Five Time Grammy Award Winning Bassist Takes Menchville By Storm

Wooten reaches for his “Bow Bass”, a custom designed Bass with strings strong enough to withstand a bow.

Under the yellow lights of the auditorium, Denbigh High School alumni and five time Grammy Award winning bassist Victor Lemonte Wooten stands – signature Fedora Yin Yang bass in hand – on stage for the first time in nearly thirty-five years. The metallic sound of bass string’s resonating against a wooden fretboard echo against the hushed silence of  the student’s in Menchville’s Music Department.

“It’s so wonderful to come back to Newport News and see that Menchville – as well as Denbigh – are still in good hands –  good students, great teachers. It’s so wonderful to come back, and I have some things to say about it. About what I’ve seen since I’ve been gone. I’m married now, fifty-three, with four kids. I’ve seen a lot of the world – it’s almost like I didn’t know I had to leave home to grow up, but because of what I learned while I was here, I was ready to grow up,” he commented.

Wooten visited the school on Friday September 22nd to speak to students, conduct a master class, and perform. The event was coordinated by Guitar instructor Peter Mercier. The youngest of five brothers, Wooten lived in Newport News for the majority of his childhood – graduating from Denbigh in 1982.  His brothers taught him to play bass at the mere age of two, and Wooten was performing by the age of  five — traveling with his brothers band around the country.

“We were living in the California area at the same time as the Jackson Five, and when we discussed making a record we were told that there was only room for one group of five brothers. And so our record was never allowed to be made – because the other group of five brothers was the Jackson Five. But what started out in my mind as a let down – a real negative – really turned into a positive. And as I stand here now – nearly 45 years later – I realize the blessing in not making it back then.”

Having built experience from playing in Denbigh classes as well as participating in a joint music program involving Menchvilles jazz band, show-choir, and drama productions, Wooten fell into his first solo position as a fiddle player at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. He moved to Nashville in 1987 after making a name for himself on fiddle and bass. Since then, he has been categorized within the worlds best top ten bass players by Rolling Stone magazine, has received five Grammy awards for his music, and has opened an educational music/nature summer camp outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

During Menchville’s assembly, Wooten played songs Amazing Grace, Hallelujah, and various other melodies accompanied by only a loop pedal and his own imagination – Wooten continued the assembly by talking to students about the importance of a strong foundation during youth. He discussed the importance of developing a mindset focused on success – urging students to consciously strive towards forming successful habits.

“Our lives are sometimes built upon what we do, but most often upon what we think,” he concluded.

Before Wooten concluded the program, Senior Eliza Spencer and Sophomore Jay Richardson participated in a demonstration master class.  A master class is when a student performs before an expert and the expert offers critique and advice. Richardson performed Les Claypool’s bass portion of  “To Defy the Laws of Tradition” by Primus.  Wootens advice to Richardson (who has only played bass for two years) was to stop focusing so hard on the bass itself, and simply hear the music.

“Music is one of the only places in almost anything I can think of where everyone who shows up is there for you….these people are on your side,” Wooten advised.

Spencer performed Bottesini’s Concerto No. 2 in B Minor on her stand-up bass.  Spencer (who has played for 4 years) received praise for the difficulty of her piece;  Wooten’s  advice to her only being to hold her head up high while playing.

“[The experience] was very insightful…he changed the way that I look at playing, and it really blew my mind,” she said after the performance.