“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.
Allana Goldsmith is a Māori contemporary jazz artist hailing from the Tairawhiti region, East Coast of the North Island of Aotearoa/NZ. Her iwi (tribes) are Ngati Porou and Ngai Tai. Allana’s approach to music fuses jazz with traditional sounds, with her original music often written in Te Reo Māori. She has performed throughout New Zealand, including at the 2022 Wellington Jazz Festival, and the 2019 Tauranga National Jazz Festival. Her collaboration with British jazz pianist Mark Baynes has led to performances at the 2021 Aotearoa Music Awards and the 2023 Auckland Arts Festival. Allana lives in Auckland (Tāmaki Makaurau) with her two children – a 14 year-old girl and a 12 year-old boy.
LondonJazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career?
Allana Goldsmith: In my life, my children always come first. Being a mother that is present with my children is always the most important thing. The ‘juggle’ is unreal – and not always achievable. At times I’m able to handle it and at other times I’m not. That’s life, ups and downs, success and failure. Often when my career is going well other relationships or parts of life will fail or suffer. You can’t always have it all. Being a parent means things take longer. Goals get stretched out when you’re a parent.
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)?
AG: Forgive yourself for not being able to ‘be’ everything and do everything you thought you could. Forgive quickly, move on, and don’t dwell on things too long. You can have a shit day – and just try to do better tomorrow. Things will fail. When it doesn’t work- change it. There is no ‘constant’ with kids – so being able to adapt to that constant state of change is vital. Luckily the ‘Jazz way’ or philosophy – improvising and listening- I believe somewhat prepares you for that constant change.
LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz:
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AG: Sleep when you can. Day and night. If you gig, rehearse, and work at night then you must catch up on sleep during the day. Sleep is the most important thing.
LJN: Best general travel/gigging/tour-with-child advice:
AG: I didn’t do too much touring or gigging when my children were young. I never liked to be away from them for more than a couple of nights. If I did a gig or tour with my kids when they were babies, then we just went with it. It was always a team effort. I think people are more understanding nowadays. Mostly they want to help you. When they come to rehearsal most people enjoy having my children around. Children are not the problem – the adults are! Adults should adjust to them.
Now they are older (teenagers) things are different. My advice would be to only do what works for you and your family.
LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions?
AG: I don’t know many women in music, let alone mothers or mothers in jazz. I don’t think mothers are supported enough, or encouraged enough in music in general, and that’s a sad thing in the 21st century.
Probably the most surprising thing is how much my children influence my music. It’s surprising to say/write this but I know I am a better vocalist because of them.
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.)?
AG: I don’t really have boundaries. As a mother those responsibilities are always there for me. I try to work my career around my children. My career has to work around them otherwise I wouldn’t do it. I try to schedule all my work between school hours. Does that mean I haven’t achieved all the things I wanted to? Right now- yes. I’m ok with that.
Allana and Mark’s debut duo album as Goldsmith Baynes was released in September 2022. “E Rere Rā” features music by Mark with lyrics by Allana that are written almost entirely in the indigenous language of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Allana explains: “It’s important to me to reclaim Te Reo me ōna Tikanga, our parents’ and grandparents’ culture. It’s a never-ending journey and my music, my singing, continues to be a waka (vessel) which helps me along in that journey.”