The Grammy-winning vocalist and bass player Esperanza Spalding was here in 2002 just before she transferred from Portland State to Berklee College of Music. She was a participant in the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, a session she describes as “a really wonderful balance of concise and results-oriented critique from all these masters who were so genuinely interested in hearing us and working with us.”
I was aware that after finishing her degree at Berklee, Spalding was immediately invited to return as faculty there, so I knew she had lots of experience as both a student and a teacher. When she returned here to Banff in the first week of this year’s Jazz program (the first under new director Vijay Iyer), I spoke with her about teaching, learning, composing, and performing. More of this interview will be in our upcoming issue of Inspired magazine, but this is what she had to say about the confidence gained from good teachers:
There’s some blind faith that there’s a method to the madness as a musician, especially when you subject yourself to the feedback and critique of really advanced musicians. You’re exposing yourself to that because one day you’re going to be at a more advanced level, but you can’t prove it. So through a series of encounters with really inspiring teachers, and clear teachers who, in a loving way, helped me to see the crap I was doing that was in my way, out of insecurity or cutting corners or trying to sound like I could do more than I had actually studied. Those teachers could show you the door out of a pattern, or into a whole new territory of ability. I remember those experiences that would make me want to go home and work on it, above everything else I wanted to do. Someone gives you the lift to keep going.