A New Initiative: Mothers In Jazz
“Mothers In Jazz” is a fresh series initiated by vocalist Nicky Schrire. This project aims to establish an online resource for working jazz musicians with children, those contemplating parenthood, and jazz industry professionals who collaborate with and hire musicians who are parents. The insights provided by the musicians interviewed for this series offer valuable emotional, philosophical, and logistical information and support, which is easily accessible to everyone. “Mothers In Jazz” highlights the specific role of being both a mother and a performing jazz musician.
Spotlight on Brenda Earle Stokes
Brenda Earle Stokes is a talented Canadian musician with mastery over both the piano and voice. She has performed as a side person with Roxy Coss, Wycliffe Gordon, and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra and has held residencies at the Kennedy Center and Banff Center for Fine Arts. Brenda is a finalist in the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition and is also active as an educator, serving on the faculty of Fordham University and running a busy private studio. She was a past winner of the IAJE Sister’s in Jazz competition, identifying her as one of the top emerging jazz artists of her generation, and has toured clubs and festivals across the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. She currently resides in New York City with her 10-year-old son.
Brenda’s Advice for Balancing Motherhood and Career
For Brenda, the best advice she received about balancing motherhood and career was, “You’ll figure it out.” She wishes someone had given her more guidance. Brenda learned that it’s okay to step away from the constant music-making and gig-hustling, giving herself permission to take a break and enjoy life differently after her son’s birth.
Top Tips for Other Mothers in Jazz
Brenda advises other mothers in jazz that it’s alright to take a break from their musical lives if they need to. Becoming a parent is an all-encompassing experience, and everyone has a different vision for this time in their lives. Seeing images of other mothers on tour or in the recording studio with their babies sleeping quietly in a Moby wrap was challenging for Brenda, as it didn’t work for her or her son.
If you need to cut back on your music-making, change directions to earn more money for your family, or step away altogether for a while – it’s entirely okay. Your music will be waiting for you when you’re ready.
Travel and Child Gear Tips
Brenda’s best gear for travel and gigging was her breast pump, which provided her the freedom to continue doing some gigs. Her son was not one of those babies who would sleep quietly while she was in the recording studio or rehearsal.
General Travel and Gigging Advice
Brenda couldn’t take her child anywhere because it didn’t work for him, so her advice is that it’s okay to take a break from traveling and gigging if it doesn’t work for your family. If it does, build a network of trusted caregivers and find a way to make it work.
Surprises in Parenthood and Professional Life
Brenda is amazed at the efficiency with which she can get things done as a mother. She also discovered her strengths, courage, and wisdom, feeling more confident about who she is and what her values are.
Boundaries as a Mother in Jazz
Brenda has become more determined as an entrepreneur and businessperson, prioritizing her professional goals and taking steps in that direction. Her responsibility to her family has inspired her to forge her own path and not be afraid of doing things in a way that feels right for them.
Brenda’s Upcoming Projects
Brenda is currently composing a song cycle called “c,” a collection of songs about the complex life of mothers, capturing the excitement, wonder, fear, and frustrations of the entire experience. She also launched a platform called “The Versatile Musician,” which is an extensive suite of online courses designed to empower and inspire singers, pianists, and music educators.