From award-winning musician to Harvard professor? Well, that’s the case for jazz musician Esperanza Spalding. Spalding has just joined Harvard’s Department of Music as a Professor of Practice.
Professor of Practice is a distinguished honor, reserved for musicians who have national or international reputations of excellence in their field.
Spalding is a singer-songwriter and bassist that has won four Grammy awards. She began her career at five years old playing the violin at the Oregon Chamber Music Society.
Spalding is a self-taught musician that plays the piano, violin, bass, oboe, clarinet, and jazz guitar. She can sing in three languages: English, Portuguese, and Spanish.
As a teenager, she took gigs at a local blues club and wrote lyrics for a rock group named Noise. She applied to the Berklee College of Music and received a full scholarship. After graduation, the school hired her as an instructor at just 20 years old.
Spalding released her debut album, Junjo, in 2006. She won her first Grammy in 2011, beating out Justin Bieber for Best New Artist. She was the first jazz musician to win the award.
As a Professor of Practice, Spalding is expected to instruct students in songwriting, arranging, improvisation, and performance. Although trained in jazz, Spalding draws inspiration from rock, funk, and Brazilian music.
She was invited to sing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and concert in 2009 when President Barack Obama won.
Besides Berklee, Spalding has taught at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Canada. She will begin her residency at Harvard in July 2017. The residency lasts for five years. The University officially announced her tenure in their June 2017 press release.
Spalding will be recognized as a full-time functioning member of the Department’s faculty. The process to apply for professor of practice is lengthy and includes various interviews.