Tomoko Omura – London Jazz News

Mothers In Jazz” is a new series, launched by singer Nicky Schrire, and this is the fourth interview. The initiative aims to create an online resource for jazz musicians who work 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.

Tomoko Omura is a composer and violinist. She is both conductor and sideman sought after by musicians like Camila Meza, Dave Stryker and Fabian Almazan. His original compositions skilfully blend elements of folk and jazz traditions while paying homage to his Japanese heritage. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, her music has been featured in Strings magazine, and WBGO (links below). Tomoko was born and raised in Shizuoka, Japan, but now lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, pianist Glenn Zaleski, and their two-and-a-half-year-old son, Allan.

Tomoko Omura. Photo by Greta DiGiorgio

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

Tomoko Omura: I received no advice. I didn’t have any jazz mom friends at the time that I could ask about motherhood.

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)?

TO: Make the most of the time spent with your partner before the baby arrives. If you want to do long tours, do them before the baby because it will be more difficult to do after (at least for a while).

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

TO: It’s important to keep the music to yourself. Not necessarily to further your career, but rather for your own emotional well-being.

LJN: New born equipment tips for trips/tours:

TO: A lightweight, easy to maneuver stroller and diaper bag that can hold everything you need. Be organized, including your personal items and ID, etc. A super lightweight instrument case is important. I carried my violin on my back, my son on my belly, and pushing a stroller with a fairly heavy diaper bag attached, plus a large suitcase. My instrument case therefore had to be as light as possible. It’s not an equipment recommendation, but having an emergency pacifier with your favorite toys has saved me several times during a long line for a COVID test at the airport, for example.

LJN: Better general tips for travel/excursions with children:

TO: Don’t overload the schedule. Have enough downtime together. Spend time with the caregiver before leaving a child. If you travel long hours, take frequent breaks and walk around and have fun together.

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

Tomoko Omura. Photo by Greta DiGiorgio

TO: I’m surprised to look back and realize now that all the worries I had before about emotional hurdles, career, etc. were just distractions. I appreciate the work we do and the time I devote to it. Life has become a little simpler, even if it has technically complicated with logistics.

Also, before my son was born, I was very careful who I told about my pregnancy. I was afraid of losing opportunities because I was a mother in the jazz community. But after my son was born, I didn’t worry so much. I am who I am and I can’t separate myself from being a mother. I accepted the change and I believe that the concerts that I could have lost by being a mother are not important in my life.

LJN: What limits have you set for yourself as a mother in jazz?

To: If I’m not comfortable leaving my child behind for a while, I won’t accept the gig. These concerts are not for me/us at the moment. It all depends on how long and if I can take my child with me or not, or if someone can take care of my child and how long he will have to be without me. If those needs are met, I’ll take the gig.

Tomoko’s new solo violin album “For Mothers” was released on Pinch Records on August 26. This is a collection of original compositions written for five-string solo violin inspired by the first two years of her experience as a new mother, including an oxytocin-inspired melody.

LINKS: Tomoko Omura’s website

Interviews 2021 : with Morgan Enos for / Artist page on WBGO / Magazine Strings

Landing page for all Nicky Schrire Mothers in Jazz interviews

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