In retaliation over Esperanza Spalding’s win for best new artist over Justin Bieber in last night’s Grammy awards someone, presumably a Justin Bieber fan, defaced Spalding’s Wikipedia page. The user added “JUSTIN BIEBER DESERVED IT GO DIE IN A HOLE. WHO THE HECK ARE YOU ANYWAY?” The user also added “Quesadilla” to Spalding’s name on the page.
Spalding, who is of mixed Spanish and African-American ancestry, is an accomplished musician and singer, notable for her use of a stand-up bass which she plays while singing. Her style leans on the jazzier end of the musical spectrum, though she has voiced a desire to simply be recognized as a musician of popular music.
This particular display of rivalry from supposed Bieber fans is especially disheartening since both Bieber and Spalding share unique stories, rising from obscurity and building their reputations as successful performers. Since the person who defaced Spalding’s page could not answer his or her own question by simply scrolling down the page, here are some highlights from Wikipedia that will hopefully shed some light on who she is, anyway.
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.
By the time Spalding was five, she had taught herself to play the violin and was playing with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. Spalding stayed with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon until she was fifteen and left as concertmaster. […] According to Spalding, when she was about 8 her mother briefly studied jazz guitar in college; Spalding says, “Going with her to her class, I would sit under the piano. Then I would come home and I would be playing her stuff that her teacher had been playing.” Spalding also played oboe and clarinet before discovering the bass in high school. She is able to sing in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Her desire to perform live evolved naturally out of the compositional process, when she would sing and play simultaneously to see how melody and voice fit together, but she acknowledges that performing both roles can be challenging. In a 2008 interview, she said, “[W]hat can be difficult is being a singer, in the sense that you are engaged with the audience, and really responsible for emoting, and getting into the lyrics, melody, etc and being an effective bassist/band leader.”
Spalding left high school at 16 and, after completing her GED, enrolled on a music scholarship in the music program at Portland State University, where she remembers being “the youngest bass player in the program.” Although she lacked the training of her fellow students, she feels that her teachers nevertheless recognized her talent. She decided to instead apply to Berklee College of Music on the encouragement of her bass teacher, and did well enough in her audition to receive a full scholarship. In spite of the scholarship, Spalding found it a challenge meeting living expenses, so her friends arranged a benefit concert that paid her air fare and a little extra.
Spalding’s savings did not last long, and being at Berklee wasn’t always easy. Small and petite, she had to carry her bass two miles to a train station as part of a long commute.
Spalding, who has expressed a desire to be judged for her musicianship rather than her sex appeal, believes that female musicians must take responsibility to avoid oversexualizing themselves. Not only does she not wish to be pigeonholed as a female musician, but she doesn’t want to be categorized as a genre artist; she’d prefer to keep her options open on who she collaborates with and to have an opportunity to reach people who may not be familiar with jazz. If she had a preference, she says she’d prefer to be linked in “popular music” on prominent display with artists like Beyonce.
Of course, a performer is best understood through performing.
So cool your jets, Bieber fans. He’s got more money than he knows what to do with; he’ll be fine without a Grammy this year.
(story and image via BuzzFeed)
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