Born in Portland, Oregon, in 1984, Esperanza Spalding showed musical talent at a young age and won a scholarship first to Portland State University, and then to the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Though she learned how to play a number of instruments and was chiefly a violinist as a child, it was double bass and singing that became her main focus as she developed as a musician.
Spalding was raised by her mother and was exposed to music of many cultures at a young age, quickly becoming interested in the music of Brazil and other Latin countries as well as classical music. As a teenager she played bass and sang in jazz clubs and pushed herself to learn new styles and techniques from the musicians around her.
Spalding graduated from Berklee in 2005 with many accolades to her name and was touted by her professors as ‘one to watch’. Almost immediately she was hired by Berklee to join the staff, and she released her first album, Junjo in 2006, which was not a great success commercially despite being received well by critics and other jazz artists. She continued to tour as a soloist and also in collaboration with other musicians such as singer Patti Austin and saxophonist Joe Lovano and continued to teach at Berklee until 2008.
Her second album, Esperanza, which contains our set work, was released in 2008 and was her first significant success, rising to number 3 in the US Jazz charts. This was followed by the albums Chamber Music Society (2010), Radio Music Society (2012) and Emily’s D+Evolution (2016), all of which topped the US Jazz charts and made the ‘mainstream’ US album charts. Her most recent album is Exposure, released in 2017. She has won four Grammy awards, most notably for Best New Artist in 2011 (the first jazz artist ever to win this, despite being up against Justin Bieber, Drake and Mumford and Sons) and for Best Jazz Vocal Album (for Radio Music Society) in 2013. She has also appeared on the Bruno Mars album Unorthodox Jukebox. She holds an honorary doctorate from Berklee and is a professor of music at Harvard.