Keyna Wilkins – London Jazz News

Mothers In Jazz” is a new series, launched by singer Nicky Schrire. The initiative aims to create an online resource for jazz musicians working with children, those considering parenthood, and jazz industry figures who work with and hire parent musicians. The insight of the musicians interviewed for this series provides valuable emotional, philosophical and logistical information and support readily available to all. “Mothers In Jazz” highlights the very specific role of being both a mother and a jazz musician.

Keyna Wilkins is a pioneering Australian/British pianist, flautist and composer. A two-time finalist in the Australian Art Music Awards for Individual Excellence, she is an innovative soloist and leader of cutting-edge ensembles. Keyna is an Associate Artist at the Australian Music Center and also composes for film and theatre. His collaborations include the indigenous jazz fusion duo “Yulugi” with leading First Nations didgeridoo player Gumaroy Newman, and “Ephemera Ensemble” which performed at the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival 2017 and the Extended Play Festival of New Music in 2018. Keyna presented lectures/workshops at the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference and was a guest speaker at the Women’s Club’s “Trailblazers in Music” series in 2021. She lives in Sydney with her 8-year-old twins.

Keyna Wilkins. Photo credit: Tawfik Elgazzar

London Jazz News: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received for balancing/juggling motherhood and career?

Keyna Wilkins: Focus on what you really want to accomplish musically. For example, record an album and don’t do anything that isn’t essential to it – outsource some work if needed (if you don’t have the money, try a barter system). Don’t listen to anyone who tells you it’s too hard. Anything is possible if you think creatively. Since having twins 8 years ago, I’ve recorded 8 albums and played hundreds of gigs and received the best songwriting commissions of my life. And I’m not rich. Yes, everything is possible. To achieve this, it’s good to have responsible adults around you that your children love and who like to spend time with them to help you from time to time.

LJN: What information or advice would you have liked to receive but didn’t (and had to learn by trial and error or on the go)?

kW: There is no “right” way to parent. Every child is different, and every parent is different. It’s very good and healthy for children to see their mothers enjoying their careers and moving forward. Trust your intuition.

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

kW: Try to involve your children when you can. For example, sometimes I get my kids on shows, it’s good for them and it’s a great bonding experience and the audience loves it. Never be ashamed to ask for help. In addition, I took about a year and a half completely after having children. There are many women who take many years off and if it suits them, that is what matters.

LJN: New born equipment tips for trips/tours/concerts:

kW: Until now, my parents or my partner took care of my children while I traveled for music.


LJN: Better general travel/gigging/tour-with-child tips:

kW: Try something simple first, like a concert.

LJN: What surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining committed to your professional pursuits and ambitions?

kW: The whole experience of having children has made me much more grounded and in touch with my vision as a musician and songwriter. I was actually so much more inspired after the kids came along. And because I had less time, I just had to keep going, so I was much more productive and time efficient, but the best thing was I stopped caring about the little things.


LJN: What boundaries have you set for yourself as a mom in jazz (could be related to travel/touring, dates, personal settings, custody decisions, etc.)?

kW: If one of my children is really unhappy or sick, I will cancel. The most important thing in my life is always my children, then myself, then my partner.

LINKS: Artist’s website

Youtube channel

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