Sunday, January 27, 2008

Words of Wisdom: Esperanza Spalding - Bassist


Esperanza Spalding is a composer, performing bassist and vocalist, and and leader of two groups, The Esperanza Trio and The Esperanza Spalding Group, plus she holds the bass chair in the Ray Charles Big Band. Spalding is also an instructor in the Bass Department at Berklee College of Music in Boston. I happened upon her faculty page recently and found her words on artistic commitment:

"Most of my students have been playing longer than I have. My students look at me and they say, 'Wait a minute. If she's just a few years older than me, and she's doing stuff that I don't know how to do, it's not because she's been playing longer than me, so let me listen to what she has to say.' They see that sometimes it's just about looking at something in a different way.

"You have to be a good listener to be a good bass player. So I try to get students to calm down and listen to themselves first. I'll start by asking a student to play me four bars. Then I'll say, 'Okay, what did you play in the last bar?' And they don't know. It's like a paradigm shift where they realize, 'Omigosh, I'm not listening to myself.' And if you're not even listening to yourself then (a) why should anybody else listen to you? and (b) how can you even listen to anyone else?

"I say to students, 'You decided to be a musician. This is your job. It's fun, and it's cool, but this is your job. Treat it like it's your work—your part in society—and live up to that. So every time it's been a week out of your life and you didn't work on yourself musically, that's like disrespecting everybody in the world.' That may sound kind of extreme, but I really mean that." [emphasis mine]

Endnote:

• More background on Esperanza Spalding from the International Music Network.
• Article on Spalding from when she was a student at Berklee (just 4 years ago) here.
• Spalding's video "Cantora de Yata"
• Spalding's first album Junjo (2006) (pictured right)
• All About Jazz review of Junjo.
• Spalding on "How Singing Helps Your Bass Playing" in Bass Player Magazine.

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7 Comments:

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Esperanza SPALDING (not Spaulding)

 
At 5:22 PM, Blogger audiologo said...

Thanks to the roving copyeditor who noticed my original typo!

 
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