So said North Hollywood Regional Senior Librarian Arthur Pond.
Indeed it was!
Five-time Grammy award-winning artist, world-class bass player, musician’s musician and author Victor Wooten drew a standing-room-only crowd despite seriously inclement weather and hurricane warnings (this is no exaggeration – Huntington and Long Beach-area residents were advised that they might need to take cover). It’s coming down hard and fast here in Lower California – holy mackerel!
Los Angeles, you impressed me today.
And so it is a testament to Victor Wooten’s reputation and genius that he PACKED the North Hollywood Library in spite of the weather. People flocked to see him and he did not disappoint with his original brand of warmth, talent and beauty.
Apart from making his bass sound like an entire orchestra was playing it (how does he DO that?!?), Wooten talked about his book The Music Lesson and what inspired him to write it. He was interested to learn how music is taught these days, in contrast to how he learned growing up, which was to be flung into the music mix and rehearsals at home with his brothers who were all pro musicians. At the age of 2.
Nothing wrong with music lessons, he said, but we’re taught “what’s right” when we learn an instrument, and so any child will naturally avoid “what’s wrong.” This has the immediate effect of constricting his expression. In music, he said, we think we have to know rules (harmony, theory) before we play, this isn’t wrong but it’s very slow. How do we speed that up?
You’ll find very little in books about what we need to BE to be a good musicians. Does the world want another great musician? he asked. Maybe. But we do need more good people.
On Learning To Play
When you learn to talk, no one says, “Speak like me!” You’re put in a room and you figure it out. Likewise, you should not have to copy someone else. You have your speaking voice, you also have your music voice.
Illusions, a book by Richard Bach, inspired Wooten to write his own book after resisting this for years. He says he did not want to have to defend his position or create a “Victor Wooten Method” which is precisely he what he wanted to avoid. He put his book in the form of a fictional story about a music student and his teachers. As fiction, he wouldn’t have to defend it!
The student protagonist in the book learns lessons that we’re mostly never taught, such as knowing when and what NOT to play. It’s with this that the student realizes he can play fewer notes. Through the process of the lessons, the student becomes a better person.
I asked Victor to talk to the kids in the room who wanted to pursue a career in music, and what would his best advice to them be?
“Why?” he asked. Most importantly, you must do this (enter into music) truthfully. Again, does the world need another great musician? Maybe. Maybe not. But the world does need more good people.
Lastly, he said be original. The people we aspire to be like are original. They are easy to copy, but the copy is never worth as much as the original. As an example, he said he could paint a picture of the Mona Lisa but his would never be as good as the original…. or worth as much. You’re worth much more if you’re original, even if you play to a small audience.
What is music?
Victor asked this question, the crowd responded with an array of words: love, God, beauty, passion. On his travels around the world, he asks this question and across all cultures, countries and languages the answers are always the same. And even more fascinating, he said, no one has ever responded with “theory, notes, scales, arpeggios.” He makes a fine point that music cannot be restricted to those things, it is above all a feeling and the free expression of this can be magical.
To me, music is one of the finest inventions of mankind, I’m so happy to have someone of Victor’s caliber bring attention to great music, free expression, books and libraries.
Thank you Victor for a wonderful lesson and a beautiful afternoon.
More FREE Victor Wooten shows this week in LA, details at lamn.com
Click to to see more photos from the NARIP Gallery.
Photo: Wooten tears through a piece at the N. Hollywood Regional Library where a standing-room only crowd slogged it out through the rain to hear and appreciate him.