For me, Tibor will always be “Tibbie,” as that’s the nickname used by his family and close friends. Our families have known each other for a very long time and my mom and Carla’s mom were good buddies. They were both pianists and between the two of them, they pretty much played all of the Jewish weddings in Kansas City! I started babysitting for the Klausners when I was 12, so when I finally started taking lessons, it was a little difficult at first, probably because the dynamics had to change. We were almost too familiar with each other.
I took a few lessons with him during my first three years of high school and then regular lessons in my senior year to prepare me for the University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory. I studied with him throughout my four years at the Conservatory and then went to the Cleveland Institute of Music for my Masters. But I came back for one more year in with him before I ventured out on my orchestral job audition trek. He was extremely hard on me because he had incredible faith in me, much more than I had in myself. I didn’t think that I would ever make it as a professional orchestral musician, but with a lot of hard work, perseverance and patience on both of our parts, I did it!
One thing I’ll always remember about my lessons. When I’d be playing and would make a mistake, I would usually utter a 4-letter word under my breath. All of the sudden and with great animation, he would come up to my music stand, look intently at the music, and in his thickest Hungarian accent say, “Where, where in the music does it say shit?”
Judy Levine-Holley is in her 37th season as a violinist with the San Antonio Symphony.