Marsha Eger ’70: From Speech Therapist to Chanting and Meditation Teacher
As a child growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Marsha Eger ’70 used to entertain her family whenever they would gather for dinners by dressing up, singing, and performing what she called “opertations.”
By the 1960s, when Eger was entering high school, she felt that her interest in singing professionally didn’t align with the idealism of the time. While on a synagogue youth retreat the summer before her senior year, she says, “I decided that maybe becoming a singer was selfish and that what I needed to do was something to help others.”
When her mother mentioned the field of speech therapy, Eger decided it might be her calling. She enrolled at IC, earned a degree in speech pathology and audiology, and became a speech therapist for the Jefferson County Board of Cooperative Education in northern New York.
After a decade of working with children and adults with special needs, Eger transitioned into an administrative position for the Jefferson Rehabilitation Center in Watertown, New York. When she returned to Ithaca and became vice president for community relations and development at Cayuga Medical Center, Eger reconnected with IC, joining the alumni board of directors. After the president of the hospital resigned, she came full circle back to campus as director of the Ithaca Fund, the college’s annual giving program.
Five years later, Eger, who had been appointed executive director of alumni programs, was looking for a music course to take at IC when, on a whim, she began searching for world music programs. The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, which offers a master’s degreein ritual chant, popped up on her screen, and Eger, who had developed a passion for world chanting, burst into tears.
“I really felt that I had been led to that,” she says. “It was one of those pivotal moments.” The next summer, after quitting her job and selling her house, Eger enrolled in the master’s program at the University of Limerick, Ireland, studying a different type of singing than she had envisioned as a child. Since completing her degree in 2012, she has taught chanting from world traditions and this year will offer workshops in Australia, Poland, and Ireland.
“It’s been like this flowing journey,” she says, looking back at her career. “I learned very quickly that everything that you do builds for the next thing that you do, even if you don’t know what the next thing is. And therein lies the adventure.”
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