Shout Sister Shout: Keyna Wilkins (IWD 2024)
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Shout Sister Shout: Keyna Wilkins (IWD 2024)

By: undefined undefinedMarch 20, 2024

Motherhood & Music – Not just the Lullaby

Approx. 5 minutes to read

Keyna Wilkins’ vast artistic output is extra impressive when she reveals how much time each day she has to dedicate to her music in between life and raising her twins. She keeps it short an sweet in this interview where she shares how motherhood helped her clarify things for herself as a creative spirit and find fulfilment in her work in a different way.

Composer, pianist, flautist, and improviser, Keyna Wilkins. Photo credit: George Xenekis


Sonia de Freitas: Hi Keyna, how are you and where does our interview find you today?

Keyna Wilkins: I live and work at my home in Ashbury, Sydney – I composer/teach/rehearse and practice from my home studio. I have a busy schedule of gigs and teaching and commissions right now including a chamber opera I’m writing called Dark Genesis with libretto by Michal Imielski with poetry from recently released by 9 year detained refugee Mohammad Maleki. We luckily received Inner West Arts Grant funding to develop the work. I am also working on a number of other commissions including one for Soprano and Flute duet by USA musicians Catherine Verilly and Melissa Krause. I also manage 3 ensembles and my solo show including interstate and international shows.  We have quite a few shows coming up. Please check my Upcoming Shows webpage for details. 

Keyna with her twins and partner Tully

SdF: Can you tell me a little more about your life as a mother and musician?

KW: I have 9 year old boy-girl twins and they both play a few instruments.

SdF: What, if anything, may have changed for you in relation to the way you thought about music and your ambitions as a musician once you became a mother? 

KW: If anything, having children has really made me clarify to myself what my goals are as a person and as a creative spirit. I realised I want my life to be meaningful to myself, to create projects I am fulfilled by and that bring joy. I realised I did not want to pursue things entirely for the prestige or status any longer. I think the process of giving birth is very grounding and helps re-focus on the things that are important.

SdF: How does the experience of motherhood influence your creativity and composition process? 

KW: In general I have about 1/10th the time I used to have, but because I agonise and fuss a lot less over the small things – I actually get much more done than I ever did before. 

SdF: How do you maintain your artistic identity and career trajectory while raising your children? 

KW: I have a lot of help from both sides of the family, and Tully and I do work as a partnership. It’s pretty hectic most of the time but it does work. I still managed to do a mini tour of the USA last year and regularly travel for gigs – sometimes I take them with me and sometimes I leave them at home. 

SdF: What challenges have you have faced in balancing the demands of motherhood with the demands of a music career? Conversely, can you share any unique opportunities brought about by motherhood? 

KW: In general time is a challenge as you might only have 1 or 2 hour window per day to get anything done music-wise. And of course arranging childcare while I have gigs is challenging – but my partner and I work as a team and we have both sets of grandparents involved so it’s ok. The added bonus has been meeting other parents who are also musicians or creatives and you immediately have so so much to talk and bond over. 

Keyna Wilkins performing flute in one of her groups. Photo credit: George Xenekis

SdF: What role do societal expectations and stereotypes about motherhood play in shaping the public perception of musicians who are mothers? 

KW: I think people often assume you are not going to work for a while after babies – but I found I wanted to get back more than ever to work in performing and composing and teaching – but it just had to be at the right times of the day. When I went back to part-time work at 6 months, I believe I was better at all of these things than I ever was before. I just think there needs to be more understanding, e.g. having a meeting at the parent’s house would be the easiest thing for that mother at the baby stage.

SdF: How can the music industry evolve to better accommodate the needs of musicians who are navigating the intersection of motherhood and their music careers? 

KW: Yes of course – lots of things that are often said – but one extra thing could be more music events during the day time that are kid/baby friendly 

SdF: Is there anything else you want readers to understand about motherhood and music? 

KW: For me the process of having children gave me a deeper understanding of the whole life process and evolution and development in general – and also helped me worry far less about the little things. It also helped me gain a clearer vision of what I want to achieve: to create music that previously did not exist, that is meaningful to me with my unique smörgåsbord of influences – to create projects that are really about something as well as music. I started seeking out collaborations with people with interesting stories to tell, e.g. refugees detained on Nauru and Manus Islands, and deepening my love of astronomy and so I write a lot of music inspired by astronomical sounds and images.

SdF: What do you want for the future of music and for your children? 

KW: I just would like more flexibility and understanding around parents with children, e.g. unexpected things happen all the time with children and people have to cancel gigs and rehearsals and miss deadlines sometimes and there needs to be more empathy around that.

To learn more about Keyna Wilkins visit: keynawilkins.com 

For more on Kenya’s projects collaborating with detained Refugees visit: keynawilkins.com/refugee-projects 

To hear and purchase Keyna Wilkins’ music visit:
https://keynawilkins.bandcamp.com/
keynawilkins.com/albumsephemeraensemble.com

Sonia de Freitas – Author
Photo credit: Cathy Kirkpatrick

For more information on International Women’s Day visit: internationalwomensday.com 

Keep an eye out for my next interview in the Shout Sister Shout: Motherhood & Music – Not just the Lullaby series where I interview Mandie Vieira.

Did you miss the previous Shout Sister Shout instalment? Read Susie Bishop’s interview here

Thank you to Eastside Radio for making the Shout Sister Shout: Motherhood & Music – Not just the Lullaby interview series possible.

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the many lands on which I am privileged to work, learn, teach, create and perform. I extend my respects to all First Nations People. 

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