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Artist Profile: Bassist and Vocalist Esperanza Spalding

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Esperanza Spalding Jazz Bassist and Vocalist © Johann Sauty
Born:

October 18th, 1984 in Portland, Oregan

Instruments:

Esperanza is a bass player and vocalist, and frequently sings while playing bass.

Self-Taught Musician

Esperanza Spalding grew up in a working class neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, where she was raised and homeschooled by her single mother. At five years old, Esperanza began to teach herself the violin, and joined the Chamber Music Society of Oregon, a community orchestra, the same year. At age eight, she was able to play the piano after only hearing her mother’s music teacher play. Her ability to teach herself music earned her a scholarship to a performing arts high school, where she was drawn to the upright bass.

College Student to College Instructor

At 16, Esperanza discovered a love of pop, funk, and jazz, and dropped out of her classical music-oriented high school and opted for a GED. She briefly attended Portland State University on scholarship, but was then granted a full ride to Berklee College of Music in Boston. There she really excelled, and caught the attention of several premiere jazz musicians, including pianist Michel Camilo, guitarist Pat Metheny, and saxophonist Joe Lovano. In 2005, the year that she graduated, Berklee hired her as an instructor. She was only 20 years old.

Touring, Recording, and Composing

Esperanza toured with singer Patti Austin and saxophonist Joe Lovano frequently during and after her education at Berklee. Learning her craft on the road proved to be her true education, and by 2006 she was ready to begin her solo career. That year she recorded Junjo ( Ayva, 2006), a fusion of jazz and Cuban music. In 2008, she recorded Esperanza (Heads Up International), whose jazz-based pop songs helped elevate her profile among jazz and popular music fans alike. Her 2010 album Chamber Music Society combines elements of jazz, classical, and folk music.

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