The name “Esperanza Spalding” became known to a lot of people (particularly peevish Justin Bieber fans) tonight, when she was the surprise winner of this year’s Best New Artist award. Spalding’s prodigious status is actually similar to that of Bieber; she taught herself violin at an early age and became an instructor at the Berklee College of Music when she was only 20. Her music blends R&B, funk, be-bop, and a huge sweep of other styles; her primary instrument is the upright bass, which contrasts with the high timbre of her voice. Here she is performing at the White House:
Spalding’s 2010 album Chamber Music Society is actually her third record, but the quirkiness of the eligibility requirements for the Best New Artist category mean that she was eligible for it this year. (Remember how long No Doubt had kicked around Orange County before being nominated for the award in 1997?) Why she won the trophy is probably as due to the “anybody’s game” nature of this year’s Best New Artist field as it is to her talent—but one thing’s for sure: Her profile is definitely a lot higher now than it was two hours ago.