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PSU alum first jazz artist to win Grammy for Best New Artist
Author: Scott Gallagher
Posted: February 14, 2011

(Portland, Ore.) February 14, 2011 – Esperanza Spalding won Best New Artist at the 2010 Grammy Awards on Sunday night. At the age of 16, Esperanza enrolled at Portland State University's (PSU) music program.

The Portland native was a student at Northwest Academy in Portland when PSU Professor Hamilton Cheifetz recognized her talent. "She knew PSU had a good jazz program and asked me about applying," said Cheifetz. "I was very impressed with her skill so I recommended her to my colleagues and they gave her a chance to audition."

She was accepted and began at PSU in 2000. One of her first classes was Jazz Improv with Darrell Grant, professor of jazz studies at PSU. "Even at 16 she was a very level-headed person with a strong sense of herself and purpose," said Grant. "And while we loved having her here, we encouraged her to look at the east coast where she could be connected with the highest level of professional opportunities in Boston or New York."

Esperanza went from PSU to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, home of one of the most famous schools of Jazz in the world. However, she has not forgotten her roots. While in town performing for Black History Month and the Portland Jazz Festival, Esperanza will teach a one-day Masters class at PSU on February 24, where she will work with undergraduate students studying jazz. "She's somebody who recognizes what she was given, how she benefitted from the community, and wants to give back," said Grant.

PSU's music program has 350 majors and offers a Bachelors and Masters in Jazz studies. The music program is expanding and has plans to add more faculty in Jazz.

"Esperanza's story highlights the strength of our music department in Jazz," said Barbara Sestak, dean of fine and performing arts at PSU. "A lot of our students play in jazz venues throughout the city of Portland, and our jazz bands have had invitations to participate in festivals around the country."

"We're all very happy for her," said Cheifetz.

In addition to thanking her parents in her acceptance speech, she also thanked her teachers.

About Portland State University (PSU)
Located in Portland, Oregon, PSU has about 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students, making it the largest university in Oregon. PSU's motto is "Let Knowledge Serve the City," and we provide every student with opportunities to work with businesses, schools and organizations on real-world projects. Our downtown campus showcases PSU's commitment to sustainability with green buildings.

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