Kieran Szifris: Octave Mandolin

“I find that it is possible to spend endless amounts of time working or parenting.”

In our 3rd blog post with freelance musicians who are also parents, we meet Kieran Szifris, folk musician and dad of one, with twins on the way.

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

Technically 3! One’s 2 and the other two are 0…

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

I have regular weekly teaching work Monday-Wednesday with two local music schools and I have a few private students.  Around this commitment I can do rehearsals, often at those music schools or at the University. Then from Thursday to Sunday I am free to gig. My teaching commitments aren’t permanent so I can cancel or move them to suit any touring that comes up. I currently work with two well-known bands (Monster Ceilidh Band and Kathryn Tickell & the Darkening) and various other projects as and when. My schedule changes weekly.

Tell me about your work/parenthood balance. 

I find that it is possible to spend endless amounts of time working or parenting. Getting the right balance is often extremely hard as shirking your responsibilities on either front leads to anxiety.

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

Yes but really I have just become more picky about what I want to do. I feel I’ve sacrificed much more socially. Which, as a freelancer, can be problematic as I don’t meet as many  new musicians as I used to.

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

Yes, and yes. We both find it hard to find time to do as much office work as we’d like and will trade the childcare responsibilities with each other in order to get what needs to be done done.

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

We put our son into nursery every Tuesday morning. He sleeps in the afternoon so it generally gives us a day to do what we need to do separately.

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

No. There is little to no childcare provision at most venues

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

Make sure there’s always a clean, sanitary, dry, safe room with access to fresh water and hygienic waste disposal. They could also always provide the exact rider requested and if not consult the artist.

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

Not particularly.

How did being a freelance musician affect your parental leave?

Lol – parental leave? My wife was gigging again 6 weeks after she gave birth. We don’t get holiday pay, sick pay/leave, maternity or paternity leave. 

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

No, but we have a loving and supportive family and lots of friends who are always eager to help.

Would you be interested in joining a social media community (such as a Facebook group) specifically for freelance musicians who are also parents?

Neither of us use Facebook though an easy to use guide for cities and towns with child friendly cafes/restaurants and things to do would be handy. 

Kieran Szifris is a musician who has spent most of his life in Newcastle upon Tyne. He began a career in music after graduating from Newcastle famous folk music degree and currently plays Octave Mandolin for Kathryn Tickell & the Darkening and Monster Ceilidh Band amongst other projects. Excitingly, the song “O-U-T spells out” which he co-wrote with Amy Thatcher and Kathryn Tickell has been nominated for a BBC Radio 2 folk award. He is known for his bombastic and lively playing style on his 8-stringed octave mandolin, which he often distorts the sound of through the use of guitar pedals.

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