Ella Jarman-Pinto: Composer

Ella Jarman-Pinto: Composer

“I’ve had to stop and restart my business three times. Every single time I start from scratch. If I’d had access to shared parental leave, my husband and I could have managed to keep both businesses going… My husband pays his taxes, contributes to society, so why on earth doesn’t he get paid paternity leave?”

Ella Jarman-Pinto, composer, talks about work/parenthood balance, the inequalities of freelance maternity and paternity leave, and how she can work creatively with other musicians and film-makers as well as raising a family.

Composer Ella Jarman-Pinto

How many children do you have and how old are they?

I have three children, two of them living. Marvellous would have been 5, Otis is 3.5 (threenager, argh!) and Vita is 13 months.

Tell me a bit about your work and how it is structured.

I help media and film producers by creating unique and timeless musical compositions, ensuring that their creative vision remains at the forefront. I find it fascinating that music can completely change the emotion of a scene, and my job is to unpick exactly what a producer or director needs and channel it into music. This is the perfect career as it means that I can work from home. My husband is studying away on a music therapy masters for half of the week, so it means that if the children are ill I can just work in the evening to catch up. The children are in nursery three afternoons a week, and my mum helps me for one evening when I have to teach. In addition I help people of all ages and experiences in the community unleash their inner creativity, whether that’s through singing or composing. My new singing group ParentSing, (Fridays, 1.15-2.30pm, Penrith) is for parents who need to take time for themselves but struggle with childcare.

  Tell me about your work/parenthood balance. 

It’s hard and it’s still evolving. We’re only four weeks into my husband’s two year course, so we’re adjusting as we go along! I think I’ve changed nursery days three times over the last two months. But I spend a wonderful amount of time with my kids. They’ve only just started playing together and it’s just amazing.

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent?

I don’t think I have, but I’ve been on maternity leave so much in the last few years that I have really been able to pick and choose what I want to do. I’ve felt more empowered with less time, because it means I have to focus. The work that I do is exactly what I want, and that means I write better music and am a better teacher. I do have to big up Harriet Wybor at PRS at this point, because I was invited to take part in the Wild Plum Songbook/PRS/Cheltenham Music festival workshops for female composers. Vita was only six months and exclusively breastfed, so I said I needed to bring her with me. Harriet didn’t bat an eyelid, organised enough food for my sisters who looked after her and arranged a room that I could care for her in. It meant that I could go and have this fantastic experience and I’m so grateful to them. Vita loved it too!

Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?

My husband is freelance as well. He has been doing a lot of peri teaching all over the county as it is a relatively stable income and has helped us while we had our family. However, September has always been a very scary time. One year none of his schools had confirmed, we were two weeks into the new school year and he was the main wage earner. I ended up taking on a lot of teaching on an instrument I didn’t enjoy in order to make up the shortfall. It was fab to start with, but we struggled with winter illnesses and nursery and lost a lot of money between us. By the time I went on maternity leave we were clear that I should pursue composition more as it meant I could work from home and be more flexible.

Do you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form?

We send our kids to a fab nursery with a beautiful meadow out of the back! The children spend most of the time outside and are really happy there. The nursery is as flexible as it can be, but we have had to rely on parents and friends a lot. We can’t afford and don’t want full-time childcare, so until now have split the remaining days equally between us. We also have a rule that whomever was supposed to be with the children has to organise the childcare if they then get work.

Have you performed anywhere that made the work/parenthood balance easier?

When both kids were tiny I’d regularly sing with them in slings on my back or front. A number of times they’ve made a grab for the mic or joined in! 

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

Creche, quiet rooms, food(!), regular breaks, an understanding smile, etc.

Are there any organisations/venues/festivals etc that you have worked with that are particularly supportive of performers who are parents?

I mentioned PRS above. Love them. They were so so lovely!! Plus, Vita was the star of the show. Every break she would come out and everyone, mentors and composers alike, came to say hello. I joked I should do all of my networking with her with me.

Were you freelance before you had children? If not, what prompted the change?

I’ve been freelance for ten years. I worked in a couple of PAYE jobs straight out of uni, but I like the freedom and being my own boss. Having children has made me even more grateful to be self-employed. I can choose my hours, and spend time with my children. And I think my husband spends more time with them than he would as PAYE because he’s not stuck with the old patriarchal ideas that men shouldn’t be adjusting their hours at work.

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

This is a subject that I feel very strongly about. I’m a follower and supporter of Olga FitzRoy, who is campaigning for shared parental leave to be extended to self-employed parents. I’ve had to stop and restart my business three times. Every single time I start from scratch. If I’d had access to shared parental leave, my husband and I could have managed to keep both businesses going. I’m also so angry when it comes to KIT days. I work hourly. So telling me that teaching one lesson in a day (for example, if there are difficulties scheduling) counts as a KIT day is completely ridiculous when you compare it to someone else working a full day and getting paid three times the amount. It’s also ridiculous that PAYE parents can start a freelance job and not be under the same rules. Don’t get me started on paternity! My husband pays his taxes, contributes to society, so why on earth doesn’t he get paid paternity leave?

Ella Jarman-Pinto is a Cumbria-based composer and vocal leader. She studied composition with Julian Philips at Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Ella was one of six composers selected to take part in the Wild Plum Songbook workshops, a collaboration with PRS and Cheltenham Music Festival, with Everyday Magic, in March 2019. She was Composer in Residence with Streetwise Opera from 2016-17 and an RPS Young Musician from 2013-14.

Ella provided the original music score for award-winning short film, AstraZeneca’ The Attack’, with Maker Projects and Havas Lynx, that won a Bronze award at Cannes Lion for Cinematography in 2018. Other recent commissions include a short film with Maker Projects that won a Bronze award at Cannes Lion for Cinematography in 2018; Savage and Allan Jeffers for The Art of Change as part of their staged song cycle, The Reckoning, premiered July 2018; and Songs for my Children for Hull Urban Opera as part of Brain Jar Session #2, July 2018. Ella has been featured in BBC Radio 3’s International Women’s Day (2016) and BBC National Music Day (2015) celebrations with BBC Singers performances of Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep. She received a further performance and broadcast by the BBC Singers of Heigh Ho, The Holly!, in October 2016.

Ella writes for voice, TV and film; she teaches singing and composition in Cumbria; and works alongside BlueJam Arts to encourage children and adults to follow their creative impulses and to make music, whatever their experience.

Links:

Ella’s website: http://www.ellajarman-pinto.co.uk/

Ella’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ellajarmanpinto/

ParentSing: https://www.facebook.com/parentsingpenrith/

Laura Perrett: Video designer

“I cannot make weekday childcare compatible with the long and anti-social hours of performing arts jobs.”

Welcome back to our blog series, talking to leading musicians who are also parents about their experiences of balancing their careers with family life. This week we hear from someone working on the technical side of the music, theatre and TV industry – Laura Perrett, freelance video designer, talks about the challenges of long and inflexible tech rehearsals.

How many children do you have and how old are they?

I have one son who is nearly two.

Tell us a bit about your work and how it is structured.

Before I got pregnant I was a full-time video designer working in a freelance capacity. I design and create visuals for projection, LED screens and broadcast screens. I balanced theatre jobs with more commercial arena-sized music concert jobs as they pay a living wage whereas theatre and opera rarely do. I never tour, but I do have to be present for tech-rehearsals and preview periods, the hours for which are dictated by the production.  Jobs can range from being many months long for arena tours to just a few weeks for small theatre productions; the design stage of jobs offers me far more flexibility on hours than the tech-rehearsals stage which offers zero flexibility. It is the tech-rehearsals part of my job that is preventing me from working. 

Tell me about your work/parenthood balance. 

There is none at the moment. Apart from a very small job I did in November for the Royal Variety Performance which allowed me to work at weekends (so my partner covered), I cannot make weekday childcare compatible with the long and anti-social hours of performing arts jobs.

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent? 

Yes

How did this make you feel?

Frustrated, isolated. I accept that it was my choice to be a parent but the lack of flexible and affordable childcare means I cannot meet the needs to work in an ad-hoc fashion. I am considering changing career or re-purposing my skills!

Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?

My partner is freelance, and currently has a very reliable client who offers regular work and pays incredibly quickly. If I was the main breadwinner, I would be very anxious about my clients paying me on time. So we let him work full time purely for the sake of economics. My partner works in the television industry and the hours are long, which means he cannot do nursery drop-offs or pickups either. We have no family help.

Do you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form? 

Yes – nursery two days a week. We pay for this to give me a chance to work, but currently as my hours are so limited to two days I week I am struggling to find part-time work in my sector. It’s basically full time or nothing. I often use these days to train, build my website or try and speak to potential new clients if I do not have paid work.

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

I don’t see how hours can change or be flexible tbh. A show is a show, and one has to be there for tech rehearsals to make it happen! It would be nice if hours could be 9-5 instead of 12 hour days! No nursery in the world is going to cover that.

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

Being a freelance video designer is pretty much the same as being a freelance anything. Minimal Maternity Allowance, and somehow you have to find a way to keep your name and business out there! Which is hard when you are not creating new content.

Laura Perrett is a designer specialising in creative video content and moving image for theatre, opera, music and broadcast. She has over 15 years experience working with some of the best artists, directors and storytellers in the industry. Recent design and associate design credits include the creation of screen content for: Take That Wonderland Tour 2017 (UK Tour), Half a Sixpence (Noel Coward Theatre), Murder Ballad (Arts Theatre)Turn of the Screw (Teatro Alla Scala), The Sessions : A live re-staging of The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios (Royal Albert Hall), Mary Poppins (UK Tour), Hamlet (Barbican), Black Sabbath at Hyde Park, The Rolling Stones (US Zipcode Tour), U2 i+e (World Tour) and ‘Stand Up To Cancer’ on Channel 4. 

Read more about Laura’s work here: www.lauraperrett.com

Martyn Roper: Blues Guitar

“The beauty of having Albert is that we see more of family and friends than before and I’d like a chance to start allowing those family and friends to support us as freelancers in real life.”

Welcome back to our blog series, talking to leading musicians who are also parents about their experiences of balancing their careers with family life. This week, we meet Martyn Roper, blues guitarist, who talks about how his busy gig schedule works alongside his wife’s freelance career, the challenge of working when breastfeeding, and the importance of friends and family.

How many children do you have and how old are they?

I have one child, a sweet and lovely boy named Albert. He was born in August 2018.

Tell us a bit about your work and how it is structured.

I generally work ‘one nighters’ which can be 3 to 14 (a record in one week!) gigs a week. 3-6 gigs is normal for me in a week. They range from weddings, parties, festivals, pubs, bars, restaurants, care homes, etc. At various times over the year my duo do longer tours for weeks at a time in arts centres and venues all over the UK. All weeks are different but 80% of the time I’m booked up Thursday to Sunday every week.

Tell us about your work/parenthood balance. 

I make at least one full day a week where computers / phones aren’t really used unless in desperate circumstances and the aim is to get away from the house and out. During time at home I make sure we get out to do stuff even if just a walk and try and give my son complete attention for periods of time between work / rehearsal time. I usually structure this around meals and cooking.

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent? How did this make you feel?

Not sure I’ve turned things down but it does take good organisation to fit things in. I’ve been happy to let some gigs slide if a week was already well booked so we can have family time.

Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?

Chloé is a freelance graphic designer / web builder / photographer and I think home time with a baby can get messy at times. We’re 100% breast feeding so although I can do lots of shopping / cooking / washing etc baby needs to be with mum or near all the time which makes it hard for her to get a good run at work. On the other side the fact that we’re both in the house nearly all daytimes and free especially on Mondays to Wednesdays means that Albert probably gets more face to face time than working a 9-5 as his bedtime would mean only a few hours a day instead of the 10 – 16 hours he probably gets now.

Do you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form? 

None, due to the reasons above. I have family nearby but visits tend to be social due to his feeding needs. I would like to be able to start passing Albert on a little bit more soon as the support of family could make it possible for us both to get more done and hopefully have more family time afterwards. Even if we’re in the house but they just baby sit him while we get a couple of hours to sort some admin.

Have you performed anywhere that made the work/parenthood balance easier?

Some venues and festivals especially in the daytime have been great to us and welcomed our boy and gone out of their way to make it as pleasant as possible for us.

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

The same thing they do to anyone to make their life easier. I think we’re all equal with or without children and its down to us to manage our lives and children as well as work.

Are there any organisations/venues/festivals etc that you have worked with that are particularly supportive of performers who are parents?

My work is varied so I wouldn’t take the baby to say a private wedding. The nice blues / jazz festivals are so lovely. Some of the dementia wards are very inquisitive once I mention I have a child, and we’ve all been invited in when I perform. We did this once and had a lovely afternoon at a home in Harrogate.

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

No such thing. I cleared a two week period (apart from one gig) around the birth but he was born over a week late so I had to find cover for a gig the day he was born. I had an afternoon wedding gig near Leeds the day after the birth so left the hospital for about five hours and came straight back ASAP.

Were you freelance before you had children? If not, what prompted the change?

For about seven years before.

Are you part of any online social groups for freelancers/freelance parents? 

I’m not. To be honest, I don’t have time to do all the work I need to and am trying to find ways to minimise wasted time so more social media interaction that kind of ‘sucks you in’ isn’t good. The beauty of having Albert is that we see more of family and friends than before and I’d like even more of that and a chance to start allowing those family and friends to support us as freelancers in real life.

A professional musician since 2011, Martyn Roper specialises in 1920s, 30s & 40s blues, jazz and swing music on guitar, banjo, ukulele and double bass. He plays over 200 gigs a year largely between three acts; Leeds City Stompers (trio); The Washboard Resonators (duo) and solo sets, and lives near central Leeds. He likes collecting vintage guitars, cooking, reading and his two beautiful cats.

Anna Leese: Soprano

This blog post contains Anna Leese’s honest perspective on life as a freelance musician, parent,and full time carer for her partner, who is terminally ill with Motor Neuron disease.

Writing this blog has allowed me to share the stories of many inspirational people, and I am honoured to have been trusted with the stories and experiences, many of which are highly personal. This one has been the hardest to read and prepare, and I share it with Anna’s permission and in the hope that it will help others whose lives are unusually complex and difficult. Thank you so much for sharing this, Anna.

How many children do you have and how old are they?

I have one son, Matteo, who is 3 and 4 months.

Tell us a bit about your work and how it is structured.

I teach 4-5 days of the week when I am home (not performing out of town). I am a voice tutor at the University of Otago, I teach private voice, and music classes to littlies (all of which I love). Probably 10/15 weekends a year I travel away for orchestral concerts throughout New Zealand and Australia, and sometimes the UK. A trip away for an orchestral concert is usually 2-5 days away. And I perform an average of one opera a year, which means 2 months away from home. I have control over my schedule to a degree. On average I think I probably work 40 hours a week, not including my home duties, raising my son and caring for my sick husband. I do some sort of work every day, and I often work in the evenings after I’ve put my son to bed. I’ve also just enrolled in a DMA, which means my workload is going to change!

Tell us about your work/parenthood balance. 

I have my son in care 5 mornings a week while I teach. I get some weekends with him, and two afternoons a week. I am either working or caring for my son, 100% of the time, there is pretty much no downtime. But I have learned a lot about myself doing this, and I’ve become really resilient and also really efficient! I think I’m a better person for having been given these challenges, which means my son will have a kick-arse, hard working mum 🙂

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent? How did this make you feel?

Absolutely. But it’s becoming less so. My husband is terminally ill, so I need to think of his care as well as my sons’ care when I travel. Unfortunately all Stefano’s family are based in Italy, and they don’t visit us, and both of my siblings live overseas, so my support network is only my mum, which does limit me as most of the care I need has to be paid for,

Toward the end of last year, the stress of caring for Stefano at home began to overwhelm me and he is now in full time care in a rest home. Since there things have been much more settled, and his level of care is now consistent, whether I am away working or at home. Stefano still comes home often to visit, and we see him most days, so I am still one of his primary caregivers.

Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?

Yes. He is terminally ill with Motor Neuron disease and needs 24/7 care. Stefano used to be a winemaker, a steady job with little travel, which made my performing/travelling life easy. It was going to be the perfect setup, till the S*%t hit the fan.

Do you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form? 

Yes. Monday-Friday, 8am-2pm and my mum cares for my son for my short gigs. For operas and local concerts I hire babysitters. This is incredibly costly, and particularly in the case of operas, can eat away at your profit so severely, you end up working for free. Many of my opera singing friends share this same story! There is no assistance for childcare outside of 9-5 in New Zealand.

Have you performed anywhere that made the work/parenthood balance easier?

Yes, Festival opera in Napier, NZ- they were amazing with letting me bring my 9 month baby to rehearsals and I was feeding him at the time. It worked well. My mum came and sat with Matteo just off the set and I came to visit when I had a moment free. At the moment I’m singing with NZ Opera and they’ve helped with car seats and airport pickups with a seats for Matteo- they’ve worked hard to make sure I had the right accommodation as well.

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

Be open about mothers having their breastfeeding babies at rehearsals. Allow babies in the rehearsal room. 

Help facilitate childcare if there are more than a few children who need to be cared for- if there was a parents/play room set aside at the rehearsal venue so mums can have more contact with their kids that would help. With a change station.  

They can give advance warning for all calls and promotional commitments so that babysitters can be arranged well in advance.

Be realistic about what new mums can and can’t achieve, and keep hiring us!!! We often sing better after having a child (I know I am!). 

Are there any organisations/venues/festivals etc that you have worked with that are particularly supportive of performers who are parents?

DSO in Dunedin have always been amazing, they let Matteo and also my husband watch rehearsals because they’re unable to come to the show. Auckland Philharmonic and Orchestra Wellington are both wonderful, in fact NZ orchestras in general have done everything they can to help. 

Festival Opera were really good. 

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

My parental leave unfortunately didn’t happen because my husband suddenly became ill two weeks before the birth, and was only able to continue working for about a month afterwards- he suddenly lost all strength in his hands. We were forced to go on a benefit for a year or so until I got back on my feet and started back into work properly.

Were you freelance before you had children? If not, what prompted the change?

Yes. Full time. And I taught some private voice students. It was a conscious decision to slow down the long-haul travel, for environmental reasons, but also because I wanted a better, more balanced home life. 

Are you part of any online social groups for freelancers/freelance parents? 

The Babies and Show Business Facebook group, which is mostly useful for UK things. There is a NZ Opera Chorus facebook group which has been my sole source of finding babysitting and support for my NZ engagements, 

If so, do they cater for your line of work?

Yes, particularly the NZ Opera group, which is full of lovely, helpful people, who have found themselves in similar situations and are happy to help.

Anna Leese is a soprano opera singer with an international career. She made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 2007, as Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème. Other roles include Ilia in Mozart’s Idomeneo with the Auckland Opera Studio, Female Chorus in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte and Rosalinde in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, all for the Benjamin Britten Opera School and Juliette in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette with the British Youth Opera. She has performed the role of Tamiri in Mozart’s Il re Pastore at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House (where she made her debut at age 24) and three Mozart heroines Fiordiligi, Countess Almaviva and Tamiri with the Classical Opera Company.

Visit Anna’s website, Facebook and Twitter.

Julia Kogan: Soprano

International opera singer Julia Kogan shares her experience of balancing motherhood and an operatic career in the 90s.

Julia Kogan Soprano

How many children do you have and how old are they?

I have two sons, both are adults.

Tell us about your work and how it was structured when your boys were younger.

When my boys were young, I did quite a bit of teaching.  When they were 12 and 9 respectively, I began to travel much more, taking on long opera contracts, concert work abroad, etc.  I continued to teach, though, because I absolutely love it!  Paradoxically, teaching is a great way to learn more about singing. 

In terms of scheduling, as any freelancer knows, if you want to keep working, you can’t be turning too many things down.  As any parent knows, you need to be home as much as possible, especially if your kids are young.  If I’m perfectly honest, I’ve seen musician couples with utterly neglected children, at least by my standards.  Years later, I still feel anguished when I think of the times I was away from home singing for more than a few days at a time, not to mention a month at a time, which also happened.  My husband was home with them, but that doesn’t alleviate my guilt.

Tell us about your work/parenthood balance during that time. 

When my boys were little, it was very heavily skewed towards parenthood, though I worked on my singing constantly throughout.  Then this changed, and not a moment too soon in terms of my career!  I kept doing concert work locally, but in terms of the real thing, my career only took off when I was well into my 30s, after having had my sons in my early 20s.

Have you had to turn down opportunities because of being a parent? How did this make you feel?

I almost turned down my entire career, having taken so many years at home.  I remember flying to Germany once for an audition when Sam, my younger son, was three.  I made it a day trip to avoid missing a night at home, was exhausted as a result and had therefore sung badly – it was all a total waste of time and money.  I got home just as he was falling asleep.  He put his arms around me in his bed and said, “Promise me you’ll never do that again!”  I’d been gone twelve manic hours.  It was years before I went anywhere alone again.  It’s a brutal choice…and a highly personal one.

Do you have a partner, and if so are they also freelance? What effect does this have?

I was lucky to have had a husband who was a research professor and was able to work mostly from home when he wasn’t teaching.  It made a huge difference to us.

Did you have regular childcare, and if so, in what form? 

We really made it a goal for at least one of us to be home with our sons.  The price to pay was mostly in terms of my own professional life.

Have you performed anywhere that made the work/parenthood balance easier?

Sadly not!  And I must say that I don’t think that opera houses, or indeed anyone else, should be responsible for that.  It would be amazing if they were, but I’m afraid our families are indeed our problem.

What can promoters/venues/festival organisers do to help freelance artists who are parents?

I know of one festival where volunteers took on childcare duties for the festival director, but that’s exceptional!

Are there any organisations/venues/festivals etc that you have worked with that are particularly supportive of performers who are parents?

None.  But if I am ever in a position to do something about it, I will.  If I am ever a full producer on one of my projects, I will make sure there is childcare on the premises, if at all possible.

Julia Kogan is an international award-winning American-French opera singer, author and presenter.  She has performed at top venues around the world (Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, etc.), released five solo albums and has had her work featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Opera News, BBC Radio 3 and 4, and many others.

Julia’s BBC Radio 4 documentary, The Lost Songs of Hollywood, was chosen ‘pick of the week’ by the BBC.  She is the author of Hipstory, a book of Amit Shimoni’s art with text by Julia, as well as a series of children’s books, essays and screenplays.  For now, she remains the uncredited co-author of feature film Florence Foster Jenkins.

Read more about Julia on her website, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.