“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.
Tina Phillips is a vocalist and songwriter based in the Denver region. Influenced most by Betty Carter, Sarah Vaughn, Charlie Parker, Sheila Jordan and Art Lande, her style is versatile – including straight ahead, bebop, blues, and Latin Jazz. She is a respected vocal coach, clinician, and an award winning Billboard songwriter. Tina lives in Denver, Colorado and her son is now 43 years old.
LondonJazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career?
Tina Phillips: My career started in 1983. I became a single parent/divorced at that time and back in that day there wasn’t a lot of advice or support for single women especially in music. My family wasn’t supportive or the kind of people I would trust with the safety of my son, which made it especially difficult.
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)?
TP: Everything was trial and error. The first thing I would recommend to women is to be careful who you marry, or get involved with, if you decide that path is for you. Also don’t expect it to be easy but it is very rewarding if you can tough it out. I also would take holiday gigs because they paid really well and to this day I still feel sad that I missed out on so many holidays with my son but I was responsible for his support so try not to beat myself up too much and know it’s what I had to do to support us.
LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz:
TP: When my son was in grade school I tried to work my career around him. I would do gigs on every other weekend his dad had him. I would have a part time day job when he was in grade school so I could get home in time for him from school and then I would teach throughout the evenings. Years later, when I became friends with Sheila Jordan she said the same thing and said she never felt bad about having a job that supported her music as a single mother. She said it was a means to an end.
LJN: Baby/child gear tips for travel/touring/gigging:
TP: I sacrificed a lot for my son, as most women musicians do, and didn’t do much traveling when he was growing up.
LJN: Best general travel//gig/tour-with-child advice:
TP: The spouses of my band mates who would plan on going on tour would offer to help me with childcare if I wanted to take my son with us. The wife of the bassist Paul Warburton, Barbara Warburton, made that offer and I adore her for that. Even though she’s no longer with us I love her dearly for that to this day.
LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions?
TP:That it worked. That I get to do what I do! That I was able to have this career as a jazz vocalist and be a mom. Somehow I figured it out. It wasn’t easy but I was determined. We were very poor at times but I always provided for my son. Women have to sacrifice all the time. It’s the way it is. Sometimes we have to put things on hold for a minute knowing we will get back to it when we can. It all seems pretty miraculous to me that I get to do what I do so I stay humble and grateful for my life, career and my wonderful son and now his wife and my grandkids!
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.)?
TP: Now that I’ve been doing this for 40 years I try to give myself time off for holidays if possible to be with my son and his family. Now if I was offered a fortune for a concert during a holiday I would certainly take it or see if it could be scheduled at another time. Having gone past the child care years I am always glad to talk with other musician moms to help them stay strong, believe in themselves to keep on going. I also find myself educating people who want us to work for free. I tell people that musicians are self employed, pay taxes, rent or house payments, car payments, food on the table, doctor bills etc. I feel like I’ve spent years educating people that this is a career no different than a doctor or a lawyer and we should get paid! Which means that I am grateful to those who understand that and pay musicians!
LINKS: Artist website
The complete archive of Nicky Schrire’s Mothers in Jazz series