Now there’s a school to teach you how to be funky. Leave it to Bootsy!
Isn’t it great that, no matter what career field we want to pursue, there’s a school somewhere in the U.S. that can prepare us to do just that? We’ve got schools for nurses, accountants, pastry chefs and IT workers. One wouldn’t have to look very hard to find programs in criminal justice, graphic arts, fashion design and digital photography. Want to be a welder? No problem. A plumber? We’ve got you covered.
“Okay, then,” you say. “How about a school for someone who just wants to be funky?” Well, now there’s even a school for you, too.
Announcing: Bootsy Collins’ Funk U!
Funk U is the brainchild of bass guitar legend William “Bootsy” Collins, known in the music world for his tenure with James Brown, George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic and his own Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Instantly recognizable with his trademark star-shaped bass and sunglasses, Collins launched the new online program in the summer of 2010 as a means for spreading the funk. Students are called “funk disciples” of Professor Bootsy.
Like the program’s figurehead, Funk U is not formal, nor is it, technically, a school. Rather, it’s an informative and, more importantly, inspirational online entertainment destination.
At Funk U, students learn under the tutelage of a faculty of funk specialists. Professor Bootsy has assembled a faculty of sixteen high-profile bass players, including Les Claypool from the band Primus; T.M. Stevens of Tina Turner fame; Divinity Roxx, who plays in Beyoncé’s band; and legendary bass hero Victor Wooten. Faculty members each record a series of three-minute online videos for students to watch and study.
“Each month has a different focus,” says the school’s Headmaster, “Soup Can Dan” Beutter. “So far, Funk U has covered practice and warm-up techniques, slapping and popping techniques, dynamics and sound and more.” Other topics include the anatomy of a groove, bass sizzle and the Science of Funk. Students who demonstrate technical proficiencies are awarded “funk cards.”
The very first series of lessons offered at Funk U was all about the concept of “The One.” Bootsy first learned about “The One” while playing bass in James Brown’s band. “It all comes back to ‘The One,’ says Bootsy. “It’s where the music starts, stops and continues,” he adds. “It all comes back to ‘The One.’”
Virtually every member of the funky faculty has devoted a lesson (or two) to “The One.” Words like “consistency,” “pulse,” “honesty” and “home base” and are commonly used to describe “The One.” Funk disciples are taught that “The One” is what connects everybody, including the audience. “It’s the energy, the vibration,” instructs Bootsy. “It’s the law! You can play almost anything in between, but ultimately, you have to come back to ‘The One.’”
At Funk U, students move at their own pace. The entire collection of video lectures, lessons and exercises is available on-demand. Training is reinforced with month-end wrap-ups, conducted by Soup Can Dan. What’s more, students are invited to comment on every video, bringing about lively discussions and insightful exchanges of information.
Many, if not most of the 600 videos are inspirational and conceptual, offering wisdom and philosophical insights from seasoned funkmasters. For historical perspective, the curriculum also includes a series of “Back in the Day” lectures, presented by Professor Bootsy himself.
Funk U touts a robust curriculum, which includes exclusive content, transcribed solos and piles of sheet music. “Hard work is part of the deal,” says Soup Can Dan, “and this program is as much about music as it is about learning the mindset of successful artists. It’s a powerful combination that works.”
Underscoring the commitment to students, Soup Can Dan interviews new students when they enroll to discuss their strengths, weaknesses and reasons for taking the course. “We want to bring them in as prepared as possible,” he says. “Once they’re here, we make them hit it hard and fast.” In addition to the formal curriculum, students have full access to the school’s online library, which contains a host of technique-specific lessons, including bass slapping, double-thumbing and intricate three-finger plucking styles.
Given that the school has been around less than a year, no graduate success stories can be cited thus far. However, Soup Can
Dan has watched proudly as students whose playing had previously been limited to practicing at home with a drum machine demonstrate progress by way of performing with actual bands, no doubt boosting their confidence dramatically.
For a tuition payment of $29.99 per month (about the cost of a private lesson, the school claims), funk disciples receive unlimited access to Funk U’s complete curriculum, library and message board, each of which is augmented daily. “Funk U was designed to be the most affordable alternative to private music instruction,” says Soup Can Dan. “The focus is on enrichment through unlocking each student’s unique musical voice.”
With year-round enrollment available, students can enter the virtual funk schoolhouse at any time. Professor Bootsy extends his invitation to all wannabe funk disciples. “Come and funk with us, baby, he says. “On the one!”
Review by Jon Liebman