Interview with Catherine Sikora ahead of BAN BAM festival
“The courage shown by these women makes me want to create more fearlessly, to be bolder as an artist and as a citizen of the world.”
Catherine Sikora is an extremely accomplished saxophonist, improviser and composer. The prodigal daughter of the irish jazz scene, Catherine spent a decade performing on the New York City scene, and received high praise for her debut solo album last year.
We asked Catherine about her current projects, her views on women in music, and her involvement with our upcoming festival event BAN BAM.
Who or what inspires you at the moment - be it in music, arts, politics or your personal life?
“Right now I am deeply inspired by the women in the news, the Hollywood actresses and the women here in Ireland, all these people who are coming forward with stories of oppression and abuse by men in their workplaces, and showing such tremendous bravery and taking enormous risks in doing so. This is a very powerful moment and I hope that it will bring about change at a fundamental level. The courage shown by these women makes me want to create more fearlessly, to be bolder as an artist and as a citizen of the world.”
There is an obvious gender imbalance in the music industry, but especially so in jazz. What do you think can be done about this? How do you see this changing in the future?
“I see the gender imbalance changing and improving, albeit quite slowly. One quintet I work with is actually majority female, which is a most welcome first for me in my career. I think that in order for things to change in a significant way we need to see more equal recognition of female artists in the media, and to have more women in prominent positions throughout the industry, not only as composers and performers. Ideally, we will have a world where young women have strong, successful female role models in any area that may interest them, and feel free to pursue their interest without fear of discrimination—in any field, not just in music. I think this change has to happen across the board, in all areas of life.”
What do you think of your current local jazz/experimental scene? Who are your favourite artists/ ones to watch?
“I have not been back in Ireland very long and I’ve mostly been working abroad, so I am really not an expert on my local scene, but so far I have played a trio gig with pianist Paul G. Smyth and drummer David Lacey in Dublin, which was a great experience; I got to hear Paul playing with Evan Parker too, and that was a real treat. I have been working with (Cork based) Han-earl Park for several years now, and he is a highly individual, fascinating improviser. I just finished a tour with Han and his trio Eric 136199 with Nick Didkovsky, we had a string of dates in Europe and the UK, and it was fantastic."
Can you tell us about a seminal experience, project, or encounter that had a significant impact on your career or life choices?
“The one thing that had the most drastic effect on what I do and how I do it was moving to New York City. There, for the first time in my life, I was treated respectfully (particularly by my teachers); my dreams were encouraged rather than ridiculed. That experience changed everything for me in my career. When I got there, even though I already had a degree in music, I was so utterly dissatisfied with where I was musically that I stopped performing for five years and just studied and practiced. It was a long road to what for me was total creative rehabilitation, and one that I don’t think would have been possible anywhere else.”
What does being part of an event like BAN BAM mean to you?
“It is exciting to have a chance to meet and hear female musicians on the Irish creative music scene, and of course to get to perform there too. I can’t wait to hear what people are doing, and have an exchange of ideas in a deliberately supportive setting.”
Are you working on anything new at the moment? What do you have lined up for 2018?
“Oh yeah, I am working on a ton of stuff right now! Here is a thumbnail sketch of some of the projects in which I am leader or co-leader: I’m getting ready to record a solo soprano saxophone album, to follow the solo tenor recording I released last year; I also have a duo record coming out with drummer Brian Chase, which will be released early next year, and a duo record with Christopher Culpo, a Paris-based pianist whom I met while I was in residence at the CCI. Eric Mingus and I are working on new ideas for our Clockwork Mercury project, with a whole different approach than our previous work. Next month I am headed to Germany to work on some new ideas with pianist Ursel Schlicht, who I have worked with for several years in New York. For the past two years I have been working with an actor and playwright on a play that will (hopefully) be going into production in the coming year. It’s a very busy time with lots of rewarding and exciting projects, and I am really grateful for that.”
Book Tickets to BAN BAM here
For more on Catherine visit www.catherinesikora.com