10 Reasons Esperanza Spalding Is My She-Ro


  1. Spalding is a jazz musician that sings and plays bass at the same time.
  2. She is only 25 and has performed in the White House East Room (twice!) and will perform at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony later this month.
  3. She is the youngest musician to receive a professorship at the Berklee College of Music.
  4. She was raised by a single mother in the ghetto and now tours and travels the world.
  5. She attributes her inspiration for pursuing her dream to watching classical cellist Yo Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood when she was four. By the time she was five, she had taught herself to play the violin and was playing with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. Spalding stayed with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon until she was fifteen and left as concertmaster.
  6. She can sing in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
  7. Spalding secured her first gig at 15 in a blues club in Portland, when she could only play one line on bass. One of the seasoned musicians with which she played that first night invited her to join the band’s rehearsals, and her rehearsals soon grew into regular performances spanning almost a year.
  8. Within a year, Esperanza was gigging as a bassist and/or vocalist with 6 to 7 different groups throughout the Portland area, including two jazz septets, a trio, and a fusion group called Noise for Pretend that released two well-received albums on the independent label Hush Records.
  9. However, she was miserable in high school, so she dropped out, passed her GED, and enrolled at a local university. Not much happier there, her bass teacher convinced her to apply to Berklee. She was awarded a full scholarship but never believed she would actually make it to Boston because she didn’t have the money for living expenses.
  10. Esperanza likes to say it was an accident that she started playing the bass, and it was a miracle she ever made it to Berklee. It’s probably an even bigger miracle that she stayed.

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