Mothers In Jazz (64): Ayelet Rose Gottlieb

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.

Vocalist Ayelet Rose Gottlieb creates music that blends jazz, middle-eastern & Jewish music with contemporary composition and conceptual improvisation. Her innovative style as a composer and improviser has led her to fascinating collaborations. She has performed John Zorn’s music at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; sung her own compositions to erotic Biblical texts inside a cave in the Israeli desert, and performed with Mycale (a cappella quartet) in a butchery in Austria and in a golden church in Ecuador. Ayelet’s multilingual and multicultural approach is a thread that runs throughout her work. Ayelet lives in Montreal, Canada with her eight and a half year-old twins and her seven year-old daughter.

Ayelet Rose Gottlieb (with dancer Su Çinar in “13 Lunar Meditations”). Photo credit: Julie Gauthier

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

Ayelet Rose Gottlieb: When my children were babies, a Japanese friend told me about Kintsukuroi – the Japanese artform of filling cracks with gold. This concept has held me through the past nearly nine years of being a mother. My advice is – let go of all of your preconceived ideas about what practice looks like, what composing looks like, what music and art making looks like. Your time structures have fundamentally changed. Be mindful of the cracks that you can fill with creative gold. It won’t be what it was before, it’ll be different. If you hold it lovingly, without judging it or feeling sorry for what is lost – you will discover new worlds in yourself, and even perhaps a greater love and gratitude for your little human creations, who are reconstructing your creative-self from the core.

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)?

ARG: Be gentle with yourself. My musician friends, who often have between 0-1 children, are continuing at the same pace we all were on before I had my kids. I often felt either a pressure to catch up to their speed or a dismissal of myself a serious musician since my time structures shifted.

It took some time, but finally I found a new rhythm that works for me. Gentleness, meditation, Deep Listening and physical practices such as Qi Gong helped me align with my own rhythm and sustain a creative life that both feeds my soul and my family in ways I could never imagine before I had my kids.

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

ARG: Don’t be shy to bring your full self. Visibility will lead to change. Ask for childcare in your grant applications and festival submissions. Bring a child with you on the road – it’s a great education for them and for your band-mates. It’s also a true bonding opportunity for you and your child. Consider your motherhood when you are asked about your needs. We mustn’t erase ourselves. We have a lot to say and a valuable perspective that can and should be a part of the Jazz conversation. And we mustn’t forget that we are not the first: from Geri Allen to Jeanne Lee, Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan, women found ways to make this duality work. The time is now to put it on the table and ask for what we need.

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

ARG: Awesome question!! Which of course depends on the age of the child… When I traveled with a baby, I made sure to have a good, easy to fold stroller and à favorite stuffy… With 5+ yo – a CD player and some fav musical choices for the car rides (I’m old school). With an 8yo – I taught her to knit… Whatever their special interests are, bring that along, and try to minimize your luggage so that you don’t crash mid way… choose one or two packable things that will help keep the child occupied and content during the long commutes / when they have to wait for you backstage / when you want to hang with your people and they’re bored…

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

ARG: At ANY age – make sure you have another DESIGNATED set of hands – be it a friend or family member or paid childcare. You don’t want to be distracted when you are working, you’re on a job! 

Make sure to communicate with the child your plans: when are you working and when are you free? Make sure to make free times extra special, get little mementos, take them on a beautiful walk… take photos and make a photo album after it’s over. Touring is stressful and can be hard for a child. But also shows them an alternate way of living, which is a huge gift that i believe will allow them to imagine their own lives more openly as they grow.

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

ARG: The biggest surprise for me is discovering how much I’ve had to reimagine… in the first years I held on to my old ideas of what the life of a musician must look like. I struggled to continue to hold that life even though it wasn’t working with my reality. Slowly, I began to reevaluate every aspect of my life and realign my priorities. Now I don’t tour as frequently, and my tours are shorter. My compositional practices have fundamentally changed. I restructured the use of my skill set – my compositions take a long time to “assemble” (I think of them as architectures) but are far more collaboration and improvisation based, to require less rehearsal time. The majority of my work is done in the golden cracks – when  kids are at school or in the wee hours of the morning / night. My choice is to be fully present with my kids when I am with them. Not to split my attention with my work that’s always knocking at the door and asking for my full attention. Another thing that I never did before and am doing now, is scheduling REST and recoup times… motherhood knocks you to your knees, and music demands your whole self to commit to it… I was burning out! So I began to schedule down times for reading, meditation,  slow walks, sleep etc…

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.)?

ARG: Tours – no longer than 10 days, and no more than twice a year. In the very minimum- all of my expenses have to be covered, including childcare (for the child I take along + for the children I leave behind). Make sure to work with bandmates who don’t have a negative attitude about a child in the car with us. Prioritise local work, online work, things that can be done during the kids’ school hours. Prioritise work that wholly inspires me and fills my creative needs, as well as pays well, so that I don’t need to hustle and can focus on the things that matter most to me – making music and making sure my family’s physical and mental needs are met and celebrated 

In addition to her work as a composer and musician, Ayelet runs Orchard of Pomegranates, a global community that gathers online and in person, in order to “practice practice” (in the words of feminist composer Pauline Oliveros.) Through sharing in each other’s works and processes the community supports creativity in all of its stages. Ayelet invites some of her favourite artists, dreamers, innovators and thinkers to share their knowledge through masterclasses, workshops and listening parties. These artists include Jay Clayton, Luciana Souza and NPR Tiny Desk winner Gaelynn Lee.

LINKS: Artist website
Orchard of Pomegranates

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

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