My main impression after doing some research about Esperanza Spalding, acclaimed jazz bassist and singer, was this: while you, Ms. Spalding, may reject the notion that you are a musical prodigy, many would vehemently disagree. Spalding, a native of Portland, OR, taught herself to play the violin by the age of 5 and played alongside the Chamber Music Society of Oregon until she was 15. She also began playing the guitar at age 8, and went on to learn the oboe, clarinet, and what would eventually become her main love: the bass. She is able to sing in 3 languages, received two music scholarships after obtaining her GED as a teen, and after graduation from Berklee College of Music at age 20, she became one of the youngest musical instructors in the history of the institution. In 2009, Spalding was selected by President Obama to sing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies.
2011 was an extraordinary year for Spalding: she was the first jazz artist to ever be named “Best New Artist” at the Grammy Awards, received “Jazz Artist of the Year” at the Boston Music Awards, and also enjoyed the honor of being best-selling contemporary jazz artist of the year. Her very recent release, Radio Music Society, is her attempt to expose the mainstream media and public to jazz-trained musicianship. She is in a unique position to do so, having garnered much attention for her rendition of “What a Wonderful World” at this year’s Oscars. See what all the fuss is about for yourself: Esperanza Spalding is set to take the stage at Jazz Fest on Thursday, May 3.