Janos Csaba started studying violin at the age of 10 at the local conservatory in Miskolc, Hungary, before switching to the viola in his late teens. Leaving Hungary for Canada in 1957, he soon continued his studies at the University of Texas, in Austin, where he obtained his B.Mus. and met his wife, Jerry. Though he was offered a teaching position at the Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, the Csabas decided to move to Montreal in 1962.
After teaching for the Protestant School Board of Montreal, and performing with the Montreal Symphony, the McGill Chamber Orchestra and the CBC Symphony, Janos accepted a scholarship in 1968 to study at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, where he received a Master of Music degree in performance and literature in one year. In 1969 the Csabas became founding members of the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO). In the summer of 1971 the Canada Council awarded Janos a scholarship to study in Siena, Italy.
Janos has contributed to the musical life of the National Capital area as teacher (Canterbury High School and the Conservatoire de Hull), as conductor of the Intermediate Orchestra of the National Capital String Academy, and as a soloist and chamber music player. A member of the NACO and the Thirteen Strings, he served as Principal Violist of l’Orchestre de chambre de Hull (for six years), and the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (for five years).
In July 2003 Janos retired from the NACO. He now plays chamber music for pleasure only, and has revived his earlier interest in conducting. He speaks Hungarian, English, French, German and Italian.
Janos Csaba reminisces...
When Jerry, my wife, and I arrived in Ottawa in 1969 for the purpose of joining the newly formed National Arts Centre Orchestra we found two other Hungarians: Karoly Sziladi (who is still in the orchestra) and John Gazsi. Unfortunately, John died in a car accident in 1983. Before coming to Ottawa we both played in the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal: Jerry in the first violin section, and I in the violas. What had attracted us to Ottawa was a different repertoire (the NACO is a smaller orchestra) and the possibility of playing a lot of chamber music.
Incidentally, I speak of Jerry as if she were really Hungarian when, in fact, she has learned the language as an adult, after we were married in 1960. However, having been to Hungary at least twenty times she can be called an "honorary Hungarian". At least, all my relatives and our friends accept her as one.
Our gamble has worked out for us: we found the NACO an excellent orchestra and Ottawa a delightful city. We had opportunities that would have been harder to find in Montreal: we appeared as soloists, as chamber musicians many times in live concerts, as well as on the CBC.
In time several new musical organisations came into being, to mention but a few: Thirteen Strings, in which we both played (Jerry as concert master for 19 years) the Orchestre de Chambre de Hull, of which I was principal violist for 6 years and had the same position in the Ottawa Symphony for 5 years. I also conducted the Ottawa Junior Youth Orchestra for about 10 years and taught viola in the Conservatoire de Hull.
Needless to say, all this time our main position was in the NACO. It was there where we experienced the highest level of music making with great guest conductors and soloists.Among the most memorable was Janos Ferencsik who conducted Kodaly's Dances of Galanta and Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. We also toured a lot both in Canada (from coast to coast) and internationally. We even played in Budapest in 1995. Some of those tours were memorable not only because we appeared in some of the world's most famous concert halls. Sometimes the excitement came from elsewhere, such as only arriving at the hall in the last minute, due to weather conditions (fog, snowstorm, freezing rain),or being interrupted in mid-concert by a fire alarm.
Upon our retirement in 2003 we could look back at a career full of wonderful memories. We still play string quartets with former collegues mostly for ourselves only. I have accepted the position of conductor of Sinfonia Ottawa, a local amateur orchestra, which I find very satisfying.
Jerry Lorene Csaba (nee Shaver) was born in Houston, Texas. She started violin lessons at the age of 10, and shortly after she joined the Houston Youth Symphony. Four years later she became concert master of it, a post she held for 3 years, until going to university. At the University of Texas in Austin she met her future husband, Janos Csaba, who was studying viola. They were married in 1960. Two years later they moved to Montreal where they taught in the public schools until they could join the Montreal Symphony in 1963, with the opening of the Place des Arts. When the National Arts Centre opened in 1969 the Csabas moved to Ottawa and joined the NACO.
Jerry Csaba has been heard as soloist, chamber musician and as concert master of the Thirteen Strings chamber orchestra both in Ottawa and on the CBC. After her two daughters left home she started teaching as well.