Born October 18, 1984 (1984-10-18)
Genres: Jazz, jazz fusion, bossa nova, neo soul
Occupations: musician, composer, educator, bandleader
Instruments: vocals, upright bass, bass guitar, violin, oboe, clarinet
Years active: 2000s-present
Labels: Heads Up International, Hush Records, Merge Records
Associated acts: Stanley Clarke, Patti Austin, Noise for Pretend
By the time Spalding was five, she had taught herself to play the violin and was playing with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. Spalding stayed with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon until she was fifteen and left as concertmaster. Due to a lengthy illness when she was child, Spalding spent much of her elementary school years being homeschooled, but also attended King Elementary School in Northeast Portland. During this time she also found the opportunity to pick up instruction in music by listening to her mother’s college teacher instruct her mother in guitar. According to Spalding, when she was about 8 her mother briefly studied jazz guitar in college; Spalding says, “Going with her to her class, I would sit under the piano. Then I would come home and I would be playing her stuff that her teacher had been playing.” Spalding also played oboe and clarinet before discovering the bass in high school.She is able to sing in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Spalding’s savings did not last long, and being at Berklee wasn’t always easy. Small and petite, she had to carry her bass two miles to a train station as part of a long commute. Broke and exhausted, she considered leaving music and entering political science, a move jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny discouraged, telling Spalding she had “the ‘X Factor’” and could make it if she applied herself. During her time at Berklee, her primary bass instructor was John Lockwood.
Spalding was the 2005 recipient of the Boston Jazz Society scholarship for outstanding musicianship.Almost immediately after graduation from college later the same year, Spalding was hired by Berklee College of Music, becoming one of the youngest professors in the institution’s history,at age 20
On December 10, at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies, Spalding performed at Oslo City Hall in honor of the 2009 Laureate President Barack Obama and again at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert the following day. She was personally selected by Obama himself, as per the tradition of one laureate-invited-artist to perform.
Spalding also was the featured final act for the opening night of the 2009 Park City Jazz Festival in Park City, Utah, one of the top jazz festivals in the country. She closed the show with a number along with bass artists Brian Bromberg and Sean O’Bryan Smith, who also performed earlier that day.
As a tribute to Prince, Spalding was inviting to sing along with Patti LaBelle, Alicia Keys, and Janelle Monae. Spalding performed the 1987 hit single “If I Was Your Girlfriend.”
On February 7, 2010, Spalding became the most searched person and second most searched item on Google as a result of her appearance the previous evening on the acclaimed PBS television program Austin City Limits .