As part of our observance of Women's History Month, KUVO spotlights Esperanza Spalding, a young musician with a big future ahead of her. We also encourage you to explore Women and Girls Lead, a major public media initiative focused on women and girls' issues, connecting citizens in Colorado, across the country and around the world.
When she received the 2011 GRAMMY® for Best New Artist, bassist, vocalist and composer Esperanza Spalding had the attention of the music industry shining upon her. Unlike many youthful performers who receive such attention, she has stayed true to her course, continuing to develop as a musician through multiple associations and collaborations.
Spalding grew up in a single parent family with a strong, determined mother. At age 4, she taught herself to play violin well enough to be accepted into the Chamber Music Society of Oregon, a group she stayed with until she was a 15-year old concertmaster. She was a non-traditional learner who left high school education at 16. By then, she had discovered the bass and, after a short stay at Portland State University, she found her niche at the Berklee Music School in Boston. She became an instructor at Berklee in 2005, the youngest instructor in the history of the school.
Esperanza has released 4 albums as a soloist and has collaborated with many other artists, including Terri Lyne Carrington, Joe Lovano, Dianne Reeves, Tineke Postma and Stanley Clarke. In addition to over 110 Chamber Music Society concerts, she still found time to tour with Joe Lovano’s US 5, perform at Rock In Rio with Milton Nascimento, play at Prince’s “Welcome 2 America” tour and join Wayne Shorter in celebrating Herbie Hancock’s 70th birthday at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
"I think there are some outside forces that have blessed me with creative talents, and I don’t want to disrespect whatever plan the cosmos or the heavens or God or whoever might have for me,” Spalding explains. “But based on what I know about myself right now, what I really want to do is reach people. I want to make great music, but I also want to use that talent to lift people up, and maybe show them some degree of hope where there might not be any in their lives. My name means ‘hope’ in Spanish, and it’s a name I want to live up to.”
Sidenote: Who inspired Esperanza Spalding? One source of inspiration was Mister Rogers. Here's the story: