Music motivates at the most primal level.
You instinctually hum a tune in order to get pumped up in the morning, for fuel on the treadmill, to soundtrack your commute, or as the pre-game to a big night out. As much as he treasures his roles as a guitarist, composer, and producer, Cory Wong fashions himself “a hype man,” first and foremost. Living up to this classification, he slings a Stratocaster and hurls “dad jokes” from the stage with the same panache, poise, and power.
“For me, it’s all about the listener’s experience,” he explains. “I want them to have a visceral response like: ‘I feel better,’ ‘That was really fun,’ or ‘I got to escape for an hour.’ You’ll hear my voice through the guitar, but I’m just a hype man. To uplift audiences with instrumental music that has no singing or lyrics is a fun challenge. I’m trying to solve the riddle. If I can get one person to feel good this way, it’s a success.
Straight out of Minneapolis, Cory positioned himself as music’s answer to motivational speakers like Tony Robbins since emerging in 2011. Head-spinning rhythm guitar wizardry, technical ebullience, laugh-out-loud jokes, and radiance on stage established him as both a sought-after collaborator and celebrated solo artist alike. He lent his talents to television programs such as The Voice at the dawn of his career. After an impromptu meeting at the weekly jam hosted by Prince’s rhythm section (where the Purple One often either performed or watched), he crossed paths with Vulfpeck who welcomed him as a frequent collaborator and member of the band. Solidifying a fruitful partnership, the group named their most popular instrumental track “Cory Wong,” in tribute. Lighting up the stage in the band everywhere from Red Rocks Amphitheatre to Madison Square Garden, he remains a cornerstone of Vulfpeck’s storied gigs.
“I try to feature the guitar, but I don’t force myself into being the star of every song,” he says. “The instrument plays an appropriate role. It’s not all flash. I’m bringing rhythm to the forefront where it’s not so shreddy. I refer to it as ‘Covert chops.’ I’m doing things that are sneakily hard, but they lay in the cut. I allow the song to breathe and present myself as more of a composer rather than a guitar player.”
In the end, Cory transmits joy in its purest form through the guitar.
“The guiding light is to impart a feeling of joy,” he leaves off. “I want people to experience instrumental music in a different way. This is hype. It’s more than just guitar.”
Victor Lemonte Wooten is a unique human being. Born the youngest of five boys, he began learning to play music at the tender age of two. He started performing in nightclubs and theaters as the bassist with the family band at age five and at age six was on tour with The Wooten brothers opening shows for legendary soul artist Curtis Mayfield.
Fast forward a few decades, and we know Wooten as a 5-time Grammy Winner, a founding member of the Grammy award-winning band Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, the only multiple winner of Bass Player Magazine’s reader’s poll (3 times), voted one of the top ten bassists of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine, and having won just about every award awarded to a bassist, but this only represents a portion of who Victor Wooten really is.
Many know Victor the musician, but it should also be known that, in his youth, Wooten organized a 2-year student run safety patrol to help rid his high school of violence, and upon graduation, expanded the organization to help the neighboring cities. He received a special award for being one of the top graduating African American students in the Tidewater area of Virginia, and was also offered a scholarship to play soccer at a local college.
Currently, Wooten is a published author, an acclaimed teacher, a naturalist who enjoys teaching about the world we live in, a sought after lecturer, runs a non-profit organization, and is an entrepreneur among other things. A few years ago, Victor and his wife purchased nearly 150 acres of land near Nashville, TN and built a retreat center with the sole purpose of helping kids and adults improve their lives. A few years later, in order to be in complete control of his own music, Wooten formed a record label called VIX Records. In addition to all of this, he continues to record and perform with artists such as Béla Fleck, Chick Corea, The Dave Matthews Band, SMV (Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten), and his brothers, as well as with his own band - The Victor Wooten Band.
Wooten, a loving husband and father of four, is a person dedicated to using what he has achieved to help those around him. He credits his parents and brothers with given him not only the skills to reach success but also the mindset necessary for successfully dealing with it, as well as the wisdom and aspiration to help others achieve their own successes.
In response to multiple requests for Victor to write a music instruction book, Wooten took a different approach by writing a story instead. His novel, The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music (Berkley Publishing Group/Penguin USA Inc.), has quickly become a “must-read” book for musicians worldwide. Through this book, which shares his unique outlook on music and life, Wooten has helped educate and inspire thousands of people of all ages whether they are musicians or not, teachers or students, professionals or novices. The Music Lesson offers a natural path to music, life, and creativity and has been translated into four additional languages.
Victor Wooten’s Center for Music and Nature (vixcamps.com) is a not-for-profit organization through which Wooten holds music, nature, and other educational programs throughout the year. Wooten Woods (wootenwoods.com), a retreat center near Nashville, TN, is the home for all of Victor’s camps. Wooten Woods contains nearly 150 lush picturesque acres and is situated alongside the scenic Duck River, one of the world’s most bio-diverse rivers.
As well as teaching and inspiring people through his books, camps, videos, and workshops, Victor was hired in 2015 by Berklee College of Music as a Performance Scholar in Residence. Now, as one of the newest faculty members, Wooten teaches at the school every month and is the co-director of the Victor Wooten/Berklee Summer Bass Program, which runs every summer.
There is a lot going on in Wooten World. If you want to know more…keep reading.
More about Victor:
Victor Wooten is the youngest of five musically talented brothers. Taught how to play the bass guitar by his oldest brother Regi, Victor still credits all of his brothers as his greatest musical influences.
As a young kid, Wooten was affectionately known as the 8-year-old Bass Ace, and before graduating high school, he and his brothers had shared the stage with artists such as Stephanie Mills, War, Ramsey Lewis, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Dexter Wansel, and The Temptations. But, this only begins to tell the tale of this Tennessee titan.
Wooten, now a five-time Grammy winner, hit the worldwide scene in 1990 as a founding member of the super-group Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. Continuing to blaze a musical trail with the band, Victor has also become widely known for his own Grammy nominated solo recordings and tours.
Among other things, he is a loving husband and father of four, a skilled naturalist and teacher, a published author, a magician and acrobat, and has won every major award given to a bass guitarist including being voted Bassist of the Year in Bass Player Magazine's readers poll three times (the only person to win it more than once.) In 2011, Rolling Stone Magazine voted Victor one of the Top Ten Bassist of ALL TIME.
"I was born at the right place and the right time to a wonderful family."
Victor Lemonte Wooten was born September 11, 1964 to military parents on an air force base outside of Boise, Idaho. Soon after, the family packed up and moved on as military families often do. It was during the years stationed in Hawaii that the brothers began performing as a five-piece band. With Regi on guitar, Roy (now also known Future Man) on drums, Rudy on sax, Joseph on keyboards, and Victor on bass, The Wooten Brothers band was born. Performing in their front yard, the band immediately began honing their skills. Victor credits the brothers' early ability to play a variety of musical genres to the experience of relocating frequently, the diversity of 1960's radio stations, and the unwavering support of their parents who provided many opportunities and booked all of their performances.
"My brothers, who were already playing music, knew they needed a bass player to complete the family band. Regi started teaching me as soon as I could sit up straight, and my parents let him do it."
Victor has been heralded as "the Michael Jordan of the bass" and "one of the most fearless musicians on the planet." These qualities were evident when, in 1981, his older brother, Roy, recommended him as a bluegrass fiddle player for a job performing at a nearby amusement park. Victor, having never played violin in his life, was thrilled to meet the challenge. He borrowed an instrument from his high school orchestra teacher and immediately began practicing. Quickly learning the most popular fiddle tunes and techniques, he took the job at Busch Gardens' The Old Country in Williamsburg, VA playing fiddle and bass in the Good Time Country Show.
"I remember getting that call from Roy. He trusted me. I had to learn to be a fiddler real quick, almost over night. I don't think the people who hired me ever knew I'd never played before."
What they soon found out was that the brothers were quickly becoming star attractions. The Wooten Brothers rapidly became staple figures at the park throughout the 1980's working in the German, Italian, Country and Bluegrass, and Americana shows.
The years 1980 and 1981 found the brothers performing for U.S. troops overseas as the band for the Busch Gardens USO show. Traveling the world was an eye-opening time of learning for young Victor, but it was one summer performing in the country show that, unbeknownst to him, changed his life forever. That was when he became aware of a unique banjo player named Béla Fleck.
"My brothers and parents were the foundation. They prepared me for just about anything by teaching me to always do my best, keep my mind open, and learn to adapt."
While messing around with a friend's banjo between shows, the friend commented on Wooten's unique banjo sound. Because the instrument is tuned different from a bass, Victor's lines came out sounding pretty strange when he played his friend's instrument. With a thick southern accent, the friend told him that he sounded just like a banjo player named "Baylor Fleck". Wooten couldn't imagine anyone playing a banjo that way, so he sought out to find out who this Baylor guy was. When he finally heard a recording of Béla's band New Grass Revival, he was hooked.
In 1987, Victor traveled with his friend to Nashville, TN. During their short visit, he connected with the banjoist Fleck for the first time. After their initial meeting, Wooten and Fleck kept in touch and continued sharing musical ideas. In 1988, Wooten found himself living in Nashville. Later that year, Béla and Victor, along with Victor's inventive brother Roy "Future Man" Wooten, and harmonica & piano wizard Howard Levy, formed the eclectic ensemble Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. With a dozen recordings under their belt, the band has created a completely new sound and has become known for its genre-defying music. Currently, nearly thirty years later, the band is still performing.
"Musically, that means not being rigid and not having to play in a certain way."
A few years after he began touring with the Flecktones, Victor released his first solo project, A Show of Hands. Recorded with only a 4-string bass, no multi-tracking, and a lot of groove and soul, this revolutionary CD was voted one of the most important bass records of all time.
Musicians wanting to learn Victor's unique style and elusive techniques began seeking him out for lessons and seminars at music stores and schools around the world. These workshops became the training ground that lead to the formation of his acclaimed Bass/Nature Camp in 2000, which eventually expanded into Victor Wooten's Center for Music and Nature. These "intensive" style programs (now in its seventeenth year) welcome all instrumentation and vocalists and have helped thousands of people of all ages from all corners of the world enhance their musical and personal lives.
"People frequently thank us for sending their new spouses home."
In 2009, Wooten Woods became the new home for all of Victor's camps. The nearly 150-acre retreat, owned by Victor and his wife, is located on the beautiful Duck River west of Nashville, TN. This picturesque retreat center, largely built by the hands and hearts of past students, has provided many more opportunities for Victor and his staff to share their lifelong experiences with others.
"We give students the opportunity to completely let go and be themselves while congregating in a peaceful non-competitive manner on an equal playing ground with each other and their instructors. We've found this to be the best environment for learning."
April 1st, 2008 marked the debut of two new releases by Victor Wooten. Palmystery (now on VIX Records) is his sixth solo recording and contains a wide variety of musicians including Bootsy Collins, Mike Stern, Keb Mo, Carl Denson, JD Blair, Derico Watson, Saundra Williams, Anthony Wellington, Steve Bailey, Will Lee, Dennis Chambers, The Lee Boys, The Wooten Brothers, and others. The album showcases Wooten's jazz composition and arranging skills with songs like "Two Timers", “Flex”, and "Song for my Father", but also brings to the forefront his artistically humble side with the celebratory track "Bass Tribute", the thought provoking "I Saw God", and the solo bass masterpiece “The Lesson”.
On the same date, Victor released The Music Lesson-A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music, a self-published novel about Music and Life. The book presold hundreds of copies before its release quickly becoming a "must-read" for musicians worldwide. The choice of using this unconventional approach to sharing unique ideas about music was a surprise to all. Offering an intriguing story full of anecdotes and mysticism, The Music Lesson has helped free the minds of musicians everywhere. Soon after its release, it was picked up and published by the Berkley Publishing Group/ Penguin USA Inc. Now translated into multiple languages, The Music Lesson has been used as required reading and part of curriculums in study groups, schools, and universities including prestigious institutions such as Stanford and Berklee College of Music.
With the success of the written book came the release of The Music Lesson audiobook (Tantor Audio). Victor lends his voice as the narrator and main character but enlisted many of his friends and fellow musicians to read the parts of all the remaining characters. Victor also wrote and performed the musical score to the audiobook, which was voted as a one of five finalists at the 2011 Audie Awards (the audiobook's equivalent to the Grammys) in the category of Personal Development.
In 2012, Wooten simultaneously released two records: Sword and Stone, a 14-track instrumental album and Words and Tones, a 14-track album featuring female vocalist. Released on VIX Records, Wooten’s own record label, both of these albums made it into the top ten on iTunes Top Charts AT THE SAME TIME! Obviously, Wooten is very proud of this achievement.
"My mom always said the world needs more than just good musicians. She said we need good people."
Wooten's sought-after skills and growing popularity have lead to recordings and performances with artists such as Chick Corea, The Dave Matthews Band, Bootsy Collins, Branford Marsalis, Mike Stern, Prince, India Arie, Keb Mo, Dennis Chambers, Susan Tedeschi, Gov't Mule, Sam Bush, Take 6, Bruce Hornsby, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Frank Gambale, the legendary Moroccan group Nass El Ghiwane, and many others.
His respected reputation as a teacher and speaker/lecturer on the subjects of both Music and Nature have garnered invitations for him to speak and teach at schools, universities, classes, spiritual centers, and conferences around the world. Some of these places include Stanford University, The University of Vermont, Strathmore College, Berklee College of Music, Mississippi State, Miami University, Middle Tennessee State University, the NAMM Convention, the JEN Convention, The Haven (Gabriola Isle BC, Canada), Various Nature Centers and camps, and The NYC "Y" with Dan Levitin, author of "This Is Your Brain On Music". Wooten has also presented a TED talk and was featured in a video for TED ED sharing his thoughts on Music as a Language. (Both can be found on YouTube).
Along with recording Grammy winning and Billboard charting albums with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Victor also spearheaded the formation of the super-group SMV with two of his childhood heroes, Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller. He continues to record and tour with the Flecktones, various other artists, and as a solo artist. He also leads multiple camps at Wooten Woods each year. With all of this going on, it would seem like Victor Wooten would have no time for anything else, but that is not the case.
Taking matters completely into his own hands, Wooten formed his own record label. VIX Records, Wooten's self-proclaimed "Label of Love", entered the scene in 2011 with a re-mastered version of his pioneering debut solo CD. The new version, A Show of Hands 15, contains three bonus tracks and is also released on vinyl.
"If the world were to follow you today, where would you lead them?"
Continuing to grow and always willing to share his gifts with all who desire to learn, it seems that Victor Wooten has no plans of slowing down.
“I'm currently writing the sequel to The Music Lesson, as well as a book based on the many inspiring quotes my mom used to tell my brothers and me as kids. I have at least three more books planned after that. Although in our 17th year, I feel like we're just getting started with the camps and Wooten Woods. Now that we are officially recognized as a not-for-profit organization (501c3), the door is wide open.
Writing music for movies and television is the next logical step, and with the amazing team I have helping me including my manager Danette Albetta ([email protected]), my tour manager Jack Trifiro ([email protected]), my assistant Dave Welsch ([email protected]), my wife Holly, and tons of friends, I'm sure we'll accomplish all of our dreams and more. You know, some of my kids are actually performing and playing gigs now. Who knows, I may be able to retire soon and become their manager. Really, I'm just happy that people like what I do and that I have a lot of support. You can't beat that.”
Keep checking in at VictorWooten.com to stay current with everything Victor Lemonte Wooten has his hands and heart wrapped around. He's moving quickly, so you'll have to try hard to keep up. One thing is for sure; you won't want to miss any of it.