Sunna Gunnlaugs

Brooklyn vs. Reykjavik Part II

October 29, 2010 12:23 am | Filed under: Music | Comments (8)
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Couple of weeks ago I posted my thoughts on being a jazz musician in Brooklyn vs Reykjavik. (Read it here) I pretty much came to the conclusion that Reykjavik is better… for me. Someone suggested that it was more about adult responsibilities than location. She is absolutely right.

Brooklyn was awesome for me as a young musician with no responsibilities really other than to myself. I could play sessions every day, soak in the live music at night and wasn't too concerned with the "quality" of life. IMG_4742smallAs I got older I started to think about where I was headed. Was I moving toward financial security, healthcare and larger living quarters? It didn't seem like it. I tried to picture my husband, a freelance drummer, and myself having children in New York and it didn't look too appealing really. I knew we could get state healthcare for the children but how would we manage to do gigs and tours when we had no family anywhere close? We eventually came to the conclusion that it was time for us to move on, to leave New York.

I felt a certain loss after leaving New York. No more casual daily sessions and after the 1st child was born I found it hard to even find time to practice. I guess I just wanted to spend every waking moment with my child. I eventually figured out how to balance music and family and now I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of the New York jazz scene for almost 8 years but also fortunate to have been able to leave and move to what I feel is a better place for me. This feeling is confirmed every time I visit New York.

Someone suggested that women "lose" more when children come into the picture. Maybe we do sacrifice more of our freedom than men but we also gain a lot. I am so privileged to be a mom. Hey, I am a mom! I am a role model and currently a recipient of unconditional love…. priceless!

8 Responses to “Brooklyn vs. Reykjavik Part II”

  1. Amy says:

    So interesting to read this, as I'm in a fork in the road about moving to Italy or staying here in NY. I love the energy of New York, my loud mint-green gym (Harbor re-painted by the way..), the beer 'til 2 am deli, Survivor (I know..), being able to crack jokes in my own language, my band of course – but in the end, I play more in Europe, and to audiences that don't seem in a rush (which slows my playing down in the nicest way), who come out to hear me just because they're curious. And I feel more respected there by venues, who put energy towards taking care of artists (food, press..), and again, don't rush us out during or after a show.

    And thinking to towards having kids in the future, when going to the ER for 5 minutes for a Benadryl shot last spring ran me $900 (it's now down to $500 but I'm still pulling off insurance red tape to get it down), NY is embarrassing and impossible. I think you made the right choice!

    The tough thing for me is teaching. There's not so much an after-school-activity culture in Italy, and here I'm able to run my own business, teaching more than 30 students a week. I like that sense of empowerment. Also, it would be hard to let go of the connections I've made with music – mostly I think of CD manufacturing companies, printers.. How did you find that transition as a graphic artist?

  2. wayne says:

    great post. discernment can be a difficult endeavor, but when we place our heat, soul, and mind into the process amazing things can emerge.

  3. Wayne: well said. Thank you!

    Amy: There are definitely things about Brooklyn that I will miss forever but on the whole, at this point in life, Iceland offers a better life. I still have my discs manufactured in the US but I know there are good ones also in Europe and that's where most of Icelandic musicians have theirs made. There are great printers in Iceland so that's not an issue. You just have to develop new relationships. As far as teaching goes, can you start something new in Italy? I bet there are a bunch of teenage girls that would love to take singing lessons. I gave myself two years to leave Brooklyn. At the end of the two years I was ready but it still wasn't easy.

  4. When I first moved to NY many years ago, I couldn't imagine ever leaving. It seemed THE place for me and, eventually being "a New Yorker" became part of my identity. But as the years have gone by I've realized I don't want to stay here forever. What's so great about New York is also what's not great: the intense energy, being part of the crowd, the endless Smörgåsbord. It feeds and it drains. (Amy, I love your "NY is embarrassing and impossible.") Moving to Brooklyn after years in Manhattan has helped a lot; I live in a relatively quiet part of Brooklyn, spend time at the Botanic Garden, have a backyard. And there reasons to stay in New York, among them, the established relationships with so many musicians, the proximity to Europe.

    But, Sunna, I think what you're really talking about is balance. When we're younger we're less likely to think about having balance in our lives, right? And then as time goes on, it becomes more important–at least, it has for me. And my understanding of what constitutes "community," as well as my needs in that regard, have changed over time as well. There are ways to have balance and community here, but I think it's more challenging in such a wild and wooly, intense environment.

  5. Ian Carey says:

    Sorry, late to the party–as a former neighborhood-mate of Scott & Sunna I can say it was a fun time, although my crappy day- (evening-, actually) job started to interfe a lot with my ability to "hang," and what's the point of busting your ass to stay there if you're not able to take advantage of what the scene has to offer? So when the opportunity for a change of scenery with a more creative day gig came along (in a city with its own pretty vibrant scene), it wasn't that tough a decision (and 10 years down the road I've reached a pretty good balance between music and paying the rent, even if it means cramming most of my shedding into one part of the year).

    I sure miss the bagels, though.

  6. Hi Amy and Andrea, I totally dig what you are saying. When I first moved to NY I thought I'd never leave. NY definitely feeds and drains and towards the end it was probably draining me more than feeding… in spite of the wonderful bagels at Terrace Bagels. Hey Ian, can't you just call them and have them overnight you a bunch that you could then freeze? I am afraid mine would get confiscated by customs.

  7. Amy says:

    Those guys at Terrace are so cool – they'd totally overnight you some Everythings!

  8. Ian Carey says:

    As long as I didn't tell them I'm a Mets fan.

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