“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.
Maucha Adnet was born to be a musician. The Brazilian vocalist and percussionist started singing at the age of 15 and went on to tour with Antonio Carlos Jobim and his band “Banda Nova” for a decade. That dream gig resulted in her moving to New York. Since then, she has collaborated with musicians including Randy Brecker, Joe Lovano, and Winton Marsalis. Maucha still lives in New York City to this day with her husband, drummer Duduka Da Fonseca, and their 24-year-old daughter, Isabella.
LondonJazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career?
Maucha Adnet: I guess the advice came sort of naturally, from my father, even though he was already gone when I had Isabella. But as a pediatrician/psychoanalyst, my father always talked about how important love was and being together and paying attention to what a baby is trying to say before they can speak. And of course, paying attention once they can actually speak as well.
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)?
MA: I was very lucky to have gone through Isabella’s first years of life with a lot of support from a group of mothers and fathers who helped one another. Specifically, three or four of us who met at our kids’ public school in the neighborhood and we all loved each other (and still do) and just helped one another as much as we could. It worked out beautifully and we became family forever.
I remember a few tours that my husband and I went on while Isabella was in school. So she would sleep in different friends’ homes as well as with her sister, Alana (my bonus daughter), who is 17 years older than Isabella and helped a lot taking care of her while we toured for a week here, two weeks there and could not take her with us. But all that worked out pretty great. Isabella certainly benefited from those experiences, even at moments that she missed us. And we missed her, of course. But she knew she was safe and loved and knew what our work meant to us. By the time she was 10 or 11, she did not want to miss school except when we went to Brazil and she would come with us, even if that meant missing a week (or two sometimes) of school.
LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz:
MA: Try your best to be organized with logistics so your kid is comfortable either coming with you or staying with someone you trust. And never give up or let the stress grow on you too much. It works out at the end.
LJN: Baby/child gear tips for travel/touring/gigging:
MA: Make it as simple as possible. Everywhere you go, you may find things that you might want or need. Kids don’t need a lot to be well and happy.
LJN: Best general travel/gigging/tour-with-child advice:
MA: Once you take your baby or older kid with you, it seems very natural. I did a tour in Sweden when Isabella was almost two years old. I was still breastfeeding and I decided that it would be best that Duduka (my husband) would come along. Duduka is a drummer and we play together a lot but that time I was being invited by these great Swedish musicians and we found a way for that to happen. So, they invited Duduka to come and do a master class for the Swedish drummer and it was perfect. We stayed in the same hotel for days and I left to perform in different towns a couple of times, spending the night away from them. So, those two nights Duduka stayed with Isabella and it was a nice rehearsal for her to stop breastfeeding, which was perfect timing for me and for her.
I vividly remember the last time I breastfed her early in the morning in a hotel in Stockholm and right after that, Duduka and Isabella went to the airport to go back home. I had one more week of shows every night in different cities. Once I got home to NY, she came close and I had that moment of explaining to her that the milk was finished and that from now on if she wanted milk, she could have it in a cup. Interestingly, she was fine with it-I guess more than me! She never cared much for milk until later and never had a bottle. I had such a wonderful time breastfeeding her, that for me not to breastfeed as soon as I came back home was pretty hard. Hard in a good way, because after two years, it was a good time to stop and ended up being very natural. She could understand that I was singing. She had seen me doing it enough that it was clear for her why I was gone for a week.
LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions?
MA: What surprised me was that I had a lot of work, between shows and some recordings, in her first year of life. At that time work didn’t come far in advance like it might today. It was a very different dynamic. And I didn’t know I was going to have so many gigs during that period..So I had to always have someone with me to watch her, while I was singing. One time, I had to bring her onto the stage with me for an uncore in Canada because she was crying a lot and would only stop once in my arms. It was a situation where it was ok to do that. And she was so happy.
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.)?
MA: I always tried to make sure I slept enough in order to keep my health in good balance and have the voice ready to sing. So, I tried my best to have a reasonable schedule and all the details when I’d eat, rest, spend time playing with my daughter and so forth. I always tried to manage my time the best possible way, which was not always possible on tour. But the more you take care of all the details of logistics, the more you enjoy your days and avoid unnecessary stress.