Mothers In Jazz (47): Sarah Silverman

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.

Sarah Silverman is a Canadian pianist, singer and songwriter rooted in classical and jazz traditions. A graduate of the Glenn Gould School of Music in Toronto and the Manhattan School of Music in New York (MMus), she was mentored by vocalist Luciana Souza, and pianist Bruce Barth. Sarah  made her Broadway debut as a pianist for the Tony Award winning show In The Heights, and went on to become a pianist for Disney’s Mary Poppins. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their twelve and eight year old children.

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Sarah Silverman. Photo credit Sarah Mally

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

Sarah Silverman: That there is no perfect time to start a family. This advice came from my own mother who has four children and juggled multiple careers. I was waiting to get to some mythical magical place with music before having a baby, and her point was that there is no way to predict how motherhood will change your life, or your artistic path – It’s messy, it’s ever-evolving and at some point you take the leap and figure out the details as you go!

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)?

SS: To relax and go with the flow. I was so worried about losing my identity as a musician and so preoccupied with holding on tightly to the way things were before my babies that I created so much more stress and exhaustion for myself. It’s taken me twelve years of motherhood to finally realize that my children are constantly growing and changing and so is my role as a mother.  There have been times where music has taken a back seat and that’s okay – it’s something I always always come back to.

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

SS: Protect and value your practice/writing/creative time – even if it means paying a babysitter so you can be fully present with your work.

Make/find a special space for yourself where you can be creative, preferably with a door that closes so you won’t be disturbed!

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

SS: My kids are older now, but I remember the most valuable thing for getting around was the Ergo baby carrier!

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

SS: Food, water and outdoor play space.  Find those wherever you go and everyone will be happier.

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

SS: How precarious it has all felt at times. I’ve had so many moments over the years where I’ve questioned my identity, and whether I could even call myself a musician anymore. If I stopped playing forever, who would even care? I’ve come to realize that there is no “supposed to be” in this crazy life/music/motherhood balance and it’s forever evolving.

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.)?

SS: I have always prioritized my practice/creative time, and early on my husband and I decided it was important to hire a babysitter for a few hours a day so that I could have this time and space. I often felt guilty spending the money, especially when I wasn’t “working” a paid job.  But ultimately it was because of this decision that I was able to have the space to begin writing and working on the music that became my first album.

Sarah’s new album “Lyric Pieces” was produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Luciana Souza). Together they recorded an innovative re-imagining of the music of Edvard Grieg. Lyric Pieces intertwines Sarah’s voice, lyrics and arrangements with Grieg’s music and was released by Adhyaropa Records on 16 June 2023.

LINKS: Artist website

The complete archive of Nicky Schrire’s Mothers in Jazz series

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