Auditioning for marriage

Auditioning for marriage

Sara Budweiser grew up in Akron, Ohio, loving music, especially playing the violin. Marvin Felder, who was raised in the Bronx, was a keen student of science and studied physics in college. As modern behaviorists might point out, these two exemplified the polar concepts of right brain and left brain, or the creative versus the analytical. Yet this couple found enough common ground to make a marriage work for six decades.

Marvin and Sara Felder on their wedding day, 60 years ago on June 1.

As an aspiring violinist, Sara studied with Joseph Fuchs, concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, and received her degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music. She was then appointed to the faculty and taught violin for three years. When Fuchs became an instructor at Julliard, Sara followed him to New York and studied with him for another year.

"I was living in a residence for women on Central Park West," she recalls. "The girls were musicians from all over the country and got along very well. It was such a wonderful year in my life."

Marvin and Sara Felder are seated, with their daughter Joan, and their daughter-in-law Susan and son Mitchell stand behind them, in this photograph taken some years ago.


Shortly after arriving there, she attended a dance, where she met a young New Yorker named Marvin Felder. They found themselves instantly attracted to each other.

Marvin had attended the University of Pennsylvania and then switched to NYU when his father became ill. He received his degree in physics, and then went to work for the family business, which manufactured handbags and leather goods for large retail chains. After Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was sent to cadet school at Yale, where he achieved the rank of second lieutenant. With his background in science, he was able to win a place in a training program that sent him to Harvard and MIT to study the new radar technology. He was then stationed at Langley Field in Virginia, where he taught radar navigation. He was discharged in 1945 with the rank of first lieutenant. A year later, back at the family business, he met Sara.

"I was so fascinated that she was a violinist," he says. "She told me she’d just finished studying Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, and I’d recently read that it was so difficult to play that most performers couldn’t handle it. So I asked her to play it for my family."

Sara smiles at the memory. "So I went up to visit the Felder family on West End Avenue, and I felt as if I fit right in. And, yes, I played the concerto for them. I always thought of it as an audition for my marriage."

"She played it so well, I was smitten," Marvin adds. "I was impressed by her talent and her congeniality, by the whole person."

The couple met in early fall and were engaged by December. They married the following June and set up housekeeping near Columbia University, where Sara was concertmistress for the Columbia University Orchestra. They then lived for 11 years in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan, where Sara taught at the Turtle Bay Music School.

"By 1960," Sara says, "we had two children, a boy and a girl, and we needed to find a place with extra bedrooms." The couple decided to move across the Hudson to Englewood Cliffs, where they bought the house they still live in.

They became active members of Temple Sinai in Tenafly. Marvin is a past president and treasurer of its brotherhood, and says his father would be very proud of his involvement. "He was a staunch Zionist who was so elated when the State of Israel was born in 1948," Marvin notes.

In addition to her other volunteer work there, Sara has shared her skill on the violin at temple functions and for Jewish groups. "She’s also chanted the haftarah at Rosh HaShanah for the past ‘0 years," Marvin says proudly. "It’s really become a temple tradition."

"The temple is an important part of my life," Sara says. "I love everything about it. I came from an Orthodox background, but I’m now very comfortable in a Reform environment."

Both Felders have been members of a book club for more than 40 years, with four other couples. They enjoy the company and the intellectual stimulation.

Their daughter Joan, a musician like her mom, graduated from Julliard in piano, and is a director of investment relations for a financial services firm. Son Mitchell inherited his dad’s love of science, and is a neurologist with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and also started up a biotech company. The Felders also have two grandchildren.

"People ask us about the longevity of our marriage," Marvin says, "and I always tell them that a good marriage is made in heaven, but so are thunder and lightning — and we’ve had plenty of that. But Sara and I are flexible and didn’t ever hold grudges. That we’re able to live so comfortably with each other has lengthened the marriage."

"I can sum it up in two words," Sara says, for once taking the left brain, analytic approach. "Patience and tolerance."

read more: