If you happen to be one of the few human beings not watching the Grammy Awards last night, you may wonder what that massive global gasp you heard was about? Well, that gasp was after the announcement that Esperanza Spalding was the winner of the 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Esperanza Spalding was up against the uber popular Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence & the Machine and my favorite, Mumford & Sons. Now people are wondering, who is this Esperanza Spalding and why did she beat out Justin Bieber?
Esperanza Spalding is a 25-year-old jazz bassist, vocalist and composer born and raised in Portland, Oregon. The singer grew up in economic hardship in a single-parent household. Due to child illness, Esperanza Spalding spent much of her youth home-schooled, unable to attend conventional schooling. At age four, Esperanza Spalding was inspired by seeing classical cellist Yo Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and decided that she wanted a future in music.
Within a year Esperanza Spalding taught herself to play the violin and entered the The Chamber Music Society of Oregon where she was elevated to concertmaster position at age 15. Esperanza Spalding then discovered her love for the upright bass and began to hone her skills. At 16 she was accepted to the music program at Portland State University and then Berklee College of Music, where she earned a B.M. and became the youngest teacher in Berklee history at the age of 20.
In 2008, Esperanza Spalding released her debut album “Esperanza” which topped Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz charts for 70 straight weeks. After a press tour on late night television and several performances for the White House, Esperanza Spalding was on a cloud. As if life couldn’t get any better, in August 2010, Esperanza Spalding released her sophomore album, “Chamber Music Society” which received rave reviews and garnered her the coveted 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Artist.
Although acts like Justin Bieber and Drake may be popular on the radio or constant topics of discussion on Twitter, its refreshing to see the Recording Academy recognize the hard work and talent of a jazz artist like Esperanza Spalding. This Grammy win may just propel her into international stardom. Only time will tell. To see a recap of the 2011 Grammy Awards, click here.
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