“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.
Lizzie Ball is a British violinist and vocalist whose work extends to education and beyond. She studied classical violin at both the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music, and yet has always been passionate about performing various styles of music. Her career has seen her work with artists including Jeff Beck, Brian Wilson, Judith Owen, Bryan Ferry, the New York Polyphony, and the James Pearson Trio. Lizzie is passionate about outreach projects, and loves working with young people. Currently and since 2018, she has been regularly director of the Mikroorkestra-a young exceptionally talented group based in Vilnius, founded by accordion virtuoso, Martynas Levickis. She is also the founder of Classical Kicks!. Created and founded in 2012, Classical Kicks! aims to bring classical music to a wider audience in accessible, diverse venues and contexts. Lizzie lives in London where she is a solo mum by choice to her 16-month old son.
London Jazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career?
Lizzie Ball: Take each day as it comes, don’t think too far ahead, and make it up as you go along!
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)?
LB: That sleep (or lack thereof!) is a forever moving and shifting pattern of phases.
LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz:
LB: There is a definite bonus to being freelance when being a mum, and particularly before school age arrives, so use it wisely. Also you can multitask more than you think in terms of baby nap times, early bedtime (if it happens) and involve your child in practice time. All of this if there is really no option for them to not be with you at these times .
LJN: Baby/child gear tips for travel/touring/gigging:
LB: You don’t need half the stuff you think you need! 100% Babyzen Yoyo pram for easy plane situations. A rucksack with wheels for carry-on luggage. Baby sling/carrier. New toys/books for long journeys! Find fun in the situation of travel you are in. Don’t worry so much about when they cry and scream, it always sounds worse to us as the parent than it does to others!
LJN: Best general travel/gigging/tour-with-child advice:
LB: Less is more! Try to stay in an apartment rather than a hotel so it feels more like home. Look into local babysitters to keep costs down if travelling with childcare is not an option.
LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions?
LB: It’s HARD to be a mum (particularly a solo mum like myself) in this industry from the point of view of how bookings can sometimes happen, e.g. last minute. But there is always a way to find help if you ask for it and search all the new babysitting apps and so on. It’s GREAT to be a mum in this industry from the point of view that freelance life is flexible and some employers are super understanding about kids if there is a crisis, etc.
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.)?
LB: I decided that I won’t tour internationally until my child is much older and I turned down several very high profile tours just this past year. If I have chosen to have a child, then he comes first. Since I am a solo mother by choice, I have to accept there are some sacrifices that are worth making. I am constantly adapting my lifestyle and work options and continue to do so. I tell myself it won’t be forever to say no to certain things, and to have faith that if you are really good at what you do the door will always be open.
Lizzie Ball performs Classical Kicks! at Snape Maltings Concert Hall as part of the Britten Pears Arts spring programme, on Saturday 15 April 2023. Arrangements by Callum Au and her bandmates include accordionist Miloš Milivojević, cellist Gabriella Swallow and James Turner on percussion.
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