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Music’s Melting Pot

The American Ingenuity Award winner Esperanza Spalding explores the connection between history and music.


Conversation Club

  1. Esperanza Spalding describes herself as a bassist, a vocalist, and a composer. What other musical performers can you think of that are similarly multi-talented?
  2. Spalding talks about how her brand of music combines many different genres and styles. She describes it as “looking for the most beautiful version of ideas.” What do you think she means? Can you think of a comparison that draws from another type of artistic discipline, like studio art or writing?
  3. Spalding describes her work as a “melting pot.” Had you heard this term before? Can you think of other contexts in which it might be used (e.g. people, styles, theories)?
  4. Spalding describes researching and listening to the “legends” of her own cultural history, including John Coltrane and Duke Ellington. Who are some of the “legends” of your own culture when it comes to music, art, or anything else?
  5. The process of learning that Spalding describes in this video is one whereby history is a body of knowledge that is learned and discovered by each subsequent generation. What do you think of that view? Are there things that you have learned from figures in history?
  6. Spalding talks about her community of mentors and colleagues. What do you think the difference is between a mentor and a colleague? Who are some of your mentors or colleagues, and what has made those relationships important?
  7. Spalding also says that she feels that she is a representative of thousands of other young artists pursuing the same dream. What do you think of that interpretation? Do you ever see your own successes as representing a larger group?
  8. The historical artists that Spalding refers to in her video are jazz musicians. Is there a genre of music very specific to your own cultural heritage? What is it?

Video Series

This video exists as part of a series gathered around the theme of Civil Society. Other videos in this series are listed below.

Music’s Melting Pot
Music’s Melting Pot
Big Data to Big History
Big Data to Big History
The Legal Crusader
The Legal Crusader
What Is Next in Space Exploration?
What Is Next in Space Exploration?
Teaching Coding, Empowering Girls
Teaching Coding, Empowering Girls
Space Shuttle Discovery's Biggest Accomplishments
Space Shuttle Discovery's Biggest Accomplishments
How to Grow a Human Arm in a Lab
How to Grow a Human Arm in a Lab
Saving the Coral Reef One Stitch at a Time
Saving the Coral Reef One Stitch at a Time
Saving the Coral Reef One Stitch at a Time
Saving the Coral Reef One Stitch at a Time