Okay! So this lady and I had our FIRST EVER collaboration, right on-the-spot, during the Larchmere Porchfest this past Saturday (see below for evidence). It was a total blast, and I’ve been so struck by her enthusiasm, flexibility, and sheer command of the cello when we’ve made music together!
I’ve enjoyed getting to know Rebecca Shasberger immensely… and so should you!
Here we go:
Hi! Tell us a bit about yourself… Where are you from?
Before Cleveland I lived in Santa Barbara, California for ten years, and in Denver, Colorado before that. I was actually born in Indiana, though, so I’m never quite sure how to answer!
In a city that bustles with independent classical music projects, what makes you unique?
I’m passionate about using music to bring restoration and healing to the lives of individuals and communities, both through performance and teaching. To this end I’m very open to all manner of unique collaborations, creative programming, atypical venues, and exploring musical genres apart from my classical training. This passion has taken me to some amazing places- performing solo Bach at an art gallery in disrepair in Spain, and recording tracks for a hip hop song written by young people in East Cleveland warning against the perils of drug use.
What do you have coming up in the way of performances?
I’m headed to Toronto next month to participate in the Toronto Summer Music Festival’s Chamber Music Institute. I’ll be performing six complete works in under four weeks, ranging from Beethoven to a world-premiere by Canadian composer Jordan Pal- it’s going to be a whirlwind! Most of these will be in collaboration with world-class musicians including Martin Beaver and Barry Shiffman, which I’m really excited about. I’ll be back to Cleveland for more performances around town come August, though!
I hear you’ve got some interesting avenues in your work with music education and community engagement! Tell us about it.
Yes, lots! I completed my Masters degree from CIM in both Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy, and taught at the Cleveland School of the Arts during my program. These days I have a private studio and teach at Thrive Arts Center in Beachwood. Starting in August I’ll be working in a brand-new position at Credo Music- “Outreach Coordinator/Artist-in-Residence”- building relationships with, developing a variety of programs for, and performing at Cleveland area schools, churches, and other organizations to further their work in the community.
What sort of long-term musical goals do you have?
One long-term goal is to have a string quartet whose mission is to bring hope and healing to individuals and communities in need. It’s what I’m most passionate about, as stated above, and chamber music (string quartet in particular) is by far my favorite setting for making music! String quartets are also very versatile and mobile, allowing them more options and flexibility than some ensembles.
Craziest gig or performance memory?
I played a wedding where the bride made her entrance in a carriage, drawn by two white horses, around a heart-shaped lake with swans in it. I wish I were joking. This was also the same wedding where they had a favorite pop song in 4/4 time specially arranged for string quartet for their first dance. When we showed up we learned they had taken dancing classes for months in preparation for their special moment. What had they learned? A waltz. (And yes, you count those in three, not four)…
Hah! What’s your most moving or affirming performance memory?
Can I pick two? I’ll never forget my experience playing solo Bach at a homeless shelter in Santa Barbara. I came in with preconceived ideas about what kind of music this particular audience would like, so I wasn’t sure what sort of reaction to expect. I was blown away by how much they enjoyed the music. It had given them relief from the hardships of their daily lives, and not only did they want more but it broke down all manner of socio-economic barriers, allowing us to simply connect as human beings.
Another impactful experience was playing the Hungarian and Austrian national anthems at the start of performances in those countries while on an orchestra tour. I was surprised to see older audience members in tears, only to learn that they had grown up under oppressive governments that didn’t allow them to listen to their national anthems. Hearing them again, and played by visitors to their country, no less, proved to be an important part of their healing process, so much so that in one city the mayor himself was in tears, telling us how we had been a miracle for their community.
Favorite non-musical activities?
I’m bad at picking favorites, but I’ll keep it short: hiking, reading, and catching up with good friends!
What about a particular artistic inspiration?
I don’t think I’d call him my favorite, but I was totally inspired by Monet when I got to see his works up-close at the Cleveland Art Museum in 2015.
What do you love most about Cleveland’s independent classical music scene?
I love the quantity and variety of all the music making happening in this city, and it’s a treat to meet and collaborate with such amazing musicians along the way!