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Rosalyn Dennett - Folk Music Ontario & Artist

Where were you at in your music career when you had your first child? Was there much discussion about how that life choice would affect your career within the music/entertainment industry?

I had my first kid in 2019. I was working full time in the music industry, as well as performing, and running my own music company. My partner is a full time touring and session musician. My daughter had been on four international business trips, 13 flights, had attended the ECMAs (at 6-weeks old!), Folk Music Ontario, Folk Alliance in New Orleans, AmericanaFest UK, and countless festivals and concerts, before her first birthday. Then the pandemic happened and we know the rest. My second kid was born during the pandemic and had a very different year-one. 

While we were planning on having kids, I don’t think we had planned to let it affect our careers, which was a bit of an oversight! When we were forced to put it all on hold, it really opened our eyes to how unmanageable that schedule and lifestyle was. Nowadays we are still travelling and touring, but are more intentional about it, and certainly with two kids it is a lot more work to take them on the road.

As a working parent in the music industry, what are some of the biggest challenges you are facing?

In 2022, I was hired as Executive Director of Folk Music Ontario, which added a whole new weight and dimension of responsibility to my work life. My biggest challenge right now is  maintaining my mental and physical well-being while juggling parenting and career responsibilities. It is so hard to perform at your best during the day, when you’ve been up all night with a kid who won’t sleep. Schedules as a music industry worker can be erratic at the best of times, so I’m giving myself some grace to go-with-the-flow, which might mean I’m working in the evening, or late at night, or at sunrise (thank-you ‘schedule send’ function!).  

What is one small change within the industry that could make a positive impact for working parents?

Finding reliable, affordable, and flexible childcare options that align with our irregular schedules is really hard. Often these days, I find myself declining performance opportunities I would have loved to play, because I don’t have the child care support I need. Educating venues/festivals/conferences on how to create a family-friendly space, including back-stage or other child care options, would be a real game-changer. Getting to share this beautiful, eclectic, wacky artistic life with my kids is one of the greatest joys

How do you find support and community with other working parents in or out of the music industry?

I love meeting other parents working in the industry. It’s an instant connection through the shared joy and misery of it all. Regardless of the stature, position, or fame that person has achieved in their career, they’ve also instinctively cupped their hands to catch the ejection of a vomiting child. We’ve been humbled, humiliated, and terrorized by these marvellous creatures that contain the whole of our hearts, and it’s a beautiful thing.

What’s one specific example of an organization/venue/company doing something great to help support working parents?

Balancing Act is an organization that supports artist caregivers working in the performing arts in Canada by advocating for greater equality, accessibility, and inclusion in the workforce. They have a grant for arts organizations looking to explore strategies or create workplace policies and best practices inclusive of the needs of caregivers.

Unison Benevolent Fund has free counselling for individuals and families of music industry workers, and it’s a great resource for any folks that may need to talk to someone, or get some professional mental health support. 

What could a music event (festival, conference, etc.), do or provide to make it easier for you to participate?

I think about this question all the time. Since 2022, Folk Music Ontario offers a complimentary registration for our conference if parents would like to bring caregiving support with them. I’m happy to be doing something for working parents, but I know it’s not enough. I love that at Canadian folk festivals, it’s commonplace to have a kids area. It would be great to incorporate that into our industry events, with childcare built-in. But, it’s complicated. At a lot of industry events you have to be ‘on/working from 9AM until 2AM, or have an erratic, piecemeal schedule. There doesn't seem to be a one-size-fits-all answer, which puts the onus on the event organisers to come up with options that fit the specialized needs of parents working their event.

Can you shout out another music mama doing great things?

I’d love to shout out my dear pal, and former bandmate, Vanessa Kuzina, who now works on the management team at Six Shooter Records. She approaches everything she does with so much heart and integrity. There’s a whole team of formidable music mamas at Six Shooter, and they are such an inspiration.

Learn more about Folk Music Ontario HERE