Mothers In Jazz (31): Christine Jensen

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.

Saxophonist, composer and conductor Christine Jensen was described as
“an original voice on the international jazz scene and one of Canada’s most compelling composers. (Mark Miller, Globe and Mail) Equally at home with a small ensemble or at the helm of a jazz orchestra, she has collaborated with a diverse array of musicians, including Geoffrey Keezer, Donny McCaslin and her sister, Ingrid Jensen. Christine is a multiple JUNO Award winning musician whose work as educator has included teaching at McGill University in Montreal, and most recently an Assistant Professor post at Eastman School of Music. Christine is originally from Nanaimo, British Columbia but now resides in Rochester, New York, with her 12 year-old daughter, Liv.

Christine Jensen. Photo credit: Randy Cole

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

Christine Jensen: There is never a good time or a bad time, for that matter, to start this journey of motherhood. With new challenges come rewards, and there is nothing more rewarding than watching your child grow up from that starting place of pure joy and innocence. My advice from my dear friend incredible pianist/composer/bandleader Mom Maggi Olin…just go for it!

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)? 

CJ: I can’t remember any big advice, except that I had to start prioritizing touring choices, especially once Liv entered school. Now I feel like, aside from raising my daughter, I split my time and energy in different ways with the categories of teaching (more), touring (less), practicing my instrument (always not enough), composing (more), and business (always too much to do there). I have a new appreciation for expressing myself through music once I am up on the bandstand that I did not have before motherhood. 

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

CJ: Find your village, where you have loads of love, support, and trust.

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

CJ: There are so many different periods. There are so many types of baby carriers and strollers. Spend some $$ there for the comfort and lightweight factor and you will be so much happier.

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

CJ: Older kids:  A deck of cards ( or games that are portable) is the best thing to get away from the screen. Really sturdy headphones for kids that block noise so they are happy when you have to practice or have meetings in the same room, like a hotel room. We all feel less exhausted with noise-canceling headphones on both parent and child on flights. Oh, and snacks. Lots of snacks.

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

CJ: That, somehow, I can do both. I am surprised that I am able to attain a certain level of artistry with my projects. I thought that demand for my work would slip and fade, but I seem to always have an abundance of opportunity even though I have this big job of raising a child.

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.)? 

CJ: I am really picky about gigs, whether they are one night out, and touring. I just have to be more focussed on each event having a strong opportunity for myself with as little pull on me in the position of being around for my daughter. If it is absolutely necessary, I will bring her with me and make certain that I have time for her and me. Life is too short! 

Christine took up the position of Professor of Jazz Composition and large ensembles at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York in Fall 2022. Christine says: I am so inspired by the faculty and students that surround me here, as well as giving my daughter an incredible education. I still keep up my Canada sounds, touring with my cordless quartet collective CODE Quartet.

In 2023, Christine will release two new albums. The album “Day Moon”, with her quartet comprising Steve Amirault, Jim Doxas and Adrian Vedady  will be released in late spring on Justin-Time Records. A new Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra album, comprising music written over the past ten years and featuring her sister, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and pianist Gary Versace, will be available in Summer 2023.

LINKS: Artist website

News story about the Eastman appointment

Mothers in Jazz (30): Tierney Sutton

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