Everything You Need To Know About Esperanza Spalding

Forget Kim Kardashian and Selena Gomez. Justin Bieber fans have a new person to hate—Esperanza Spalding. Justin was widely favored to win the Grammy for Best New Artist last night, but instead, the award went to Esperanza, who many people hadn’t even heard of her until her name was called. So who is she? After the jump, everything you need to know about Esperanza.

  • Esperanza plays the upright bass and composes jazz tunes flecked with just a hint of pop, R&B, and funk. Because the type of music she plays is hardly mainstream, Esperanza was shocked to even be nominated for Best New Artist. “I certainly did not expect to even be considered for that type of nomination,” she said. “Me being a little old jazz musician and everything.” [EsperanzaSpalding.com]
  • Esperanza is 25 and hails from Portland, Oregon, where she was raised by a single mom. On her website bio, she says she was inspired to pick up the violin and teach herself to play after watching Yo Yo Ma rock the cello on an episode of “Mister Rogers Neighborhood.” [EsperanzaSpalding.com]
  • Esperanza is proud of the fact that her first name means “hope.” She is also proud of her mixed ethnic heritage. “My mom is Welsh, Hispanic, and Native American, and my father is black,” she explains. She says all these cultures have influenced her music. [Wikipedia]
  • By age 15, Esperanza was a concertmaster in the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. “The funny thing was, I was the songwriter, but I had never experienced love before. Being the lyricist and the lead singer, I was making up songs about red wagons, toys and other childish interests. No one knew what I was singing about, but they liked the sound of it and they just ate it up.” [EsperanzaSpalding.com]
  • Esperanza studied at the Berklee College of Music and became an instructor there in 2005, when she was just 20. Chamber Music Society, the 2010 album which won her the Grammy, is actually her third. Her second garnered her appearances on Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and NPR. [EsperanzaSpalding.com]

  • Esperanza has been invited to play at the White House twice. In this video, Barack and Michelle looked mighty thrilled with her performance. Barack apparently is such a fan that he asked her to play at the Nobel Prize Ceremony in Oslo. [PopDust]
  • Esperanza is, obviously, gorgeous. But she hopes this isn’t too distracting. “Every woman that’s pretty knows how to use it, the tricky thing is to know how not to use it!” she says. “But really, really, really, the tricky part is to make sure that your music is together like any other man. And then when you present yourself, you have to do it totally professionally and platonically, if there is such a word. Once you learn how to present yourself, respect yourself, and have faith in your music, it’s not hard to do.” [Jazz.com]

  • Minutes after winning the Grammy, Esperanza’s Wikipedia page was hacked. “BIEBER 4 LYFE!” one Justin fan posted at the top of the page. “HaHa Justin Bieber, you’re just a little boy with no Grammy for Best New Artist,” the banner read just a few minutes later. Finally, Wikipedia deleted new adds and clamped down Esperanza’s page. But Justin himself wasn’t mad at Esperanza. Check out his response to her win below. Awkies. [Washington Post]