WST Global News Division


The Thwaites and Esperanza Spalding hook up via Steelpan

Maryland, USA -   The University of Maryland Black Honors Caucus & Pan United Youth Movement (the latter led by Shawn Thwaites), was proud to host composer, vocalist and virtuoso bassist Esperanza Spalding at the Nyumburu Cultural Center on the University’s campus recently. Shawn and Sherwin Thwaites,  accompanied by ten other panists comprised of Pan Masters’ players and friends - performed three of Spalding’s tunes from her critically-acclaimed sophomore release, simply titled “Esperanza.” 

At 23 the youngest instructor currently on staff at the world-renowned Berklee College of Music, Spalding is presently on tour promoting her self-titled album and has been mesmerizing audiences worldwide.  The incredibly gifted young woman effortlessly evokes melodies from her upright bass, simultaneously accentuating the musical tapestry with her lilting and counterpoint vocal work.  The two Thwaites brothers - themselves Berklee alumni, met Spalding at the college when they were all still students.  After seeing her perform in Virginia this past summer, the brothers and Spalding began planning an event to showcase a fusion of pan, voice and bass.

esper0004.JPGThis led to the October 9 affair that unveiled performances of Shawn Thwaites’ arrangements of Spalding’s compositions, by the steel pan musicians and Spalding herself. The collaboration blossomed in a format more akin to that of a clinic or master class.  The band flowed effortlessly through Spalding’s “I Know You Know,” “Precious” and “Ponta de Areia” (Milton Nasciemento) - and even as the headline act, Spalding was astounded at the pure synergy resulting from the multi-talented combination of instruments.  With no ‘rehearsal’ interaction between Spalding and the group of panists, this unique presentation unfolded instinctively and professionally - especially since it remained up to Thwaites to choose from Spalding’s catalog, what would result in this remarkably joint venture.  It was during the journey from her hotel to the venue that Sherwin Thwaites revealed to Spalding which of her works were on the card for that evening.

Esperanza performed with the band then took questions about both music and life, leaving no stone unturned. She also spoke of personal experiences that led to the inspiration behind some of her compositions.  The performance venue was very quaint and intimate, affording the audience a real ‘up close and personal experience’ with Esperanza and the panists.  After the event was over, the prolific musician signed CDs, posed for pictures and even ‘chilled’ later on with the band at the Thwaites’ residence.

A musical prodigy-turned-pro, the down-to-earth Spalding was a mere twenty years of age when she joined Berklee as a part-time faculty member - one of the institution’s youngest instructors ever (jazz guitarist Pat Metheny taught there at 19) - the arrangement allowing her the flexibility to tour nationally and internationally.  Her new CD on which she sings in English, Spanish and Portugese features twelve tracks, including those performed at the October 9 Up Close with Esperanza Spalding event.  In addition to her 2006 début CD “Junjo,” Esperanza has collaborated with several known artists on their music releases.  She has also played alongside other music greats such as Patti Austin, Herbie Hancock and Metheny.

As of the time of this writing, since her steelpan collaboration, Spalding has delivered performances in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Brazil and Argentina, with a stint scheduled for New York at the Village Vanguard in early November.  Before the year closes, Spalding would have added Tokyo, Japan and the Cayman Islands to her appearances.  The first half of the new year will see her taking the stage throughout Europe and the United States.

Panist Shawn Thwaites’ own upcoming release “Soul Meets Steel” can be previewed at  Esperanza Spalding’s albums are available on iTunes and Amazon, with more here:  Finally, look out for Esperanza Spalding’s guest appearance on Pan United’s upcoming release!

contact Shawn Thwaites:


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