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A tribute to Tiberius Klausner, who shaped Kansas City's musical culture for over 60 years

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Youth Symphony of Kansas City
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Tiberius Klausner prepares for rehearsal.

This month, Kansas City's Kinnor Philharmonic is celebrating the life and legacy of Tiberius Klausner, the former concertmaster of the Kansas City Symphony, with a program celebrating his significance to the city and its Jewish community.

This story was first published in Classical KC's "Take Note" newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox the first Wednesday of every month.

In 1955, Tiberius Klausner arrived in Kansas City to be concertmaster for the Kansas City Philharmonic. He was 23 years old.

For the next 64 years, Klausner influenced the culture of Kansas City as a performer, teacher and leader in the community.

Kinnor Philharmonic is paying tribute to Klausner this month with “L’Dor V’Dor Kinnor,” a celebration of his legacy in Kansas City through the decades. “L’dor v’dor” means “generation to generation” in Hebrew, while “kinnor” is the modern Hebrew word for violin.

“We wanted to pay tribute to Tiberius Klausner because of his role as a musician in Kansas City and the Jewish community,” says Christopher Kelts, co-founder and music director for Kinnor.

Kinnor Philharmonic performs twice yearly, with a summer concert and New Year’s Day show. The ensemble consists of both Jewish and non-Jewish musicians, celebrating traditions of symphonic repertoire and the diversity of Jewish heritage.

"L'Dor V'Dor Kinnor" is part of the ensemble's 10th anniversary season.

Klausner grew up in Transylvania (now Romania). When he was very young, he heard a violin played by a Roma musician and was instantly smitten. Within a year of taking up the instrument, Klausner performed his first solo with orchestra at the age of nine.

He studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, the Conservatoire National de Musique in Paris, and the Juilliard School in New York City, where he studied with Ivan Galamian. When he joined the Kansas City Philharmonic, he was the youngest concertmaster in the country.

But Klausner's personal history is more fraught. His family was displaced during World War II and forced into hiding, until liberated by Russian forces. His family escaped Communism for Paris, before emigrating to Israel.

Klausner eventually made his way to New York City and then Kansas City, his home base for the rest of his life. He became an American citizen in 1961.

Klausner died October 9, 2019. This concert isn’t intended as a memorial, though.

“The goal is to keep living life forward,” says Kelt, who planned the tribute with input from Klausner’s wife, Carla.

The concert will be violin-centered and reflective, says Kelts, but it’s really about Klausner’s devotion to his students and vice versa.

“He loved to play the violin, and that love guided him as a teacher,” says Emily Shehi, one of the soloists for the concert.

Through all those years of teaching, it’s hard to say exactly how many students Klausner had, whether privately or through the UMKC Conservatory, where he was professor of music and artist-in-residence for 32 years.

The concert features three students of Klausner: Shehi, Dani Hoisington and Jennifer Mitchell. “Three different people who had violin influence from Tibor, all choosing different paths in their lives, but still violin remains an important aspect,” Kelts says.

“From a young age, I heard many stories about Mr. Klausner because he taught or influenced so many musicians around me,” says Shehi. “So when I went to study with him I knew that I was in the presence of someone very special.”

Shehi is currently a master’s candidate at Yale University, where she studies with Augustin Hadelich.

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Courtesy of artists
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Violinists Dani Hoisington, Emily Shehi, and Jennifer Mitchell (L-R), all students of Tiberius Klausner.

Hoisington pursued violin through her master’s degree and continues to play while establishing a career in cyber security. She studied with Klausner as a high school student and during breaks in college.

“He was a kind but firm teacher, never settling for anything less than my best,” Hoisington remembers.

Klausner also went above and beyond for his students, Hoisington says. “More than anything, I remember his warmth and genuine care for me and for all of his students.”

Mitchell, now retired, taught orchestra in the Shawnee Mission Public Schools and is on the outreach committee for Kansas City Civic Orchestra.

Mitchell started studying with Klausner when she was in 9th grade, continuing at UMKC Conservatory and into adulthood.

“Whether teaching my students or practicing on my own at home, I constantly hear Mr. K’s voice (with the great accent) telling me how best to play a tricky passage,” says Mitchell.

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Courtesy of Jennifer Mitchell.
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Mitchell with Klausner during a lesson.

Mitchell and Hoisington perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s "Double Violin Concerto in D minor BWV 1043" and Shehi performs Jean Sibelius’ "Violin Concerto, Op. 47." The concert also includes Samuel Barber’s "Adagio for Strings," a nod to Klausner’s affinity for Barber’s string quartet.

Along with the soloists, some of Klausner’s students perform in the orchestra, and many more will be in attendance for the concert.

“Because he was from a completely different generation, I loved hearing all the stories he told about his life, particularly memories of his teacher, Galamian,” says Shehi. “It was like a glimpse into a different era that I hope to keep alive and pass on to future generations.”

Along with his extended orchestral tenures and appearances in ensembles all over the world, Klausner was a devoted chamber musician, collaborating with many different artists through the years, and performed in festivals throughout the country. He was also an active, long-time member of Congregation Beth Shalom.

“His career is like a Venn Diagram,” Kelts says. “There’s Tibor in the middle and all these things end up touching one another.”

Kinnor Philharmonic performs Sunday, June 12, 2022, at 3 p.m. in the White Theater at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. For more information and to hear recordings of Tiberius Klausner visit tiberiusklausner.com. To learn more about Kinnor Philharmonic visit kinnorphilharmic.org

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