Mothers In Jazz (61): Allegra Levy

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.

Allegra Levy is an award-winning vocalist and songwriter. With accolades from Downbeat, and reviews from The New York Times and JazzTimes, she has released five albums to great acclaim. Her most recent album, “Songs for You and Me”, is an album for children, which showcases Allegra’s distinctive brand of sweet, swinging elegance and came about after she became a mother herself. She serves on the leadership team for the Women In Jazz Organisation (WIJO) and lives in New York City with her husband and their two year-old daughter, Stella.

AllegraLevy. Photo credit: Michael William Paul

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

Allegra Levy: Still waiting to hear something that is helpful… but generally that the young years go by fast and not to miss them. It’s a juggling act for sure and sometimes I feel like a circus performer, but I’m trying to keep every pin, ball, music, email, dog, husband, kiddo, and sense of self in the air at the moment…

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

AL: I think it’s ok not to make every hang or show in the beginning, but it’s also ok to leave and play/practice/hear music if you feel like you’re losing your sense of self. Also, stick with other moms when you can. Even being around or having a phone call with someone else that has that knowing energy can make everything feel easier. I remember hanging at Birdland one night and it was the first time I’d been out to see music in awhile. A jazz dude who shall remain nameless who I hadn’t seen since I had Stella said “What are you doing here so late… don’t you have a baby?” I felt embarrassed at first, and I don’t remember how I responded. Should I have not been there? Maybe not. I was exhausted. It took crazy amounts of energy to make sure my kid was sorted, put on makeup and find an outfit that would fit and hopefully hide my new post C-section flab. But didn’t HE have a kid? Where should I be? Not on the scene? It was certainly hard to get out while still nursing, but I needed to feel like I was still a creative entity and not just a cow. I am glad I went out that night. Was I fried? Yes. Will my kid remember that I went out sometimes to hear and play music when she was an infant? No. Could other jazz folks be more supportive of new moms dragging their asses to gigs when everything in your exhausted body is fighting it- HELL YES! Take care of yourself and you are not alone.

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

AL: The Gooseket is an awesome travel sling when you need an extra hand. I even saw Hyuna Park play piano with her son in it, but I use it for travel and day-to-day when Stella refuses the stroller but is a bit too much to handle walking through an airport. Also a little colorful masking tape goes a long way on the back of your tray table on the plane as a great little game/toy distraction.

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

AL: Always bring a spare change of clothes on the plane for both you and baby. This is something I’ve learned the hard way. Yuck!

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

AL: I’m constantly surprised by how much I’m able to accomplish in a day. Sometimes motherhood does feel like it gives you superpowers. 

Allegra’s new family friendly/ jazz for kid’s album “Songs for You and Me” came out on April 7th, 2023 on all streaming platforms.

LINKS: Artist website
The complete archive of Nicky Schrire’s Mothers in Jazz series

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