Esperanza Spalding: Breaking One Boundary at a Time

By Logan Snook

Bassist. Vocalist. Composer. Grammy Award winner (beating out Justin Bieber, I might add). Human rights activist. Esperanza Spalding has been taking names and defying odds for most of her life. After fighting the public school system for years, Spalding dropped out of high school and enrolled at Portland State University at the age of 16, where she earned her B.A. degree in only three years.

She is the youngest-ever faculty member at Berklee College of Music in Boston, hired at the age of 20. In 2006, the year following her appointment at Berklee College of Music, Spalding debuted her first album, Junjo, has been blowing up the music scene ever since. Spalding has used her music and figure in popular music to call attention to human rights violations occurring in our society, and serves as a strong, driven model for women.

Working in an industry that has a strong history of male dominance, Spalding has tossed out any preconceived notions of what a “woman’s role” should be in jazz music. Gender roles have a long and influential history in music and jazz, deterring women away from playing more masculine instruments and keeping them in more traditional and non-authoritative positions. This is a fight Spalding has taken by the horns. Spalding uses her drive, passion, and commitment to her art form to break away from the constraints placed on women in jazz music. In response to being asked about working in a male dominant field, Spalding has responded, “I don’t know how it feels to be anything else but me. I’ve never been something else that I remember in this lifetime.  I just blaze ahead, focused on what I’m focused on.”

Spalding was recently in the headlines for performing at Live at the White House 2016, A Celebration of American Creativity 2016. No stranger to performing for the POTUS, Spalding performed an upbeat and inspirational take on “Sunny Side of the Street” – a song traditional sung as a message for hope.

Want to see what Esperanza Spalding’s music is all about? Check out her performance at the White House here, and check out her website for more information on her albums and music.

The White House…a “boy’s club”?

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By Kristina Gardner

 It came out this past weekend that women in the Obama White House felt excluded and ignored during his first couple years of presidency. Christina Romer said she felt like she was treated “like a piece of meat”. The women that work in the white house feel as if they are outsiders in a “boys club”. One woman doesn’t believe that Obama is doing it on purpose, but other high ranking women say that they feel like Obama has just as much responsibility as the next guy for excluding women. It seems questionable that Obama, a man with a very strong and independent wife that he has to go home to every night and answer to would do something like this. Obama aides claim that this is completely false, and that these women are making unfounded claims, and were feeling “sidelined” for no reason.  So this begs the question:  Is the Obama white House being sexist? Are they being elitist? Is Obama’s white house the first to do this?

Personally, I think that it seems like a stretch that this is happening on purpose, to these women. But if they are feeling alienated, then something needs to be done about it. If it were any office and women made such a claim; there would be investigations, and things would have to be done about it. It seems like the things that plague the White House are things that plague us every day America women. Not getting called on for opinions, not really having a say in meetings, not getting promotions, and the like. It seems sad that these things still go on; but this coming out of the White House is just a sad reminder that this is still a daily challenge that women are trying to overcome. Although, now that Ms. Romer has said something about it, I’m sure things will begin to be fixed… The American women will be sure of it.