Bieber-believers worldwide gasped in surprise when the Grammy for Best New Artist was announced last night.
And so did Esperanza Spalding’s many Portland fans. Beloved here in her hometown, jazz musician Esperanza seemed unlikely to upset pop sensation Justin Bieber or the ubiquitous Mumford & Sons to take home the coveted award. Indeed, no jazz artist ever had.
But there’s always hope. And win she did.
In that moment the elegant 26-year old with the radiant smile was catapulted into the international limelight. She accepted the award with the poise of a most seasoned performer. That was no surprise; it comes from years of practice. Esperanza took up the violin at age 4 (she was introduced to classical music while watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood) and joined the Chamber Music Society of Oregon at 5. Then she discovered her true love, the bass. She was mentored by another Portland jazz great, Darrell Grant, at Portland State University before graduating from Boston’s renowned Berklee College of Music and going on to become their youngest instructor ever at age 20. Her compositions – which she sings in English, Spanish and Portuguese – have captivated audiences around the world, including in the White House.
Esperanza comes home this month to play the Portland Jazz Festival (Feb. 18-27). Her show sold out long ago, but festival-goers may encounter the ebullient musician, who is serving as the event’s artistic & community ambassador, at other performances or around town.
There’s always hope.