The short lady with the violin

As a young music student, Hungarian Zsuzsa Debre was told she wasn’t tall enough to perform on stage. Today, she lives in Germany and still plays in different concerts and has her own “music house,” too.


zsuzsa2Debre sits down at the table and smiles charmingly. Her day has been long and tiring: practicing, working on the computer and some gardening as well. Still this gorgeous Hungarian woman keeps smiling and is here to talk about her career as a violinist.

Debre started to play violin when she was seven years old. Her passion for the violin came from her grandfather who was a violinist too. He had an old violin in a cupboard and one day her grandfather took the violin out and came to Debre.

“He told me that was to be my instrument. And it really was love at first sight although at the beginning the violin was obviously too big for me,” Debre thinks back.


Diligent training

Violin became a rallying point with Debre and her grandfather since he had taught her how to play. Sometimes practice was also a little bit harsh.

“I remember once when I had to practice this one song which was really difficult and for that reason I didn’t want to do it. My grandfather took a box of matches and every time I played the song he took one match out of the box. After the box was empty I could play the melody perfectly,” Debre laughs.

At the same time when Debre started playing violin she went to music school. There she had to learn how to play other instruments too. For example piano and flute were on here list.

“Also my sister was familiarized with the violin when she was young. She actually was a wonder-child when she was young – she won all these different contests. Violin was the big thing of our family.”


“Sorry, you can’t play on stage”

Debre studied at the Franz Liszt Music Academy in Budapest between the years 1982 and 1988. The start of her academic studies wasn’t typical. After applying and waiting for the results Debre finally got an answer: the school was interested in her, but since they thought she was too short to perform on stage, they didn’t accept her. Instead, she was offered an opportunity to study for one year as a trial student.

“I started to practice more and more – I needed to be really fast so they would accept me. Once they heard me playing they were impressed with how fast I could play. After that they wanted to take me in,” Debre smiles.

Debre graduated from the academy to be a chamber musician and concert pedagogue, which means she is also able to guide pupils. For a while she actually worked at her former school. Her height was still causing amusing situations.

“I was only 23 years old, so I was pretty young to be a teacher and also since I’m really short I looked even younger than I was. I remember how I once waited outside of the classroom for my students to come. Some girl came to me and asked if I was also waiting for the teacher to come. It was a really funny moment to tell her that I actually was the teacher, not one of students.”


Own concert hall

Zsuzsa Debre at her concert hall.

Debre at her concert hall.

Today Debre has her own “castle of music” – Villa Zsuzsa. Villa is not only a place she works but also her and her husband’s home. The upstairs area is dedicated to normal living, downstairs is for music. Villa Debre also has historical value.

“This whole town used to be full of breweries. Our house belonged to the owner of one of the breweries and is the only one that is still standing – others have been pulled apart and replaced with new buildings.”

The house also includes a concert hall for Debre and her various chamber music formations. The hall is also used by her pianist friend András Rákosi who teaches his piano students in Villa Zsuzsa.

“We like to think that Villa Zsuzsa enriches the cultural life of the city of Mülheim and the Ruhr region. We also want to support and promote young musicians.”


New waves

This summer is going to be special for Debre and her villa. Debre is organizing a violin contest which takes place in her very own concert hall. The contest is something totally new for Debre. She used to only play and now she is organizing the whole thing.

“Although, when I was younger I used to organize a lot of different music projects, so this is not totally new but still aberrant,” Debre muses.

Debre has also tried a lot of different music styles and played in several places from concert halls to churches and industrial halls. Playing in those halls was part of a documentary film that was made of her by a local television channel.

“I was playing there surrounded by metal workers, it was something really unique and alternative.”

After all these years, different music groups and new business forms, Debre still loves to play.

“This is my life, I have never wondered if I should quit. I just love to play. The feeling when you walk off the stage when you know you have given a good performance – that is the moment I feel like flying.”