Mothers in Jazz

Mothers In Jazz (9): Karin Hammar

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.

Karin Hammar is a Swedish trombonist and bandleader. She has toured and/or recorded with musicians including Nils Landgren, Gary Burton, and Maria Schneider. She co-leads “Sliding Hammars” with fellow trombonist (and sister) Mimi Hammar, and she leads the group Karin Hammar Fab 4. She lives in Stockholm with her husband and 8 year old daughter.

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Karin Hammar. Photo credit: Nikola Stankovic

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

Karin Hammar: Try to not feel bad for being away so much. Your child will have a close relationship with its dad or other parent as a result.

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)?

KH: I think it wouldn’t have mattered what advice I received. I HAD to do my own trial and error since all kids and parents are unique, and there is no way to prepare mentally for how things will be with a child in your life. I did my best with what I had to work with. I don’t think any advice could change anything. The advice I did get (like not feeling guilty, for example) didn’t help anyway. I’m doing better now, though!

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

KH: Listen to your gut feeling about what to do and how to do it. If you want to continue playing out-of-town gigs, you can. It’s all about your social network around the baby/child. I actually thought a lot about logistics before I got pregnant, trying to sort out that part as much as possible before the child’s birth. Then everything changes anyway, but it was good for my own inner peace. I was super lucky to have my mother helping me out a lot and traveling with me and the baby the first year (my husband couldn’t come with us on the road). Then during year 2 and 3, I got a steady commercial gig that worked out well for me personally (musically and financially) and very much so logistically, since I noticed that my daughter needed her home as a base after her first year. It was also good for me to stay in Stockholm for a year after all that traveling.  I am very fortunate to still be married to my daughter’s dad, who is not freelancing and can do all the sick-days when I am not around and who is also her safe haven and is ALWAYS there for her.  

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

KH: Picnic blanket for flight lounges and waiting rooms for babies to crawl on. And a baby-björn! My daughter spent her first year on my tummy, traveling in her baby-björn.

LJN: Best general travel/tour-with-child advice: 

KH: Only take gigs that are ”worth” it when the kid is an infant – either economically and/or musically. It is VERY stressful to tour with an infant, so you have to know why you’re prioritizing it. I did one side-woman-gig too much that helped me put my priorities in order! Also, sleep when you can.

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

KH: That the world doesn’t stop! Haha. I had a fear of not being called for gigs when I became a parent. I still do my own projects like before, but have to plan better now, like going away to be able to focus on composing. I got the advice to do any composing early in the morning, BEFORE everyone else was awake. That worked ONCE for me, but after that I was a wreck for many days from waking up so early!

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.)?

KH: I haven’t set any boundaries except for not being away too long in one go, and also evaluating why I take certain gigs. But that is an on-going process for any musician, with or without kids. I always try to plan for some days in-between tours for catching up. I am grateful for the pandemic for giving me time to get to hang out so much with my family (the only upside of this awful period).

A new album from the Karin Hammar Fab 4 and Italian pianist Rita Marcotulli will be released in 2023.

LINKS: Karin Hammar Fab 4 on Facebook and on Instagram

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