Mothers In Jazz (42): Leala Cyr

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.

Leala Cyr is a trumpeter and vocalist who moves between her instruments with ease, whether improvising or interpreting contemporary material. She was a member of Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music and Chamber Music Societies, touring internationally with the acclaimed bassist/singer. Born in Wisconsin, Leala was also a member of “Rose & the Nightingale”, a quartet let by cellist Jody Redhage Ferber and also comprising Sara Caswell and Laila Biali. Over the years, she has shared the stage with the likes of Milton Nascimento, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Ivan Lins. Leala lives in Hartford, Connecticut with her husband and their 1 year-old daughter and 4 year-old son.

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Leala Cyr. Publicity photo by BUTTER

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

Leala Cyr: That music will always be there. As much as I feel the distance growing between me and my art, it’s always there for me when I really need it or want it. And when I start to forget how it makes me feel, it never ceases to fulfill my soul when I come back to 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)?

LC: Wait until your kid decides he’s actually ready to go on the potty. “Hey, there’s a pandemic and since it’s convenient for mom and dad right now, let’s give potty training a go! Why not?” (Insert facepalm emoji here).

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

LC: Embrace motherhood and do what’s best for you and your family. If that means having to (or being able to) take a step back from “the scene,” then do it. Maybe it means having to leave your kiddos with grandma and grandpa for a week. Call in all the favors. As mothers, we deal with way too much “mom guilt” and it’s ok to ask for help. Raising little humans is F^(%!#& hard!

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

LC: Are snacks considered “gear”?! My kids don’t tend to get many snacks at home, so it’s a treat when we’re traveling and they get to explore my bag of healthy goodies (no sugar though. Unless chasing after a toddler with a sugar high on a plane interests you.)

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

LC: Enjoy it and make it fun for the whole family. As difficult as it can sometimes be, travel is something so special and important for a child (in my opinion). I didn’t have many opportunities to do so growing up being 1 of 3 kids living in rural Wisconsin in a split family. And I am grateful to experience new places and cultures. I want to share that with my children in any way I can.

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

LC: The amount of time I really don’t have anymore. I mean, of course I knew it would be challenging to find the time to practice, write, etc. But unless you really have help from others, be it family, friends or hired caregivers, the hours just seem to vanish between the crying, entertaining, dirty diapers… the list is endless!

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.)?

LC: There are definitely gigs I just will not take anymore. If it’s not worth my time and energy, then I’m not going to waste what little I have left of it. Exposure ain’t gonna pay for those travel snacks!

LINKS: Leala Cyr website

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