Mothers in Jazz

Mothers In Jazz (22): Gemma Farrell

Mothers In Jazz” is a 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.

Gemma Farrell is an Australian jazz saxophonist, composer and educator. She is a PhD candidate and lectures in jazz studies at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. Gemma has led the Young Women in Jazz program for the West Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra (WAYJO) since 2014 and she was one of three finalists for the Humanitarian category of the 2021 Australian Women in Music Awards. She is the founder and musical director of the Artemis Orchestra, a predominately female big band which performs the original music of Australian women, non-binary and transgender people. Gemma lives in Perth with her three children-Abigail, aged 10, Isaac, aged 8, and Violet, aged 5.

Gemma Wells with her Akai EWI. Photo credit: Josh Wells

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

Gemma Farrell: Do it. It’s really hard, but really worth it. You will become a better person and a better musician. Try not to stress about how much you don’t get done. Take everything as it comes.

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)?

GF: Don’t compare yourself to musicians who don’t have kids. It’s not worth the time. Do what you can, when you can do it. Enjoy your kids.

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

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GF: Kids almost never come with me on tour, which means that I can focus on the music. When the kids come, my husband comes too. I finished recording my first album in Dusseldorf the day before my daughter’s 1st birthday. We celebrated by staying a few extra days as a family. So my top tip would be to have a supportive partner.

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

GF: When the kids were young and we were touring through Europe, we had a good stroller, all their bottles, nappies etc, everything you’d normally need for a good day out. For travel within Australia it is LONG so devices and books! Plus get some tips of good places to explore with them in between.

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

GF: I feel like it gives me more inspiration as a composer and performer.

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.)?

GF: Be careful what you say yes to. Time with the kids is precious, so if I don’t feel valued by the band leader I don’t say yes to doing gigs with them.

Gemma’s latest album “The View From The Top” was released in April 2022. 

Gemma Farrell’s website

The View from the Top on Bandcamp

Feature in Perth’s X-Press Magazine

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