One of the most in-demand bass teachers anywhere talks about his AntFarm studio, touring with Victor Wooten and spreading “Bassology”
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
March 21, 2011
Anthony Wellington is one of the most sought after and well known bass teachers in the world today, as well as the longtime holder of the coveted “second bass” position in the Victor Wooten Band. Wellington has been featured in many publications, including Bass Player magazine, where, in 2009, readers awarded his feature as “Best Non-cover Article of the Year.”
Anthony has a uniquely thorough teaching style, which combines one-of-a-kind mathematical analysis with abstract concepts and “legwork.” When not teaching his 100 students a week at his lesson headquarters, “Bassology,” in Waldorf, MD, he teaches in Philadelphia and York, PA, once a month, in addition to online lessons through MusicDojo, Gerald Veasley’s Bass Bootcamp, Victor Wooten’s Bass & Nature Camp and his own private lessons via Skype. Anthony owns and operates AntFarm recording studio in Lusby, MD.
FBPO: Tell me about your musical upbringing. Weren’t your born in Portugal?
AW: My musical upbringing probably wasn’t any different than most musicians. Neither of my parents were musicians, but there was always music playing in our home. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the Motown/soul/R&B/funk era. Musically, I can’t think of a better way to grow up to become a bass player. And there were many bass players in the neighborhood where I grew up in DC.
No, I’m not from Portugal! I wrote that as a joke on Facebook! I’m not a big fan of Facebook, so I always do things to show how much of a joke I think it is. But, like it or not, it’s probably here to stay and it’s brought me a lot of business. I thought of Portugal because I’m considering it as place to retire. Either there or Italy.
FBPO: How did you end up as a bass player?
AW: I grew up singing in church like a like of people, but I was introduced to bass in Southeast Washington in a neighborhood called Wellington Park.
FBPO: Wellington Park?
AW: No relation. Just a coindidence! It was and still is considered a bad neighborhood, but I didn’t know any better as a kid. An older guy named Andy Olley was the first person to put a bass in my hands. I recently ran into him again, after over 30 years! I was playing with Victor (Wooten) in Annapolis, Maryland.
FBPO: How did you hook up with Victor Wooten?
AW: I heard about Victor through a co-worker in 1990. I studied his playing on my own and got to meet him shortly after that. At that time, there weren’t many black people coming to see the Flecktones. We became really good friends instantly. In 1999, he told me that he was taking a full band on the road to support his solo project. I offered to help with his basses and whatever else he needed help with. It was only supposed to be a two-week gig. It’s lasted all of this time!
FBPO: Talk to me about your experience as the “second bassist” in Victor’s band.
AW: It’s great playing behind Victor! I get to play some of the best bass lines ever written. Actually, when I’m on tour with him, I’m the bass player in the band. He’s usually playing melodies, singing or soloing. A bass player can learn a lot from accompanying another bass player. The bass has a big “sonic footprint” and we’re used to having that sonic space to ourselves. But I always have to be conscious of what Victor’s doing so I can give him that sonic space when he needs it. The job requires huge ears and a willingness to constantly adjust in order to make the artist stand out. At first, I didn’t solo with the band because I thought Vic should have all that space. But over time he convinced me to solo, too.
FBPO: With your number of students hovering somewhere around a hundred, you must really love to teach!
AW: I do love to teach. It’s a big passion of mine. The only ways to truly live forever are through offspring – which I don’t have – and passing down ideas and concepts. I consider teaching to be my main job. It’s my “brand.” I want to be remembered not only as a good player, but as a “source of information,” as well.
FBPO: What exactly is Bassology?
AW: “Bassology” is my concept for teaching music and bass. Its origins lie in the way I like to understand any musical concept. Music concepts should be understood equally in four ways: physically, visually, sonically and intellectually. Most people — musicians and non-musicians — think of playing music as a physical endeavor. For me, it’s a visual, sonic and intellectual endeavor expressed physically. And for me, personally, it’s also an emotional and spiritual endeavor. I also like having my own office as opposed to teaching at home or at a music store. I think it’s more credible and it shows that I believe in what I’m doing so much so that I’d lease office space to do it.
FBPO: What else is keeping you busy these days?
AW: I own and operate a commercial studio called the AntFarm. I’m working on a CD, as well as some projects for other artists. I also teach in Philadelphia and York, PA, once a month. Soon I’ll add Baltimore and/or Richmond, Virginia, to the list of cities. I’ve been doing a lot of clinics and I teach at an online school called MusicDojo, as well as private lessons via Skype. I play locally with an artist named John Luskey, who’s a great singer and songwriter. I’m crazy busy right now!
FBPO: What lies ahead for you and your career? What else would you like to accomplish that you haven’t done yet?
AW: I’d like to be a professor at a small college near a large body of water and/or mountains. I’d start a popular music program and teach my own curriculum. That’s the long-term goal that I have set for myself. Getting a CD, DVD and book done are my short-term goals.
FBPO: What do you like to do that’s not necessarily musically oriented?
AW: I like riding my motorcycle and driving my cars. I’m into motor sports, like Formula 1, Indy Car and Moto GP, but strictly as a spectator! I’m gonna go to a lot of races this year, including the Daytona 500, Indy 500, Brickyard 400, Formula 1 Grand Prix of Canada and Moto GP at Indianapolis. I’m also a big boxing fan and I’ll attend some boxing matches in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. When I’m in town, I love going to the movies.