Just as Telluride Jazz Fest was kicking off, Victor Wooten, the legendary bass guitarist, and five-time Grammy winner, met with thirty music enthusiast for a walk in the woods. He started out the stroll with an easy conversation: “Share with me a word that describes mother nature.”
Peace, Nurturing, Harmony, Vibration, Mystical, Beauty.
“Now share the same word, except describing music. Does it still fit?”
A resounding ‘yes’ trickled throughout the crowd. Music and nature are intrinsically connected. As we strolled through the woods, ending up at a swooshing waterfall, Wooten revealed small tidbits he had gathered throughout his musical education and career. How music and nature had become so intertwined in his life, there was no separating the two. He had never met one ‘nature’ person that didn’t also play music. Though, he mused, many musicians don’t take the time to go out in nature. The best musicians knew how to take the information nature is giving us and incorporate it into their composition.
Once we arrived at the waterfall we talked about the structures around it. Wooten emphasized that there is no need to name something in order to enjoy it. In both music and nature, you can enjoy a mountain without knowing the name, and enjoy a song, without knowing it’s key or structure. Once you let go of a name, you can let go of comparing to others. “That waterfall isn’t comparing itself to Niagra falls.” It’s flowing without judgment. This comparison fluidly linked to all aspects of musicianship.
When all the connections started melding, the group moved to the Sheridan Opera House to enjoy some of Wooten’s music up close and personally. It was here that I got to experience the magic of Wooten’s playing. Watching him play is like watching a professional athlete. So at ease, sure of his movements, and not concerned if his music sounds great to the audience, or just him. You could see he found great joy in sharing his music, and that transferred to the audience who was listening with smiling faces.
Wooten shared a lot of knowledge from the stage. There was conversation about learning music like you would learn to speak as a baby, without judgment and room to make mistakes. You never scold a baby for trying to speak or using the wrong word. You applaud them for trying.
One of the conversations I loved the most was about how when you hear a musician, you don’t hear their instrument, you hear them. Every artist has their own unique sound that shines through the instrument, be it a 100 dollar guitar, or 100,000 dollar guitar. As a pianist myself, that point resonated with me. I was classically trained and directed to play exactly how the music was written. The point that you could still hear me through all that training makes playing more joyful.
Spending the afternoon with Victor Wooten was a wonderful way to kick off Telluride Jazz Fest. Telluride is a picturesque mountain town. Listening to the jazz all weekend with the beautiful mountain background emphasized all the points Wooten made throughout our time together. If you haven’t heard some of Wooten’s musical genius, take a few moments today to listen to a master enjoy his craft.
There is one way for this tour to be a reality– our sponsors! Sending a thank you shout out to all of our awesome sponsors that make this tour happen: Sea to Summit, Mountain House, Lowe Alpine, Leki, Big Agnes, Stio, Roofnest, and Franklin County, VA. For more info on our sponsors, check out the post, “Live Outside and Play is Back!”