Mothers in Jazz (56): Anneleen Boehme

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.

Double bassist Anneleen Boehme is a key figure within the Belgian jazz scene. She made a name as the bass player of the well-known Belgian jazz trio LABtrio, together with Lander Gyselinck and Bram De Looze. Influenced by classical and contemporary music, bass players such as Charlie Haden, Charles Mingus and composers like Gavin Bryars, she decided to start composing for double bass and orchestra. In 2019, she formed her own band Grand Picture Palace to showcase these compositions. Currently, she is working on solo repertoire for double bass, which will be recorded and released in 2023 (W.E.R.F. Records). Anneleen lives in Izegem in West Flanders, Belgium with her two year-old child.

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Anneleen Boehme. Photo credit: Geert Vandepoele

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

Anneleen Boehme: To keep doing what I like, what I want. To keep following my heart and my gut in every decision. If I’m happy, so is she. I’ve often wondered if I should quit and get a 9 to 5 job in order to see my daughter more often. But I would be the most unhappy mother. And what good is that for her? 

A dear friend/mom/musician told me (after I blurted out how guilty I felt for not being there for my daughter): the time you do have with her, you’re there for 100%. Even if it’s just the two of you watching tv. Because you know the time is precious, you take it with both hands. Being away to play concerts is, in a way, how you recharge your own energy and mental health: you’ve had your ‘me-time’, and can focus on the little creature now. In this way, you give more to your daughter than other people with ‘normal’ jobs ever could.

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)?

AB: That she would also be just fine even if I worried less or tried less hard. Guilt sometimes eats me alive when I’m gone to teach or play. I now start to see how much she learns from having music around the house, and even from having a bunch of other people babysit her when I’m gone. She’s getting independent and is open to new people. I shouldn’t have worried this much 🙂

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

AB: Try to focus on the time you actually can spend with your kid(s) and plan the moments together. So your kid knows: that Wednesday morning is just me and mom, quality time. It is soothing for your mind to know what’s coming and to know that you are indeed capable of providing some ‘structure’ in the life of your kid(s).

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

AB: I haven’t had the chance to tour with my daughter yet.

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

AB: 1) That I had to regain the fun in playing. I did not enjoy my first concerts after my daughter was born because I was so involved with her, with not being there for her. I was afraid I would never enjoy being on stage as much as I did before I became a mom. Luckily, I can safely say now that the joy and sparks of the on-stage life did come back and are as alive as ever.

2) That I was going to be asked this question a lot of times. People never ask a man who just became a father how he’s going to juggle a career in music and fatherhood, they assume he will be able to do everything he wants and not have to give in anything. Which I know from dad/musician-friends is not true. They face the same challenges as women do. They also struggle with the guilt. 

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.)?

AB: I plan the days or even hours and moments with my daughter so I always know that I will have time for her after I’ve been out to play. It’s locked in my agenda so I feel safe that I’m doing the best I can. The times that I’m away, I try to live to the fullest and enjoy every moment so I can be fully mentally recharged. But I’m also kind to myself and let myself have any emotions I want at any given time. I let go of expectations and try to live in the moment as much as I can. Today is good the way it is. Tomorrow is only tomorrow.

LINKS: Artist page at Aubergine Artists
The complete archive of Nicky Schrire’s Mothers in Jazz series

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