When jazz phenom Esperanza Spalding first took up the violin at age 4, her family didn't have the money to support her passion. So her mother called around to find programs that had free instruments and offered scholarships to low-income students.
"People gave my family shelter and food when we didn't have enough," says Ms. Spalding, who later switched to the bass. "Teachers took extra time with me, and mentors worked with me on the weekends."
Spalding hasn't forgotten the lessons of her youth. Today the jazz bassist, who has become one of the hottest young musicians in the United States, believes that living simply and giving generously is a credo that could leave an imprint on the world.
The 27-year-old musician with a prodigious list of accomplishments – 2011 Grammy for best new artist, four chart-topping albums, performances at the White House and Nobel Peace Prize ceremony – writes down the names of all the people who have helped her. Then she starts a tally.
"When I count the people who gave their time and energy without asking for anything in return, I realize everything I have is due to the energy of someone else," says Spalding, who grew up in a single-parent home and dealt with a lengthy illness as a child. "I feel like service rendered is service owed...."
"Volunteering is almost an obligation," she adds. "It's a simple concept that can lead to big impact."
Spalding began volunteering with the United Way when she was 12 years old. Today she gives her time to music education programs, working with kids. "It's incredibly fulfilling to offer what we have to another person," she says.
Her advice to the world: "When you have something extra, give it away."
– Whitney Eulich, New York
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