“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.
Erin Propp is a Canadian vocalist who meticulously blends jazz and folk genres whether delivering originals or interpreting standards. Her collaboration with producer and guitarist Larry Roy has seen her garner both a JUNO Award nomination and Western Canadian Music Award. Erin lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and their three children, aged 4, 7 and 8.
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LondonJazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career?
Erin Propp: Every bit of time I put into my art is not wasted. No matter how small or how stolen the time is – it all holds value.
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)?
EP: Allow yourself and your goals to change as you become a parent. Babies change everything, especially you. Keep answering this question: how can I keep growing as an artist? And remember – no answer is too small.
LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz:
EP: Vocal warm ups and ear training have been the most fun and best tools to keep my instrument honed when baby days keep me busy. Keeping your instrument in shape and maintaining a sharp ear is growth that can be tracked and measured, and you can spend ten minutes a day on each of them and still see incremental change.
LJN: Best general travel/gigging/tour-with-child advice:
EP: It is okay if this scene is not for you. There is no shame attached to not making art, or making art differently (at a different pace, in a different space) than that of your colleagues or how you imagined art before kids.
A little more specific but still general – when I have brought a child with me to rehearsals, before leaving I privately come to terms with the fact that this may not work out for my child that day and I’ll have to cut rehearsal short. This helps me keep my cool when the child just can’t occupy themselves and plans have to change. The best way I am prepared for a change of plans is to set my frame of mind ahead of time to be okay with any outcome. Have a big-picture perspective.
LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions?
EP: I have been surprised by the productivity that parenting brings. I may work at a slower pace than I did prior to having kids (advancing in my career more slowly; picking up musical skills at a slower pace), but my schedule is so lean, with nothing wasted, that the hours I spend on my craft are intense, focussed, and my heart is open and ready to create. I have also been surprised by the refinement of my professional goals since becoming a parent. This wasn’t the case when the kids were babies, but now that they are almost all school-age and I am not in a fog of sleep deprivation, my artistic ambitions from years before are not just being revisited, but trimmed and clarified through this new lens.
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.)?
EP: My choice from the very beginning was to be the primary caregiver to my kids. I have not hired regular full time childcare during the day. It was a personal boundary that was easy for me to make. I knew I didn’t want to miss out on these early days with the kids. When I go out to work, it’s usually in the evenings, and I often get to put them to bed before I leave. It’s not everyone’s choice, but I have no regrets. As they are getting older, I have managed to take them with me on some jobs, and I can feel more comfortable now leaving them for longer windows of time.
LINK: Erin Propp’s website