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That Mama: Haylie Ecker

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This week we speak to a bone fide rockstar! Wielding a violin like no other, Haylie Ecker was one of the founding members of electric string quartet Bond, is Artistic Director of PPHK’s kid’s classical music concert series, PLAY!, and also blogs music mixtapes as a Sassy Mama guest contributor! Mama to Ari and Uma Sky, Haylie explains how she shares her love of music with her children, how her own mother is such a huge inspiration and lets slip a scrummy suggestion to brighten up our morning ferry commute!

How do you save time? What are your organisational tricks and tips?
My husband! He’s speed-dial on my Bat-Phone! I’m not the most organised of people so writing lists really helps me.

I wish I had more time for…

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I always feel saner after….
Practicing. It helps me multi-task.

Favourite activity with the kids in Hong Kong?
Early morning Star Ferry trips with traveling hot chocolates and croissants! We did it almost every day when Florentijn Hofman’s giant duck was in town, but duck or no duck, it’s such an awesome start to an HK day, especially when you have early rising kids and a town that wakes late.

Favourite kid-friendly restaurant in Hong Kong?
Pizza Express in Ocean Terminal. It has a brilliant view of the harbour and there’s nothing better than watching a ship park right next to you – I love it as much as the kids do! They also provide winner activity books. Alternatively, Shek O’s Thai restaurant on the roundabout is a sure win after working up an appetite bodysurfing and building sandcastles.

Favourite family-friendly holiday spot in Asia?
Bali… again and again! Ku De Ta for breakfasts and Sunday brunch. Or Karma Kandara for a day on the beach – the kids love the funicular ride to a white sand beach for rock pool exploring, ice cream (and cocktails for us!).

Activity that I do not love to do but do it anyway because my kids love it…
Our building has a shuttle bus the kids adore riding – no destination needed! Also, waiting in line for the Peak Tram in summer can be quite dire.

Do you have any tips for keeping the romance alive in your relationship?
Regular date nights!

Favourite date-night restaurants?
Blue Butcher at the bar, outside at Zuma, Shek O’s Cococabana on the terrace, or Robuchon with seats at the bar.

Pic 1Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?

I was first violin in the classical crossover group, Bond. (YouTube gives a better picture!). We toured the world non-stop, and I lived out of a suitcase for about a decade. 3am wakeup calls for morning TV promos was the best sleep training for having babies!

I left Bond when I was six months pregnant with our first child, Ari as I wanted to prioritise my family, which is close to impossible when you’re in a band. But I missed adventure and travel, so we moved here to Hong Kong and we had our second child, Uma Sky, at the Matilda. After having babies, I moved back into music with the encouragement of my husband and my best friends, and my career is now a lot more diversified, and I work to fit around my kids. I choose projects I love and that creatively challenge me.

I still perform… last summer I was a soloist with L’Orchestre Lamoureux in Paris, and in London I worked with film composer Ilan Eshkeri to record the violin solos for the BAFTA nominated animation film, ‘The Snowman And The Snowdog’ at Abbey Rd Studios. Here in Hong Kong, I co-founded PLAY! with PPHK’s founder Andrea Fessler, which is a fabulous classical concert series for kids – a concept I’m completely passionate about. One of my favourite projects in the role as PLAY’s Artist Director was adapting Saint Saens ‘Carnival Of The Animals’ to the Chinese Zodiac for Chinese New Year, lion dancers and all! I also enjoy writing for Time Out HK, as well as blogging music mixes for Sassy Mama!

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How has having kids changed the way you define work?
Being a mother has a unique way of putting life into perspective. I have less time to feel performance nerves, and equally, music has become more of a treat to indulge in. Practicing is a form of meditation – it’s my alone time, and it’s also good for the kids to see and hear that I sound (much!) better the more I practice. The same principle applies to life… everything gets better if you work at it!

Do you have any tips for working mamas in Hong Kong?
Embrace Hong Kong’s unique situation of unlimited help, but also remember to make time for your babies – they grow up just so fast. HK is just so culturally rich and diverse, so make sure you give your kids a slice of the action, too.

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What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received as a parent?
Always listen to what your child has to say. When a child feels heard, it’s a genius way of diffusing a heated situation!

Give us your essential new mama advice that might never occur to other women.
I thought it was so strange when one of my London friends bought me a breast-feeding lesson with Clare Byam-Cook, but it was the best present ever! Her help was great for both me, and at the time newborn Ari. She also wrote the fabulous What to Expect When You’re Breastfeeding…And What If You Can’t?” which makes a great new mama gift.

The other book referred to at least six times a day was Tizzy Hall’s Save Our Sleep”. It has a section on how to read your baby’s cries as though they’re talking to you – pure gold!

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As a mama I wish I were better at…
Reading my emails. And worrying less about my kids… I’m always having inner dialogue with myself to let my kids figure out climbing frames for themselves!

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My most humbling mama moment was…
After having my second baby, Uma Sky, I could relate to my own mother on a different level and I have a fresh respect for her that is completely humbling. My mum and dad were students at only 20 and 21 years old when I was born, and as a family we travelled the world for my father’s studies. My Mum selflessly took this in her stride. She somehow learned to navigate new cities without Google Maps, she made our homes beautiful on an extreme budget, and she managed to expose us to the best teachers and courses on offer. She got it right every time. My mother helped me find my talent, which now gives me joy every day. She is the amazing mother I strive to be.

What’s your favourite family ritual?
Friday night dinners. We only celebrate Shabbat when invited to dine with others, but eating challah and drinking wine together with the kids and friends… no bedtimes, no iPhones or TV, just pure people time entertainment… it’s blissfully peaceful and replenishing for the soul.

I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about….
I wake up to hope my little girl keeps sleeping… crazy but true!

Bedtime is always smoother when…
There’s been no nap times during the day and the kids are exhausted!

Even when my child has a family ofhis/her own, I’ll still…
Make them music mixes! Classical, Disney, jazz, pop, hip hop, all mixed together. We love our car mixtapes best, played super loud with all the windows down. It’s awesome in that the mixtape music then defines a particular ‘time’. I can’t wait to give them their birthday mixes when they’re a lot older!

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One thing I won’t sacrifice as a mama is…
Music. They can join in the joy of it with me!

My favourite moment of the day is…
Waking up to a new day and living it like there’s no tomorrow!

Follow Haylie on Twitter @lovehaylie. 

Gorgeous pictures of Haylie and her kids by Marion Thibault David; makeup by Anaeal Darmon.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of our That Mama hall of fame right here.

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