Mothers in Jazz

Mothers In Jazz (23): Rosana Eckert

Mothers In Jazz: Rosana Eckert

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.

Originally from El Paso in Texas, American vocalist Rosana Eckert wears many hats: a versatile live and studio vocalist, a dynamic improviser, a creative songwriter and arranger, and a masterful educator of jazz and voice. She has performed and recorded with jazz luminaries, including Christian McBride, Bobby McFerrin, Kenny Wheeler, and the New York Voices, and recently, she was one of the three vocalists on the Grammy Award-winning composition “Eberhard,” released posthumously by legendary jazz pianist Lyle Mays in August 2021. A renowned educator, Rosana is Principal Lecturer of jazz voice at the University of North Texas. She has helped build the thriving UNT vocal jazz department since 1999, teaching private jazz voice lessons and performance techniques, and creating new courses in songwriting and vocal pedagogy. Rosana lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, musician Gary and their 13 year-old daughter.

Rosana Eckert. Photo credit: Holly Kuper

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

Rosana Eckert: The best advice I received was to incorporate the time management method of keeping a master list of things that need to be done, in all categories, and then scheduling the items on that list weekly. You’re supposed to write down “to-do” items the second you think of them, so I keep the list on a memo on my phone. Whether it’s that you need to finish a commissioned chart by a deadline, prep for a gig, call the plumber, pay the PTA dues, or buy milk, it goes on the master list (I have things listed in categories on the master list). Then you assign numbers of importance to each item – 10 is for stuff on fire that must be done immediately, 1 is for whenever you get a chance to breathe (not important). This helps you really prioritize what you need to do, which is crucial. Each week, you identify the holes in your schedule and start slotting the high numbered items in. By doing this, you know when you are going to get things done, and your brain can relax. When we worry and wonder about how and when everything will get done, without a plan, it is very stressful, so this is a way to take the worry out of your body. If you find there are more items on the list than there are available scheduling slots, you are over-scheduled. It’s time to re-evaluate your commitments.

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)?

RE: I’m sure I was always encouraged to plan ahead, but it always felt like “overkill” to use precious free time to plan or prep way far ahead for something. For so long, I wouldn’t prep for a commitment until it was upon me, but it often led to a last-minute scramble. I’ve improved tremendously in this area, and it helps me feel calmer and more together.

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

RE: Well, we must make choices. There truly isn’t always time for everything. We can do our best to juggle the various spinning plates, but there is usually a plate being left behind or slowing a nice bit. Sometimes we sacrifice productivity for a bit – or the cleanliness of the home or office – or the amount of time spent relaxing or socializing, or sometimes it’s self-care and health (that’s never good, but it happens). The one thing I have tried to consistently devote myself to is my job as a mom. It is such a huge responsibility and privilege to raise another human, and I know that if I do a poor job, the child will suffer (potentially into and throughout adulthood). So my best advice is to accept the season you are in. There are seasons of productivity, and there are seasons of rest. There are seasons of parenting, and there will be seasons of empty nest (hey, that rhymed). As much as we juggle and try to do it all, when we can’t, we must accept it and be at peace sacrificing some of our plates for a short time so that we can spin others. (And when it’s mom time, it’s mom time – stay present.) That said, having a “village” is crucial for parents. We need people in our corner, whether they be family or close friends. If there is a way to live near family during the parenting years (especially when the kids are little), it’s hugely helpful. Also, if you get to know other parents, you can be there for each other. We lean on other parents when we’re in a bind, and they know they can lean on us. People do it without family, but if you want to keep gigging and traveling, it really helps to have a village of some kind.

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

RE: We invested in hearing protection headphones when our daughter was little. She was just a baby at one of my CD release concerts (in a small club), so the headphones were crucial. For outdoor gigs and festivals, we always brought a suitcase filled with toys and art supplies to place on a big blanket.

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

RE: Little kids on planes need lots of things to eat and play with, so it helps to be really prepared. It also helps to get them a window if you can. At gigs, I think it helps if kids have crayons, paper, and social skills. If they know how to be friendly, look people in the eye, and speak to grown ups, they’ll be able to hang at the gig without needing your constant attention (obviously the safety factor depends on the gig and the patrons). I often encouraged my daughter to draw portraits of some of the patrons in the club and give it to them. She ended up with her own regular fans, and people treasure those drawings. For extensive travel or strings of gigs, bringing a family member or friend with you is an immense help. I also have loved sharing music with my daughter, so I’ll prepare her at home and invite her on stage to sing with me. I’ve done this since she was little – people really love it. They have loved watching her grow up on stage with me. By including her in the process, I have been able to create opportunities for us to spend time together when I would otherwise be working.

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

RE: I have been amazed how productive I can be when I know I only have a short amount of time. My arranging and songwriting skills have sharpened tremendously – and I have learned to write music in short bursts or in 10 or 20-minute daily sessions. The less time I have, the better I seem to use it. On the flipside, when I miraculously have a whole Saturday of possible work time, it can be tough to use it wisely. It’s like the saying goes, “You want something done? Ask a busy person.” When I’m the busiest, I’m also the most productive.

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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.)

RE:I have had to accept that this is a season of my life that doesn’t usually include as much time for going out to socialize and hear music as much as I used to. I leave home for my own gigs, to teach, to do clinics, sessions, etc. Otherwise, evenings are family time. That said, now that my daughter is a teenager, I have started taking her to go hear concerts. We can now go as a family to more things because she can stay out later, and she can hang in a long musical situation, particularly if I’m helping guide her listening and sharing my enthusiasm during the process.

Rosana features on “Saving Charlie Parker: A Suite by Mike Steinel” (8 September 2022), Darmon Meader’s new quartet album (out in 2023), and the popular jazz/R&B/Gospel/pop vocal quartet Kings Return’s album “Rove”, for which she also produced the vocals. Her Brazilian jazz fusion band Brasuka released their debut album “A Vida Com Paixao” in 2021. She describes Brasuka’s music as “Sergio Mendes meets Ivan Lins meets the Yellowjackets”. Rosana will be at the Jazz Education Network Conference in Orlando Florida, 4-7 January 2023.

Rosana’s appearances at the Jazz Education Network Conference – Orlando, Florida
* Mike Steinel Quintet featuring Rosana Eckert – New Voices Stage – Thursday, 5 Jan , 12pm
* Darmon Meader Quartet with Rosana Eckert – New Voices Stage – Thursday, 5 January, 2pm
* Clinic: Expanding the Melody – presented by Rosana Eckert – Friday 6 January , 2pm
* New Music Vocal Ensemble Reading Session – (in demo choir) – Saturday, Jan 7, 11am

LINKS: Rosana Eckert’s website

Brasuka Music website

Jazz Education Network Conference

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