05 Jan How to Join a Band After You’ve Become a Parent
by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
I stopped teaching guitar at seven months pregnant, in 2012. Not only was it physically hard to hold an instrument, but mentally, I had already shifted into baby mode.
It pretty much stayed in baby mode for five years, until my older son entered kindergarten and his younger brother exited toddlerhood. While I still strummed my guitar every day, I barely had time to exercise, let alone scout out potential bandmates.
By that point it had become apparent I needed a band for my mental health. So in 2018, I recruited two other parents and one amazing lead guitarist cat mom, and Trashing Violet, our band, was born. As of this posting, we’re still going strong — in fact, we’re playing our first gig of 2023 on Saturday night.
[SEE RELATED: IT’S THE MIDDLE OF NOVEMBER, AND MY BAND IS STILL PRACTICING OUTSIDE]
My good fortune often raises questions among my friends who are moms and want to resume #giglife after having babies: How did I do it? What are my tips for finding the right people?
Here’s my advice, coupled with insights from other parents who play music with others:
1. Make sure the timing is right. The moment you get off maternity or paternity leave might not be the right time to start a band. Connecticut musician Curtis Streuli, a trumpet and trombone player with two adult daughters, said that waiting until his kids were older to resume playing regularly, was the best decision for his family. “I could not do what I’m doing now if my kids were toddlers,” he says. “Really what pushed me into this was when my oldest child joined the high school jazz band and I went to her first concert and realized I could not [just go to her shows] for four years and not play [too].”
2. Put it out to the universe. While the idea that one can “ask” the universe for perfect bandmates seems absurd, it worked for me. Some might call it divine intervention or good karma. But studies show that when we direct our energies toward obtaining a goal, magical things happen. To be fair, there’s little science to support the premise of goal manifestation as a constant, reliable strategy for obtaining what we want (otherwise we’d all be lottery winners, right?). However, the practice of “turning over” your goals — saying them aloud, writing them down, visualizing them during meditation — may make you more attuned to the forces that lead to success.
3. Work your existing network. If you were looking for a new job, you’d ask your friends for leads, right? Well, the same logic applies to your creative passions. When I was seeking out a drummer, I posted something on Facebook. One of my best friends, Jason, noticed my post, and reached out to his brother Nick, who is, years later, still the drummer for our band. I can’t imagine my music life without him!
4. Get involved in your creative community. When Connecticut musician Dustin Sclafani, a single dad of three kids under 18, joined The Rock Lottery – New Haven it put him in touch with “a community of creatives that accept and truly support each other.” Shortly thereafter, he co-founded his band Shame Penguin, which is still going strong and about to release its first full-length album. If your neighborhood or city doesn’t have a similar type of meetup, try your local open mic circuit. I’ve met zillions of musicians and other performers at open mics who are still my friends.
5. Be specific in your Craigslist ad. While the desire to connect with bandmates can feel urgent, don’t settle for something (or bandmates) that you don’t want. So when I headed to Craigslist to post an ad for a bass player, I was VERY specific, detailing my background, my influences, and my desire to find bandmates who could respect my work-life/parenting balance. I explicitly stated that I didn’t have time for drama, or to be hit on. The post elicited just a few responses, but they were good ones. I reached out to the one person I felt strongly would be the perfect bandmate: Doug, a fellow punk lover who I now call a friend. Like me, he’s a married and busy parent with two young sons and doesn’t have time for BS. I’m beyond grateful for him and that we are still in a band today.
6. Possibly seek bandmates with fewer parenting commitments. While it may seem counterintuitive to some, seeking out folks who aren’t burdened with parenting duties may be the best way forward, says musician Audra Hale-Maddox. “Of all the folks making music out there who are interested in collaboration, relatively few are parents raising younger kids,” she tells Rockmommy. “I’ve made the rounds at music conferences and almost never find any other moms with kids at home. So rather than assume that other moms, or other parents, can best coordinate [with] mom schedules … look for folks who don’t have to plan around kids to find time to make music.”
Have these ideas worked for you? Are there other ways to connect with other musicians, and join a band after you’ve become a parent? Share in the comments, please!
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.