Esperanza Spalding graduated in 2005 from Berklee, where she majored in professional music. She made history upon graduation by becoming one of the youngest instructors in the college’s history. This was just the tip of the iceberg, however, as Spalding went on in 2011 to become the first jazz musician to win the Grammy for Best New Artist, beating out Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence & the Machine, and Mumford and Sons.
Spalding grew up in a single-parent home in Portland, Oregon. Her first musical inspiration came at the age of four when she saw Yo Yo Ma play classical cello on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. She taught herself to play violin at an early age and earned a spot in the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. Spalding only picked up bass after her high school music teacher walked in on her messing around with the instrument and taught her a bass line on the spot. The chance moment launched Spalding on a musical career that included attending Berklee on a full scholarship, winning multiple Grammys, and performing at the White House at the request of President Barack Obama.
In 2011, Spalding won the Grammy for Best New Artist—unprecedented for a jazz musician up against high profile pop, hip-hop, and rock artists. In 2013, Spalding won two Grammys for Best Vocal Album and Best Instrumental Arrangement.
Spalding continues to release albums showcasing her unique bass and vocal styles.