Esperanza Spalding (born 1984) is an American multi-instrumentalist best known as a jazz bassist and singer, who draws upon many genres in her own compositions. In 2011, she won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards, making her the first jazz artist to win the award.
Spalding grew up in the King neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, a neighborhood she describes as “ghetto” and “pretty scary”. Her mother raised her and her brother as a single parent.
Spalding has a diverse ethnic background. She notes, “My mom is Welsh, Hispanic, and Native American, and my father is black.” She also has an interest in the music of other cultures, including that of Brazil, commenting, “With Portuguese songs the phrasing of the melody is intrinsically linked with the language, and it’s beautiful”.
Her mother shares Spalding’s interest in music, having nearly become a touring singer herself. But while Spalding cites her mother as a powerful influence who encouraged her musical expansion, she attributes her inspiration for pursuing a life in music to watching classical cellist Yo Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhoodwhen she was four.