Clara Shandler Sidewalk Cellist, Musicial Activist - Vancouver, Canada

Clara Shandler

Age: October 1989

Born: I was born in Vancouver.

How long have you lived in Vancouver? I lived in Burnaby as an infant, Port Moody as a child and Surrey as a teenager. I finally moved back to live in Vancouver in 2010.

Occupations: I have been teaching cello for the past five years and slowly building up a roster of students so don’t have to work a ‘real job’ — the last being a deli clerk at IGA. I am also a facilitator in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s public school outreach program, called VSO Connects. Another ‘hat’ is that of session musician: I record with bands ranging in style from Russian heavy metal to folk/singer-songwriter and Persian-fusion electronica. Far less stable but infinitely fun is the work that I do as a busker and soloist. I have performed everywhere: parks, hotels, community centers, farmers’ markets, sidewalks, living rooms, cafes and ferries — wherever music is wanted! In my lifetime, I have released two albums and three EPs. The most recent album is Freedom from Want. It can be downloaded for free or by donation on my website, and the proceeds go to The Singing Tree, an organization that promotes musical education in Cambodia and Burma.

Passions and Interests:  Playing the cello is the one thing I have loved since a child. Environmental conservation is also at the top of my list of interests. Global warming affects the poorest regions of the world the most, so I choose not to own a car. I’m only five feet tall, so it’s quite a sight to see me lugging my cello on public transit five days a week. Seeing the world is important to me and last year, I took a Greyhound bus and couch surfed around North America with my cello, visiting 19 cities in 45 days. A very deep and profound trip was when I travelled to Burma and Cambodia with my cello to share music with kids. I am very keen to bring attention to these two, small nations, which have long struggled with war and violence, as well as support their art and culture.

What do people know you for? Playing the cello; for two summers I have organized, promoted and performed a free weekly outdoor cello concert on Commercial Drive. I get down on my hands and knees and do all the sidewalk advertising and write the directions to the shows in chalk. I want to help bring classical music into the daily lives of people and strip away the elitism of classical music.

Thoughts on Vancouver? Vancouver is home base and a safe haven. Through my travels I have learned not to take clean air and water, moderate temperatures, trees, grass and breathtaking landscapes for granted. But I feel there is apathy here; we don’t care enough about politics, human rights and the state of the world. I encourage everyone to travel and see that most of the world is not as lucky as we are.

Tallulah’s Musings

When I first heard about a young female busker who plays everything from Nirvana to Brahms and Shostakovich on her cello, I went looking for Clara. I am in awe of her musical talents as well as her passion to share music and inspire others. Because she gets around using public transportation, we rode the SkyTrain taking pictures, ending up at an abandoned railway yard south of Vancouver. The glamour of her red dress and pearls provided a startling contrast to the gritty transportation theme.