Victor Wooten is a most entertaining music instructor

When you sit down for a chat with Victor Wooten, you get more than a conversation about playing bass.You get a conversation that involves philosophy, education, nature and how music can relate to nearly anything.

The five-time Grammy winner, known mostly as the bass player for Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, also has a successful solo career writing and performing music that explores rock, blues and funk. He is a composer, father, writer, teacher and naturalist and has spent time studying at Tom Brown’s Tracker School. He also leads his own camp outside Nashville that combines bass with outdoor education. Recently, he started his own record label, Vix Recordings, to keep musical and financial control of a musician’s art in the hands of the musician.

Wooten will be in Pagosa Springs on Tuesday performing solo and talking about music philosophy at the high school. It is being produced by teacher Bob Hemenger’s Americana Project class, with musicians from the class performing before Wooten takes the stage and at the intermission.

The man was born into music. The youngest of five children, Wooten was still in the womb when his older siblings were already performing as a band; his birth rounded out the band.

“They needed a bass player – that was me at birth,” Wooten said last week from a tour stop. “They already knew what I was going to play. It was my older brother who got me started at birth. They were playing music for me and with me. .”

It was that rearing that has given him his philosophy about how music should be taught today. His approach may refute the age-old ways of learning music, causing ire in music classrooms everywhere. Perhaps if his approach was used in schools, the world would have more musicians.

Wooten equates music education with lingual development – children don’t learn how to speak by sitting alone in a room and practicing saying words but by hearing them and using them. They learn music by what he refers to as “jamming.” Infants learn from speaking with adults. Novice musicians gain experience by playing with the professionals.

“It’s just like a language, and when we follow the way, we allow children to learn to speak. If we can pull some of that technique over to learning music, then its not only more fun, but it happens more naturally,” Wooten said.

This may be a concert, but Wooten brings much more when on stage. His performances are more than hearing what is coming out of the instrument and watching what the musician is doing. He wants the listener to get with him, to understand the expression behind the music. It’s all education.

“The way life works, you’re always teaching somebody. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing,” Wooten said. “I just want to be conscious of what I’m teaching and do more of it. It’s important, and it should be important to all of us.” Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.

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