Friday, June 22, 2012

Mom in the Spotlight: Julia Richter

Julia Richter is an active teacher and performer in the Chicago area. She holds a Bachelor of Music Degree from Portland State University and a Master of Music Degree from the University of North Texas. Julia teaches flute lessons at DePaul University Community Music Division and is an adjunct professor of music at Elgin Community College. As a performer, Julia is a member of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, and performs regularly with many other orchestras including the Milwaukee Symphony, Illinois Symphony, and Rockford Symphony. In addition, Julia was 3rd Flute/Piccolo of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra & the newly reformed Hawaii Symphony Orchestra. 

You have a daughter, I believe?  How old is she?
I have a daughter, Netta, who is almost 5 years old. 

Where were you in your career when your daughter was born? 
I had established a career as a freelance musician and teacher in the Chicago area. This is mostly because I was 38 years old when I had Netta.

What is your strategy for remaining artistically viable?
Adjusting Netta into our lives -- not so much the other way around. Of course sacrifices and changes are necessary when you have a child, but overall this was and still is my strategy.

I stayed artistically viable mostly because I had to, both financially and mentally.  As a freelance musician, you don't have maternity leave or paid time off, so I had to go right back to work. I remember giving birth on a Thursday and going back to teaching my Music Appreciation class Monday morning! But, also for me, I needed (mentally) to go back to work. To get back in the classroom and start talking about Tchaikovsky, etc., was refreshing and energizing.

Also, I think for most artists/musicians, your work/practice is your very self, so it's just not an option to stop doing it for a few months or altogether.

You were performing with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra - a major artistic and geographic victory! Can you talk about long distance parenting, especially as a performer?
I was able to be in Hawaii to play in the Hawaii Symphony for two months mainly because I have a husband who was willing to take on full parenting duties for all that time.  My husband, who is also a musician, understands the importance of the opportunity to play in a major orchestra.

The job in Hawaii was from March to June and we spent a lot of time discussing various scenarios.  Would we all go? Would I just go with Netta, even though that would mean pulling her out of school? Could I go out there a few times and keep all my various gigs in Chicago?  

In the end we decided that I would go by myself and Matt and Netta would take care of each other in Chicago.

Being away from Netta for all that time was very difficult, but I knew and trusted Matt could handle it.

As far as long distance parenting goes, really the only thing I could do was stay in touch with Netta on the phone and re-enforce where I was and that I was coming home on a specific date in June and that I missed and loved her very much.

What I couldn't do was have any control over when she went to bed, if she had her homework done, if she brushed her teeth before bed, what she was eating - you know, that sort of thing.  I didn't bother me at all, though, to not have any control over those things for a time.

I would also add that Netta has been used to her parents being traveling/gigging musicians her whole life.  She is used to being in the car, often times for several hours at a stretch,  as we drive all over the Chicago area and beyond. The benefit of this is that she gets to experience things like sitting in on the Martha Graham classes Daddy plays percussion for, or listening to Wagner in the car with me. She's a very flexible little girl.

You and your husband are both musicians.  Pardon the pun, but how does music play into your parenting?
Music plays into our parenting in that it is always on in our house and in the car for Netta to absorb. The biggest thing I've noticed with sharing music with Netta is she naturally becomes engaged or aware of her environment. She'll ask questions about the music or sing along, or, if at home, dance along.

Best FML mommy moment?
Breastfeeding.  Don't even get me started. I just hated the whole process & the pressure to do it.

These days it seems that even against one’s better judgment parents feel compelled to sign their kids up for a million activities.  As a musician who obviously found her “thing,” her calling, what is your stance on this? 
Rather than have Netta enrolled in a million isolated activities, I'd rather we do things like get on the subway and go downtown to the museums or Millennium Park and explore life. Just taking a ride on a city bus is endless excitement for Netta as she engages everyone around her.

We did have Netta in ballet class last year, but only that one activity, and it was really a special thing for her. Plus, because Matt and I have erratic work schedules and limited financial means, that prevents us from signing Netta up for too much stuff.

Do you hope your daughter plays an instrument?  Is she playing one already?  
Netta freely plays her drum set and the piano we have in the house. She plays either one of those instruments and sings along a song she makes up. She'll start piano lessons soon and I'm sure she'll always have music in her life.

I did ask her once while we were watching a video of the Los Angeles Philharmonic if she wanted to learn to play one of the various instruments of the orchestra and she watched and listened for a while and said she wanted to be the conductor and "throw out big booms like Dudamel." (Gustavo Dudamel is the conductor for the LA Philharmonic).

Happy Family!  Netta, Julia and
musician Dad, Matt Cordier.


  1. What a fresh and interesting interview. I love what you said about adjusting Netta into your schedules and lifestyle. How great that your husband had a schedule that let you go to Hawaii for 2 months. Your life sounds full, exciting and adventurous!!
    Visiting from vB!

    1. Hi Erin! I loved reading Julia's experience and perspective. What a rewarding life for Julia and her family

  2. What a wonderful interview. I really appreciate your perspective on over scheduling your daughter. I find myself walking the fine line of self-discovery and providing access to new experiences with my kids. I had signed my son up for Tae Kwon Do last year and he only was doing it to get a trophy like his friend. I really struggled with it and ended up not signing him up for the second session. He is now in soccer and loving it! Did I make the right move? Only time will tell.

    1. Oh, Val, I'm sure you made the right move. I really believe that the purpose of kids' activities is for them to find things that feed their souls. If extrinsic motivation is part of the equation, then fine, but it CANNOT be the only factor. Bravo!


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