Memorial Union hosted The Victor Wooten Band and The Wooten Woods Experience Thursday night. Wooten, a renowned bass guitarist and five-time Grammy Award winner, brought energetic jazz, and plenty of guests to the Shannon Hall stage.
Wooten took the stage to deliver his jazz-funk blend of sounds carrying one of his well-known Yin-Yang bass guitars.
“[The Yin-Yang symbol] applies to all of life,” Wooten said. “We know we can make choices in life, but to make a choice you have to have something to choose from.”
This symbol and the principles it carries have guided Wooten in his music career since he began playing.
Wooten has played music for more than 50 years with many different groups, yet his wide musical capacities have quite humble origins.
“When I was born, my brothers were playing and they let me just, to use an analogy, ‘baby talk’ along with them,” Wooten said.
For a long time, Wooten has played bass for the band Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.
As this band gathered acclaim, Wooten began to teach music.
“When that band started to become popular, I started being asked to teach,” Wooten said. “I had never taught anything and when I started teaching music I realized how much I loved it … I also realized that I had a different outlook from the norm when it comes to how to teach music.”
These realizations, as well as the fact that Wooten had friends who were already running camps, inspired him to form a bass camp of his own. The camp, titled the Victor Wooten Center for Music and Nature, has since evolved to incorporate all instruments and is open to all ages.
This year is the Victor Wooten Center for Music and Nature’s 20th anniversary. The camp started as a way for Wooten to teach music in a way that incorporates nature and being outdoors.
“I learned that nature was a missing element in a musician’s life, as far as music curriculum goes,” Wooten said. “Musicians say lock yourself in a room and practice, and that’s not a natural process.”
Inspired by the 20th anniversary of the camps, Wooten decided to bring awareness to the camps by bringing some of his instructors and pupils out on tour with him. The Victor Wooten Band consists of Wooten himself, Regi Wooten (Victor’s older brother and the person who taught him to play the bass), Derico Watson and Carlton Taylor.
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Wooten is joined on this tour by some of the instructors at his camp.
There were also campers that join Wooten on this tour. Included on stage were Remy Feniello — now a bassist for her own heavy metal band in New Jersey — Divinity Roxx — former bassist for Beyoncé and now a solo artist — Kylie Gardocki, Dylan DeBiase and sixteen-year-old drummer Jake Rosen.
These pupils showed the audience the sheer impact of Wooten’s teaching style. Before bringing Feniello to the stage, Wooten explained to the audience that her first year at camp, Feniello was “shy and fragile.” Apparently, every time one of the instructors would ask Feniello to try something new, she would start crying. Thursday night, however, she blew the crowd away with a cover of “Brick House” by The Commodores.
One of the most memorable performances from one of the guests came from Bradford Ray Bailey, a jazz musician who created an instrument that he called, “an abomination.” This so-called “abomination,” is half banjo, half bass guitar and was greeted with awe from the audience. Bailey played a cover of “I Want You Back,” by the Jackson 5 and the combination of sounds that came from his instrument truly wowed the crowd.
The number of people Wooten brought to the stage created a party-like atmosphere. It was clear that all of the musicians that appeared on stage were there for their love of music and were having an amazing time, which contributed to the audience’s enjoyment.
The crowd clearly had an admiration for Wooten coming into the show. Cheers of, “We love you, Victor,” and “I just saw God,” came from the audience following his bass solos. His musical talent and the skill of everyone on the stage gave the occupants of Shannon Hall an amazing show.
Registration for Wooten’s camps this summer is currently open to musicians of all ages and skill levels.