Esperanza Spalding, High School Dropout Turned Grammy Winner

Esperanza Spalding quote
“Jazz has always been a melting pot of influences and I plan to incorporate them all.” –Esperanza Spalding. Illustration of Esperanza Spalding by Kirby Salvador

Esperanza Spalding (*1984)

Often considered a musical prodigy, in 2011 Esperanza Spalding became the first jazz musician to win a Grammy for Best New Artist. Born in Oregon, Spalding is a jazz bassist, cellist and singer, known for inserting varied influences into her music. Spalding taught herself to play the violin at the age of five, but her career took off after she started playing the bass in high school. She dropped out at the age of 16, but earned her GED and eventually received a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. She has performed twice at the White House and, at the request of President Barack Obama, played at his Nobel Peace Prize reception ceremony in 2009.

This feature originally appeared in the Play issue. For more inspiring stories from that issue, check out How Monopoly Was Invented: The Anti-Capitalist Board Game and Happy Hour with Ivy Mix.