Obituary for Margaret Bassett (Sisk)
Well known as a real estate broker specializing in Manhattan’s Upper West Side through the 1980s and 1990s, as well as an accomplished pianist in New York’s chamber music circles, Margaret Bassett died on December 6, 2015, comfortably and surrounded by family, at the age of 78 after a very recent diagnosis of aggressive brain cancer.
Margaret was an active member of the prestigious Chamber Music Conference at Bennington, Vermont from 1993 to 2002 (she served on the organization’s board for much of that time), and for the past 25 years has been a much sought-after pianist in the New York area. She worked as an accompanist for violinist Arturo Delmoni (international soloist and concertmaster of the New York City Ballet) and cellist Michael Finckel (known for the Finckel Cello quartet with family members including cousin David, of the Emerson Quartet). She toured throughout Europe with small orchestras and has performed in New York City with groups including Broadway Bach. She also played chamber music frequently with notable musicians such as violinist Lucy Lin and violist Steve Ansel (both of the Boston Symphony and Muir Quartet), pianist David Oei, violinist Eriko Sato, cellist Maxine Neuman and award-winning violinist Peter Zazofsky. She often hosted informal musical gatherings at her apartment in Manhattan and her home in Brewster, New York.
Margaret’s successful career in residential real estate began in the mid-1980s when she became a broker working on conversions of prewar buildings into co-ops for landlord Curtis Katz. Her reputation for intelligent and honest dealings, along with her warmth, sense of humor, personal sense of responsibility and creative problem-solving abilities, earned her a unique place as a trusted broker in a rapidly expanding real estate market. She soon formed her own company, Margaret Bassett Real Estate, which provided services (and often lasting friendships) to clients who were, primarily, looking for homes on the Upper West Side where she lived and worked.
Through the 1990s, she was active in many neighborhood organizations and played bridge frequently at the Manhattan Bridge Club.
In 2002 she retired from real estate and sold her company to her two sales associates; Margaret Bassett Real Estate (margaretbassett.com) recently closed after another 13 years of operations.
The daughter of two schoolteachers, James Lyle Sisk and Pearl Barnett Sisk (both from Southern Illinois), Margaret Ann Sisk was born on August 21, 1937 in Champaign, Illinois. She graduated from Champaign High School in 1955. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Illinois in 1959, and was married the same year to statistician Stephen Webb. They moved to the Los Angeles area in 1962 where she worked as a teacher in elementary schools and taught piano. The couple had three children, Doug, Jennie and Tim, and divorced in 1969.
After moving to Orange County, California, Margaret worked as a music director for dinner theatres and community theatres, and toured with John Ford’s Comic Opera Theatre as music director and accompanist. In 1971, Margaret and opera singer Ralph Bassett were married; together they formed Orange County Opera, which brought opera productions and arts education programs she created into public schools. They had one son, William.
In 1978, the family moved to New York City, where Margaret was hired as an office manager for the Metropolitan Opera National Council, and then for Fran Kaufman, publicist for the Children’s Television Workshop during the early heyday of Jim Hensen’s Sesame Street. During this time Margaret accompanied and coached a number of established and up-and-coming vocalists. Mr. and Ms. Bassett divorced in 1983.
In recent years, Margaret traveled extensively and spent time with family, friends and the many accomplished musicians who considered her talents, energies and generous spirit invaluable to their vibrant community: in addition to being an intuitive, gifted musician, she was a strong and loyal supporter of the arts and individual artists.
She is survived by her four children (Doug Webb is a saxophonist living in Los Angeles, California; Jennie Webb is a Los Angeles-based playwright; Tim Webb works as a trombonist and engineer in Portland, Oregon; William Bassett is a biotech software engineer in Davis, California) and six grandchildren, as well as her good friend, violinist John Howell.
A celebration of her life—with music—will be held on February 6, 2016, 3-6 p.m. at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to a preferred charity or arts organization.