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Wooten Woods

CHS students reflect on their experiences while at a Jazz camp, led by musician Victor Wooten.
Esh Schaden
Flynn Meagher (center) watches a jam session at Wooten Woods. Victor Wooten’s older brother, pianist Joseph Wooten (left), was playing the jam session and teaching the class. “He was super easy to talk to and he talked to us for a long time,” Meagher said. “Just playing with these great musicians on stage was incredible.”

CHS’ jazz students who attended the “Wooten Woods” trip claimed it to be life changing. From April 3—7, the CHS jazz students attended a once in a lifetime camp known as “Wooten Woods”, in which they got to play with Victor Wooten, a five time grammy-award winning bassist, and multiple other famous musicians.

The CHS jazz students were expected to arrive at 6:30 a.m. at school with all of their luggage, where a lengthy 12 hour bus ride would await them. Lila Fetter, a Jazz IV student at CHS describes her preparation for the camp.

“It was a little stressful,” Fetter said. “I was definitely worried about forgetting something or just not being prepared because there was a lot of mystery.”

CHS teacher and musician, Jack Wagner had planned two stops along the way to Tennessee. Wagner had students stop at IHOP and McDonalds for some food.

After a forever seeming ride, students arrived at around 9:30 p.m. at camp, where they were greeted by Victor Wooten himself, and accompanied to cabins where they were able to put their luggage and meet their cabin mates. Before going to bed, students attended a welcoming speech by Victor Wooten and his staff members which was hosted in The Barn (a house in which the students meet up for jams, meals and to hang out).

On the first actual day of camp, students met by the barn at 7:30 a.m. Unexpectedly, they were greeted with a fierce challenge in the cold: Blindfoldedly locate a drum by sound without wearing any socks or shoes.

Flynn Meagher is a pianist in the CHS jazz band, and found this first activity at camp to be especially interesting.

Esh Schaden

“We did this activity where we had to walk towards the noise of a drum with blindfolds on and bare feet,” Meagher said. “Which is not something I completely expected but it was super interesting and fun to do.”

After the first exercise, Wooten made seemingly random and chaotic noises on his bass and turned it into a song. The performance enlightened many of the students and clarified the relation between randomness and how intelligence creates music out of it. Later, the staff served an extraordinary breakfast which consisted of fried chicken with sauteed peaches and buttermilk biscuits. Next, students attended a class in which Wooten explained the relation between nature and music. Following this, students took an outside class in which they got to bond with nature by enhancing their listening skills to sounds of the outdoors, finding peace and relaxation.

During the crisp morning on the second full day of camp, Wooten and one of his companions explained that we were to do a Tai Chi lesson outside in the chilly temperatures. Everyone seemed skeptical at first, but soon people began to warm up to the idea and connect with the instructors’ demonstrations. It was calming and refreshing, sparking minds and getting people ready for the activities for the day.

After the morning activity, everyone ate breakfast, and the Jazz IV combos got ready to play for the teachers. The combos played well, and Wooten and the others seemed to be quite impressed with their skill. However, after their original practice they were given further instruction and direction which led them to perform better than they had ever performed before. Wooten’s focus was drawing the audience to one by being dynamic and interesting, but most importantly, to have fun.

After the lesson, CHS jazz students got to spend their time with other musicians and take masterclasses based on the instruments they play. Alex Sherk describes the opportunity he received as he got to play with famous musicians.

“I was probably the luckiest person in the whole world because when all the faculty got up and played yesterday, they didn’t have a drummer and they called me up,” Sherk said. “And just like that, an hour and five minutes made a permanent change to my playing and I feel so much more confident and in control.”

Previously, everyone took masterclasses based on their instruments. Drummers got to spend their time with an eye opening percussionist named Beth Gottlieb. Beth Gottlieb played marimba for the song Under the Sea for the film My Little Mermaid. Gottlieb taught many rudiments and practiced them intensively with her students. There was a large difference from before and after the practice session when the CHS drummers played.

On the last day of the camp, Wooten took the jazz students on a hike to a nearby river where the students got to observe and learn about nature. Many more classes were held such as a drum circle. Later, Wooten gave the students a conclusion speech, shortly before they had to leave.

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