Black History Month: Celebrating Afro-Latina Esperanza Spalding

Throughout Black history month, we’ve been paying tribute to a few of the world’s most accomplished Afro-Latinas. Up next on our list? The beautiful and trendy Esperanza Spalding!


Spalding grew up in Portland, Oregon. The jazz artist and her brother were raised by her mother, who is Welsh, Hispanic and Native American. Her father, who is black, was not part of her childhood. She grew up listening to music from different cultures, including Portuguese songs and tunes from the classical cellist, Yo-Yo Ma.

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At age 5, Spalding taught herself how to play the violin and began playing with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. She also learned to play the oboe and clarinet before discovering the bass in high school. After leaving school at age 16, she briefly enrolled in the music program at Portland State University before deciding to apply to Berklee College of Music instead. She ended up with a full scholarship and at age 20, almost immediately after graduation, was hired by the school to become one of the youngest professors in the college history.

Her debut album, Junjo, was released in 2006. Her music career quickly took off and she left her post at Berklee to follow music full-time. Since then, she has released a second album entitled, Esperanza, which clearly reflected her varied background. On the CD, she sings in three (!!!) different languages, including English, Spanish and Portuguese.  

Read more ¿Qué más?: Black History Month: Celebrating Afro-Latina Celia Cruz

Spalding was also personally selected by President Obama to perform at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert. In August 2010, she released a third album, Chamber Music Society, which later beat out Justin Bieber and Drake for Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards.  Um…can you say overachiever??

Image via El Humilde Fotero del Pánico/flickr