Clara Shandler, also known as Sidewalk Cellist, is a young buzz-worthy canadian cellist and traveler drawing from a wide range of musical influences. She performs indoors and outdoors and has played and taught from Vancouver to Cambodia.
A: I love that you started doing your own free outdoor concert series. What was the inspiration for that idea?
C: I've been going to the symphony, to chamber music concerts, to all sorts of classical music venues in Vancouver, and there is one thing that I always notice: about 70-90% of the audience is grey-haired. Where is my generation? Most of the classical music venues in Vancouver have cheap student discounts and deals, so it isn't necessarily a matter of affordability (in Vancouver, people under the age of 30 can go to the symphony for under $15!). I figure most people aren't going to go out of their way to go to the symphony unless they know how awesome LIVE classical music is. So, my idea was to take classical music out of it's pretty (and sometimes pretentious) box- i.e. the concert hall, so that everyone could get a taste of at least the cello, and make it FREE to try to entice those who were a bit more tentative.
A: Did you run into any problems (law enforcement, etc.) while doing them? What are the busking laws in Vancouver (or other places you’ve performed)?
C: I planned ahead and had permission from the city to set up and use the park (they even gave me access to the electrical plug!) and the community center in my neighborhood even offered to pay for my busking license ($40 for 4 months is the minimum).
A: What reactions (positive or negative) did you get from audiences?
C: I had some really positive reactions from people in my community. I advertised the concerts by writing with sidewalk chalk up and down commercial drive and once when I was out with my chalk bucket a woman pushing a stroller came up to me and thanked me for putting on my concert series. She said that she wouldn't otherwise have been able to afford to expose her kids to classical music.
A: What is your craziest cello travel experience?
C: Here are three. I have a hard time deciding which one is the craziest....
1. I traveled by Greyhound to 19 cities around North American in 45 days - by myself, with a cello, and couchsurfing/busking the whole way through.
2. Hauled my cello to Cambodia and Burma to work with local musicians and to volunteer/teach at music schools. One particular event that stands out in my mind is hauling my cello up the 2,000 year old steps of Bayon Temple at Ankor Wat and recording this little music video:
A: That video is stunning. What is your favorite kind of music to play?
C: Chamber music! Instrumental classical music can roughly be divided into three main categories: solo, orchestral, and chamber. Chamber music finds a perfect balance between the virtuosity and independence of solo music and the rich harmonies of orchestral works.
Chamber music is, roughly speaking, music for 2-10 players and the genre was invented for amateur music making at home, hundreds of years before the first phonograph came along. Whether cello and piano sonatas, piano or string trios/quartets/quintets, mixed ensembles with wind, brass, or percussion instruments (look up 'black angels' by george crumb if you don't know it already) - chamber music is the bee's knees as far as I'm concerned.
A: Chamber music is the best. What music are you listening to lately?
C: I've been listening to Dvotchka, David Bowie, Shostakovich, White Denim, Elliot Brood, The End Tree, Talking Heads, Annie Lennox, The Doors, Fist Full'o'snacks, Briden, Pugs and Crows... and dozens more as I'm sure you know.
A: What other cellists do you look to for inspiration?
C: Zoë Keating, Cello Joe, Gabriel Royal, Jacqueline du Pre, Apocalyptica, Misha Maisky, Rostropovich, Yegor Dyachkov, Peggy Lee, Cris Derksen, Ariel Barnes, and many others that are escaping my brain at this point.
A: What is the best thing about being a musician? What is the worst?
C: The best and the worst thing about being a musician is that there are so many musicians. It is the best thing because there are always people to make music with (one of the greatest joys on earth as far as i am concerned), but it is the worst thing because there are not enough paid gigs to go around.
A: What are your current projects?
C: My most important project is through a small, grass-roots organization called singing tree (www.singingtree.ca). This organization sponsored a portion of the costs of my trip to Cambodia and Burma in the winter of 2012/2013 and they have offered to help me return in January 2014 if I can raise $1500 to cover my hotels, food, inter-asian flights and immunizations. This group focuses on teaching and performing chamber music and helping individual musicians by directly donating instruments, supplies, and money, by-passing the corruption that exists in the chain between charitable organizations and government bodies within both countries. No one can help everyone but everyone can help someone!
My solo project probably takes up most of my time, and I have just launched a patreon campaign to see if I can make my music-making sustainable and raise money for my trip (check out www.sidewalkcellist.com). On that note, I just finished recording my second album (featuring a number of amazing guest musicians) and am looking forward to releasing it in November.