Jamaica Plain resident Javier Caballero is a professional cellist who has been performing with Shelter Music Boston since 2015. Shelter Music Boston performs chamber music concerts at area homeless shelters every month. The Gazette conducted a question-and-answer session through email with Caballero about his involvement with Shelter Music Boston and being a professional musician. (The session has been edited.)
When did you realize you wanted to become a professional musician?
I decided to become a professional musician during my junior year in high school. The cello professor at the local university in Tampa, Scott Kluksdahl, noticed that I had some talent on the cello and wondered if I was considering majoring in music for college. I told him that I thought about it but didn’t want to become a ‘starving musician’ and would likely major in engineering like my father. He replied, “Well, Javier, music is a calling and you either have it or you don’t. If you do, you should major in music and things will work out. If you don’t, you should major in engineering.” That was the first time I heard someone frame it that way and that is all I needed to make the leap into becoming a professional musician.
What made you choose to become a cellist?
I actually started on the violin to be like my brother who started the violin a year before me. But right away I was curious about the cello because it was larger and looked more fun. Two years after studying the violin I had the opportunity to try the cello and immediately loved it and the rest is history!
How has music affected your life?
Music has completely transformed my life. Not only has it given me the vehicle to find my own voice, express myself, and develop my confidence, it has also taken me all over the world– literally! I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East to perform.
What are your favorite pieces to play?
I definitely have way too many favorite pieces to play and it also depends on the day. But some of my top favorites include playing the Bach Suites for solo cello, chamber music by Brahms, and rocking out in the pit orchestra for musicals like Spring Awakening!
How did you become involved with Shelter Music Boston?
I became involved with Shelter Music Boston (SMB) two years ago when I met its founding Artistic Director, Julie Leven. I had previously read articles about SMB’s inspiring mission so when I met her I told her I was a fan of the program and would be happy to help out if needed. At that time she had grown the program from 2 musicians (violin and viola) to 3 musicians (2 violins and viola) and was anticipating that shortly thereafter she might have enough financial support to add a 4th musician and bring a full string quartet to the shelters. So I was thrilled when she called me a few months later to let me know that she was looking for a cellist and I’ve been playing with the group ever since!
How does Shelter Music Boston operate?
Shelter Music Boston presents monthly chamber music concerts in Greater Boston homeless shelters, delivering professional live classical music as a social service. It is our belief that all people deserve access to the dignity, creativity, and passion of classical music whether or not they have a home.
Following each concert we distribute a brief survey to our audience. In addition to measuring and documenting the success and impact of our program, our survey provides an opportunity for each audience member let us know their thoughts about the music.
To read more about the impact of our concerts: bit.ly/2wo4AOa.
Anything else you would like to add?
It is our dream to increase the capacity of bringing these healing concerts to more community members in need during the years to come. There are many ways to support this work either through a donation of any size, or even by donating time to volunteer at any of our concerts.