Music Makers Case Studies - Esperanza Spalding

"Esperanza Spalding" is a music industry case study written by Berklee student Nick Susi and Berklee president Roger H. Brown. The introduction below was written by President Brown.

  Esperanza Spalding
  Esperanza Spalding

Shortly after she graduated from Berklee, Spalding approached me about the possibility of teaching here. I was certainly open to the possibility, but advised her that in my opinion, her destiny might be out in the larger world. Little did I know how quickly she would be on the trail of that destiny.

First and foremost, Spalding is a gifted musician. Long before she was composing and singing publicly, she was hired by Joe Lovano to play bass in his trio. Joe is among the preeminent tenor sax players in the jazz pantheon. This vote of confidence gave her a foundation as a player that has been important in her growth as an artist. Many jazz musicians would have been delighted with such credibility as a “sideman,” but Spalding took her natural musicality and her creativity and forged a sound, combining voice and bass in a seamless and original way, and infused musical ideas from Brazil, from American soul and funk, from Western European classical music traditions, and from straight ahead jazz into a sound distinctively her own.

Of interest is her desire to stay grounded by playing with artists she admires, like Mike Stern, Bobby McFerrin, and Herbie Hancock, where she is not Esperanza with a capital “E,” but just another young player, growing and learning as an artist.

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