Mothers in Jazz

Mothers in Jazz (8): Claudia Acuña

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.

Vocalist Claudia Acuña was born in Santiago and established herself on the Chilean jazz scene in her early 20s. When she arrived in New York City in 1995, she quickly gained recognition as a leading voice on a scene which was rapidly being transformed by a wave of brilliant Latin American musicians. Collaborations followed with Arturo O’Farrill, Guillermo Klein, and also bassist Avishai Cohen, who co-produced her 2000 debut Wind From the South (Verve). For much of the past decade she’s put her recording career on the backburner to focus on raising her child. Instead of touring, she’s stayed closer to home, and has thrived by pursuing multiple musical directions with artists such as Billy Childs, Henry Threadgill, and Elio Villa-Franca. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her 11 year old son.

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Claudia Acuña. Publicity photo.

LondonJazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career?

Claudia Acuña: The best advice I received was to bring my baby to work as soon as he was born so he could get used to music, noise, and people, and I could get used to him being there as well. I was also advised to take naps when he was taking naps (if possible), especially when I was breastfeeding.

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)?

CA: There was so much that I had to figure out on my own as a single parent-how to travel with a baby, gear, breastfeeding on a plane. Everything I was advised or recommended was from two musician moms that I had spoken to before I became a mother. 

LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz:

CA: Be patient with yourself and with everything. Things do change when you become a parent. If you do not have family or are a single parent, ask for help. Take your time, drink water, and don’t forget to eat .

LJN: Baby/child gear tips for travel/touring:

CA: Kiki Babies Baby Noise Canceling Headphones, Cooper Car seat, a travel cot, a light and portable stroller with wheels for air travel, snacks, some toys, a good backpack.

Best general travel/tour-with-child advice: 

Be patient, be kind to yourself, and enjoy every moment because they grow so fast and quickly become real citizens of the world. Also, don’t forget to take some time for yourself, even if it is 5 minutes!

LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions? 

CA: I’ve been surprised by how much joy I have experienced sharing this part of my life with my child, the love of my life. I have become more organized because time is precious.

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.)?

CA: I did not and have not done the crazy touring I did before becoming a mom. For example, ten countries in ten days! I always had my child on the side of the stage with his headphones in his stroller unless I had a friend or someone recommended to me that I could trust to be with him (especially when he was a baby). But I always contacted friends or family to request help with child care. 

DUO album cover

Claudia’s new album DUO will be released on Ropeadope Records on 23 September 2022. The new album features Kenny Barron, Christian McBride, Carolina Calvache, Fred Hersch, Regina Carter, Russell Malone and Arturo O’Farrill.

LINKS: DUO on Bandcamp

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