the subject enabled him to convey this pleasure unambiguously to the public at large, rather than the classical music community exclusively.

Jacob Siskind retired in Ottawa in June 1993 from the Ottawa Citizen. In his retirement, Siskind tended his garden, maintained an extensive correspondence with both personal and with professional contacts, and worked with local organizations. He died at the age of 82 in Ottawa.