Mother-Daughter Adventures in Live Music
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Mother-Daughter Adventures in Live Music

Darla Watanabe and Cortney Erin

Photograph by Joseph Fanvu.

Darla Watanabe & Cortney Erin

Healthcare Program Director & Executive Recruiter
Members since 2014

Darla Watanabe raised her children as a young single mother and put herself through nursing school with the kids literally in tow. When she couldn’t find childcare, she remembers bringing her daughter Cortney and her son Brandon to the hospital during night shifts.

Darla proudly boasts that both her children are self-assured and independent. “She’s my role model,” says Cortney Erin about her mother. “She’s mine, too!” beams Darla.

Their relationship with SFJAZZ began in 2014, when daughter Cortney took her mom to see a show at SFJAZZ soon after the Center had opened. It was the first of many.

Mother and daughter eventually became huge fans of tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain and saxophonist Joshua Redman, both fixtures at SFJAZZ. “Sometimes, I’ll try to see the same act on multiple nights because I like to see the differences,” says Darla. “When Christian McBride was here during his Resident Artistic Director week, he was doing something different every night.”

In Paris, there were small venues … It wasn’t about hearing big names, it was about experiencing the live music.

Darla Watanabe

Cortney had been eyeing SFJAZZ Membership for a while before joining in 2016. She eventually made the decision to step up to the Leaders Circle a year later. “Being a Leaders Circle Member allows me to grab the first two rows when I can. There are two important things for me about listening to music: one is people not chatting while the musicians are playing and the other is being in the front. I want to see the interaction between the musicians – you can feel the moment. I’ll be honest with you, other than buying the tickets early, I don’t know what the other Leaders Circle benefits are,” Cortney laughs.

After years of caring for cancer patients in intensive care units, Darla is now the director of Supportive Care Programs at the Stanford Cancer Survivorship Program. Her daughter is an executive recruiter with Facebook.

Darla’s earlier exposure to jazz goes back to a time when she worked in Paris for a few years when her children were adults. She attended small jazz clubs on Île Saint-Louis, a Parisian island in the Seine. It was there that she discovered artists like Nina Simone. “There were these small venues that had dinner upstairs, and downstairs there were small lounges with jazz groups playing in the middle of the room. People would arrive at 12 in the morning. It wasn’t about hearing big names, it was about experiencing the live music.”

Cortney has had her own “on the road” music experiences, as well. She spent an entire year following Galactic, the popular jam band from New Orleans. More recently, she visited Africa on her sabbatical. “I went to six different countries. In every one, I experienced music as an integral part of the culture. It was a fully visceral experience.”

Taking things back to the here and now, Cortney says, “My personal philosophy is that most people who consume a lot of music get more than they give. We are taking so much more than we are giving back to artists. The motivator for me in becoming an SFJAZZ Member is to support the artists and foster what should always be an incredible musical scene in the Bay Area.”

“It’s always been my passion, taking care of people,” says Darla.“By becoming a Member, and then a Leaders Circle Member of SFJAZZ, I’m participating and helping to keep this venue here for my daughter, and for years to come. I want to keep the music alive.”


This article is part the SFJAZZ Leaders Circle stories. The Leaders Circle is SFJAZZ’s premier philanthropic group of individuals who believe in the transformative power of the arts.