Esperanza who?

February 25, 2011 12:00 am

The Best New Artist category at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards included the expected choices – Justin Bieber and Drake – and a mix of newcomers, one of which surprised everyone.

Those artists include Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons and Esperanza Spalding, the last of which won the award.

On Feb. 13, recording artists John Legend and Jewel went up to the podium ready to announce the winner for Best New Artist category.

Anticipation was building in everyone’s minds. Who would it be?

They chimed in together “And the Grammy for best new artists goes to…”

Then John Legend said, “Esperanza Spalding.”

The crowd was applauding but some faces looked confused.

Who is Esperanza Spalding?

Born in 1984 and raised in Portland, Oregon, the American multi-instrumentalist Esperanza – which means hope in Spanish – Spalding was raised by her mother, according to biographical information.

At a very young age she was home taught and it was then that Spalding found out she had a unique learning style.

Spalding taught herself how to play the violin, and after one year was invited to play with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon, a community orchestra that was open to both children and adult musicians.

She stayed with the group for ten years.

At 16, she left high school permanently and earned her GED.

Having earned a scholarship, she enrolled in the music program at Portland State University.

There she studied among people who had been in the music industry for many years, while she had just begun. However, it wasn’t long before they seen her true talent shine through.

Spalding was then hired as an instructor at the prestigious Berklee College of Music at 20. This made her the youngest faculty member in the history of the college.

In 2006, she released her first solo album, “Junjo.”

On her 2008 album “Esperanza,” Spalding sings in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

Soon after release, “Esperanza” went straight to the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart where it remained for over 70 weeks.

Her popularity and reputation began to spread and in May 2010 she was featured in an anniversary issue of Oprah Winfrey’s Magazine “O” in “Women on the Rise.”

She was also nominated by the Jazz Journalists Association for their 2010 Jazz Award for Up and Coming Artist of the Year.

Spalding’s August 2010 release “Chamber Music Society” was her third solo album, and after lots of hard work, her music began to spread to a wider audience.
With all her previous notoriety, Spalding doesn’t exactly seem like a “Best New Artist,” but at the age of 25, she won the Grammy.

Yet, it seemed – despite all of her previous accomplishments – Grammy viewers, specifically the pop crowd, were disappointed that fresh-faced Justin Bieber didn’t win.

A Facebook update letting people know I was writing this story and asking their opinions of Spalding, brought Bieber-lovers out.

Friends who have daughters told me I “didn’t understand” the obsession. “He’s been through a lot,” one said.

Videos online are circulating with young people crying over Bieber’s loss.

Bieber’s popularity was recently showcased in the movie “Never Say Never.” Spalding doesn’t have a movie.

But her story is just as appealing, if not more so. Look up some of her videos. Read stories about her.

There’s far more than meets the eye.