By Bob Hemenger
Special to The PREVIEW
The Americana Project class is excited to have Joseph Wooten as its guest of honor.
Wooten (keyboardist, writer, arranger, producer, educator, motivational speaker) is a three-time Grammy nominated artist who has been the keyboardist for The Steve Miller Band since 1993. He is also the brother of bass player Victor Wooten (five-time Grammy Award winner), Roy Wooten (five-time Grammy Award winner) and Regi Wooten.
Born to Dorothy and Pete Wooten, Joseph is the second youngest of five Wooten Brothers, all of whom are musicians.
Joseph’s early elementary school years were spent with his siblings playing nightclubs and sharing the stage with Curtis Mayfield, War and other major artists of the time as The Wooten Brothers. In the ’70s, there were more major artists to share the stage with: The Temptations, The SOS Band, Stephanie Mills, Dexter Wansel, Ramsey Lewis, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly and others.
As the ’80s arrived, the brothers caught the ear of the popular R&B artist/producer Kashif and they recorded an album entitled “The Wootens” for Artista Records. Joseph’s unmatched talent and undeniable groove landed him the position of band leader, musical director and keyboardist for Kashif.
During that time with Arista Records, Joseph also sang background vocals for Whitney Houston on her debut album, as well as Kenny G. Joseph contributed numerous compositions on two of Victor’s Grammy-nominated CDs. During this time, when the family moved east, Joseph and his brothers had a residency at Busch Gardens, where Joseph honed his skills not only as a keyboardist, but, as an accordion player, arranger and composer as he composed over 40 pieces for every individual cast member.
In ’93, he became the keyboard player/vocalist for the legendary Steve Miller Band, playing large venues around the world. He recently played the induction of Steve Miller to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
When not on the road with the Steve Miller Band, Joseph is a part of an elite group of hand-picked musicians called Freedom Sings, organized by the First Amendment Center in Washington, D.C., presenting a multimedia experience celebrating the First Amendment and free expression. He also serves as keyboardist to his brother, Victor, in between breaks from his extensive travels with Steve Miller.
When he is not traveling city to city, Joseph can often be found speaking to college students, high school and middle school students about character development, self-esteem, self-respect and personal growth using his own life experiences as examples.
The Americana Project is an elective class at Pagosa Springs High School. Thanks to the support of the administration, school board and the Pagosa Springs community, the class is now in its sixth year. Students use music as a way to build self-confidence, self-expression and self-esteem.
The students study American roots music, learn songs, write and perform music, promote and produce concerts with professional artists and encourage each other to be courageous and sing their songs. Each year, four students attend The Song Academy for Youth in Sisters, Ore.
All students will be playing their final exam concert on May 24. If weather permits, this concert will be held in Town Park.
The Joseph Wooten concert on April 26 starts at 7 p.m. in the Pagosa Springs High School auditorium. The cost is only $10 for ages 13 and up; 12 and under are free. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are only available at the door. Please come out and support our young musicians.