Published on December 25th, 2010 | by thevyne1
Woman to Watch: Esperanza Spalding
Name: Esperanza Spalding
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Growing Up: Esperanza was raised in a multi-lingual household by her mother who is Welsh, Hispanic and Native American (her father is African American).
Education: B.M., Berklee College of Music
Young and Accomplished: Esperanza taught herself to play the violin at four, was the youngest bassist at Portland State University at 16, and was the youngest professor at Berklee College of Music at 20.
Education Trials and Tribulations: Esperanza was homeschooled throughout much of her elementary school years primarily because she was battling a persistent illness. Going back to a traditional school environment after being home-schooled was very difficult for her. She dropped out of school at 16 years old and got her GED. She immediately enrolled into Portland State University where she received a scholarship to study music. From there she attended the Berklee College of Music where she was also awarded a scholarship. She graduated in 2005.
Musical Path: Called a child prodigy by many, Esperanza was inspired to become a musician at just four years old after seeing Yo Yo Ma on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. At that young age Esperanza remarkably taught herself how to play the violin. A year later she was granted a spot in The Chamber Music Society of Oregon, which accepted both children and adult musicians. She performed with this community orchestra for 10 years. Though she also played the clarinet and oboe, it was the bass that resonated with her more than other instruments. With the bass she was able to truly express herself across a wide array of genres. But she did not stop with the instruments. She also is a songwriter and beautiful vocalist.
Her music: Ed Morales described Esperanza’s music in PopMatters as “a sprawling collage of jazz fusion, Brazilian and even a touch of hip-hop.” Her debut album, Esperanza¸ become the best selling album by a new jazz artist internationally in 2008 with over 70 weeks at the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart. Chamber Music Society was released in 2010 giving her a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist – making Spalding the first jazz artist to receive a Grammy nod in that category.
Recognition: Esperanza was the 2005 recipient of the Boston Jazz Society scholarship for outstanding musicianship, Jazz Journalists Association’s 2009 Jazz Award for Up and Coming Artist of the Year, and the 2009 JazzWeek Award for Record of the Year.
Quotable: “The most beautiful things emerge from chaos” ~ Esperanza Spalding
Obama Connection: President Obama invited Esperanza to perform at both the Nobel Prize Ceremony in Oslo, Norway and the Nobel Peace Prize Concert. She has also performed at the White House for their night of poetry , music and spoken word as well as for a tribute to Stevie Wonder. Here’s a video of her performance: