“Mothers In Jazz” is a new series, started by vocalist Nicky Schrire. The initiative aims to create an online resource for working jazz musicians with children, those contemplating parenthood, and jazz industry figures who work with and hire musicians who are parents. The insight of the musicians interviewed for this series provides valuable emotional, philosophical and logistical information and support that is easily accessible to all. “Mothers In Jazz” shines a light on the very specific role of being both a mother and a performing jazz musician.
Kristin Berardi is a vocalist, composer and educator originally from Queensland, Australia. A dazzling improviser, she has collaborated with musicians including Dan Tepfer, Kenny Werner and Barney McAll. Kristin has received a slew of accolades, including winning the Montreux Jazz Festival’s International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2006, and being the only vocalist to receive the prestigious Freedman Music Fellowship for Jazz. A three-time National Bell Award-winner for “Best Jazz Vocal Album”, she performs internationally and just released her latest album “The Light and The Dark”, which features trumpeter Ingrid Jensen. Kristin recently relocated to Lucerne, Switzerland to take up a teaching position at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts/Hochschule Luzern (HSLU). She has two children, aged 11 and 15.
LondonJazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career?
Kristin Berardi: I can’t remember being given any advice, but I remember just knowing I needed to keep active in music for me/for myself, and both of my children were well as babies so I was able to do this more easily. I was lucky in this way.
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I do remember some wise words which helped me along the way though – someone asked a very accomplished woman in Australian politics how she did all the things she did. She had had a career in law, in politics, and also had a family – and she simply replied to the effect of, “Yes,I did all those things. But not all at the same time.”
This has helped me to reframe how much I feel I need to do, and it allows me to keep the juggle with some flexibility, as sometimes your children need more of you at different ages, or in certain circumstances. Life is in flux always and so I think this also will be in flux.
Looking back I see that I was always paying attention to those musicians who had kids, and watching how other people did the” juggle”. However, most if not all of my touring friends were men and they didn’t have the kid/kids with them. I must admit I am only realising this fact as I answer these questions and also to say that this has changed in the past 5-10 years.
LJN: What information or advice do you wish you’d received but didn’t (and had to learn through trial and error or on the go)?
KB: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Mostly, people are happy to offer assistance, especially if you’re touring and don’t know anyone in that city, etc. I was met with much kindness.
LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz:
KB: Do what you need to do. Perhaps it takes more luggage, more organisation and brain space, but if you need to play, play! Your child will be happy when you are happy.
I still struggle with this sometimes, but I have seen it to be true many times.
I come back from time spent with music energised and able to be more present with my kids. It fuels me and we need to do what energises us as people, in order to do the parenting part. I also think, as my kids have become older, it makes all of us have more gratitude for our time spent together.
LJN: Baby/child gear tips for travel/touring/gigging:
KB: I had the Babybjörn carrier and their port-a-cot (it was so light!). The carrier was so helpful to have your hands free.
Now if I’m working and taking my kids, I need SNACKS for them. I need to tell them the plan (they always need to know when it is over), and activities – a game, books etc.
Or I give them a job to do and make them a part of the situation. I often ask them to draw members of the band as they are both keen drawers.
They haven’t done the door yet, but I know many families who are musos who have their kids selling merch or the door, and quite frankly you probably sell more merch with a cute kid smiling at you!
LJN: Best general travel/gigging/tour-with-child advice:
KB: Try not to worry about what others think, or what others are or are not doing – you need to do what works for you and your family/children.
LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions?
KB: I have been surprised by how many female-identifying people ask about this, or that thank you for sharing about it in workshops. It is definitely something that people think about but not something which is often shared about.
So things like this are so important – thank you!
LJN: What boundaries have you set for yourself as a mother in jazz (could be related to travel/touring, riders, personal parameters, child care decisions, etc.)?
KB: I knew I had to keep doing gigs, and performing after becoming a mother, however I also have had to keep a “balance” for myself and my kids. I wanted to be an active part of their childhood and have my music too. I became a single mother after my 2nd child was born, and so I have just tried to maintain this “feeling of balance”. So sometimes I take the kids with me on work trips even now. Sometimes I don’t.
Kristin’s new album “The Light and the Dark” is out on Earshift Music now. Kirstin says “the album features another mother and musician who has inspired me to keep doing the thing – Ingrid Jensen.”