Interview with Cellist Shahrzad Shakeri

September 3, 2023

By Iman Sadri

Every once in a while a generational talent emerges that leaves an indelible legacy. In the world of classical music, one of these enduring names is virtuoso cellist Shahrzad Shakeri. Shahrzad is a world renowned cellist based in Canada, whose music has lifted the spirits of her audiences since she was 11. Shakeri’s focus and dedication to the cello has made her a household name among classical music aficionado’s. To catch up with this prolific talent we did a long distance interview with this young talent, Sharzad Shakeri.

Shahrzad Shakeri and her cello (Image Credit Instagram)

The Persian Observer : Thank you for chatting with The Persian Observer. Please describe your early life, education and upbringing.

Shahrzad Shakeri : I started playing music professionally when I was eleven years old. After I graduated high school at the Tehran Conservatory, my passion for cello led me to France, where I began pursuing my studies in cello performance. Although France held (and always will hold) a special place in my heart, I decided to
move to Montreal to study with the virtuoso cellist Matt Haimovitz and I earned my masters degree there, at McGill University, in cello performance.

Shahrzad Shakeri and her cello (Image Credit Instagram)

The Persian Observer :What were your earliest musical influences with
classical music ?

Shahrzad Shakeri :There are too many to name! But, some of my favorites are Jaqueline Du pre, Lynn Harrel, Daniil Shafran, Johannes Moser.

The Persian Observer : What was the inspiration that got you involved with playing the cello ? What age did you start playing the cello ?

Shahrzad Shakeri : As a matter of fact, I was supposed to play violin when I first started at the conservatory! But on the first day of school, I noticed that the overwhelming majority of my class was playing violin and piano.
The day of the audition (the day we had to choose which instrument we wanted to play), I coincidentally saw a girl playing the cello. I was mesmerized; I immediately fell in love with it. It felt like I no longer had a choice, like the cello chose me. I was not afraid to be the odd one out choosing the cello, and I have never doubted my decision ever since.

Shahrzad Shakeri and her cello (Image Credit Instagram)

The Persian Observer : What were the influences that you convinced you that you could make a career as a musician ?

Shahrzad Shakeri : When I was fifteen, my closest friends and I decided to participate in a competition as a piano trio. Many sophisticated groups also participated, and we were one of the youngest groups. We played a
contemporary piece that we only spent a month preparing for, and my solo started first. When I started to play, I felt like I was playing with a different cello. I got so distracted from my cello’s sound that I totally forgot I was performing in a competition. I was in a total daze, and I don’t know how, but my cello had its best sound ever. After the performance, my trio and I were so nervous waiting for the results. We held each other’s hands so tightly, even though we had little hope that we would win since
the other participants were older and more experienced. We ended up winning the competition. Now, whenever I feel intimidated, I look back on that amazing experience.

Shahrzad Shakeri and her cello (Image Credit Instagram)

The Persian Observer : What about the cello versus other string instruments made it so special that you decided to dedicate your life to
this instrument ?

Shahrad Shakeri : The cello repertoire is very vast and provides, in my opinion, the most stunning solo pieces. It has a
majestic deep, bass sound that touches my heart, but I could also play a higher register for a more melodious and sweet tone. The cello is truly an amazing instrument, capable of performing multiple musical roles. This versatility is the reason its rich tone has crept into almost every
musical genre.

The Persian Observer : What is you all time most favorite classical music to play involving the cello?

Shahrzad Shahkeri Elgar Cello Concerto

The Persian Observer : Describe your musical career as a cellist. When did you start performing professionally ?

Shahrzad Shahkeri : I started performing professionally when I was fifteen. My cello and I have been on some great adventures. I had a chance to perform and work with amazing musicians in three different continents: Europe, The Middle east, and North America. Each was equally as magical; I was presented opportunities I had only dreamed for, such as working with Matt Haimovitz on his album Philip Glass and I was invited to be part of the Grammy nominated Cello ensemble Uccello.

The Persian Observer : What is your schedule like now ? Where do you perform?

Shahrzad Shahkeri : My schedule is diverse since I work as a chamber music player, soloist, and educator. I usually perform with my chamber group in concert halls in Toronto. These days I’m working on my new Cello music video Secret Garden.

The Persian Observer : Who is your favorite composer of all time for music involving the cello ?

Shahrzad Shahkeri Bach Cello Suites

The Persian Observer : How often do you practice and what is your practice schedule like ?

Shahrzad Shahkeri : My practice schedule varies quite a bit m. When I have concerts or recordings, I have to practice five to
six hours per day. Otherwise, I practice for two to three hours.

The Persian Observer : What are some of your future goals pertaining to your musical career ?

Shahrzad Shahkeri : My goal is to make lots of cello music videos and show different sides of classical music to the world. I have met so many people who say that they never cared for classical music before meeting me, which is so inspiring to me. Music has no limits and I want to have my own signature on it. Furthermore, I believe cello has so many aspects that non-musicians still don’t know about. I would love to play an
album that would draw in listeners from every genre, breaking the perception that classical music is only for classical musicians.

The Persian Observer :  What does the cello mean to you?
Well, surely this is one of those questions for which you know the answer, but you just can’t describe. Cello means everything to me. Without it, I simply wouldn’t be me. Nothing can express my feelings better than my cello. My cello has been through everything with me, and has given me the best moments of my life.

Follow Shahrzad Shakeri on social media @Shahrzad_Cellist