Saslav, who served as concertmaster for the Longview Symphony, died Saturday at age 74. He and his wife of 50 years, Ann, a professional pianist, have lived all around the world and studied with many outstanding musicians.
Overton-New London Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Jeannie Barber called the Saslavs “musical pioneers,” especially in East Texas. She said they also have been involved with the chamber and the McMillan Memorial Library.
“They're just such good reliable sources of information on what has gone on here,” she said.
“I could sit at their feet — either one of them —because they're so interesting.”
She said she loved Saslav's “quirky personality” because he made her want to listen to him and know more about his background and life.
First State Bank President Todd Meadows described Saslav, a bank patron, as a “real nice man who always had a smile on his face.”
“He was always interested in hearing about you. He wanted to know about you and your family,” he said.
Meadows said it was a pleasure to have someone like Saslav in the small town of Overton.
Jann Smith, branch manager for the McMillan Memorial Library, added, “He will definitely be missed.”
Born in Jerusalem and raised in Detroit, Saslav began studying violin when he was 7.
It was those public schools and scholarships he received in Detroit that afforded him opportunities, such as studying with violinist and concertmaster Mischa Mischakoff, she has said.
“Mischakoff took him on, and as a teen, he put him to (such a) high standard that by age 17 he was a member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra making a living at 17 playing the violin,” she said last year, adding that her husband rode the bus to rehearsals and was able to help his family financially.
“We're so impassioned to help other poor kids get that start.”
Saslav became the concertmaster of and soloist with the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Minnesota, Baltimore and New Zealand symphony orchestras as well as the Round Top Festival of Texas after studying with master teachers Mischakoff, Josef Gingold and Ivan Galamian, according to his biography. He's also served as concertmaster of the Indiana University, Dallas, Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), Terrace Theater and Baltimore opera orchestras, as well as a member of the Detroit and Chautauqua symphonies and the Orchestra of the Festival Casals in Puerto Rico. He has played several times at Carnegie Hall in New York and taught at Stephen F. Austin State University for 10 years.
Saslav loved to drive to Canada each year for a George Bernard Shaw festival, and the couple has had a personal Shaw library in downtown Overton.
As Saslav held his violin in the library last year, he was asked what he enjoys most about playing.
He responded by saying, “What do you enjoy most about breathing?”
A memorial service for Saslav is slated to take place later this year, according to the Cottle-Pearson Funeral Home.