Esperanza Spalding when she was at Berklee

Esperanza Spalding when she was at Berklee. Photo by Liz Linder.

It was the moment that broke a million 16-year-old hearts: Esperanza Spalding, not J***** B1383R, was called up for the Best New Artist Grammy. But Spalding herself was 16 (okay, 17) not long ago, and starting her studies* at Berklee.

I spoke with two professors who taught her that very first semester. The conversations have been edited for length.

Were you in class with Esperanza before she got famous? Post your impressions in the comments.

* Psst. Justin. Call us. And by “us” I mean the Berklee Admissions Department. We can totally work something out. Don’t give up hope.

Ron Mahdi, associate professor, Ensemble Dept.
Class: private bass lesson

When did you meet Esperanza?

I was her private teacher when she first came to Berklee. She was 17 years old. At one of the lessons she just asked me Ron, guess what day it is? It’s my 18th birthday. She was young, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, trying to realize her dreams.

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