Anthony Wellington was young when his parents gave him his first guitar for Christmas. But instead of playing it, the then-aspiring scientist was only interested in taking it apart to learn how the components worked. A few years later, his sister's boyfriend loaned him an electric bass and he fell in love.
His first job was playing gigs out of a tractor-trailer rigged with a fold-out stage as part of the D.C. summer youth jobs program. Thirty years later, he's the owner of Wellington Music Services, which includes a recording studio, and is the bass player for a band headed by Victor Wooten, considered by many to be the world's preeminent bass player. With Wooten's band, he has toured Asia and Europe, appeared in shows with George Benson and Paul Simon, opened for Chick Corea and toured with Dave Matthews Band. Wellington, 45, also teaches 100 students a week at his Waldorf-based Bassology school -- including some who fly in from as far away as Singapore. He lives in Prince Frederick.
Why he's successful: Wellington counts among his musical inspirations funk legends like Bootsy Collins, and R&B icons like Larry Graham, jazz great Stanley Clarke and the late bass impresario Jaco Pastorius. "One of the things that helped me was that I was already an older person by the time I started doing music as a career. I was in my late 20s before I got serious about music. I came up with a concept that I call the mechanism of work, which I teach my students. I tell them that to work as a musician, you have to treat it like a job, not a hobby .... A lot of musicians are known for abusing drugs, not being punctual, not being reliable, so that affects their careers. I don't do those things. It's important for me to be professional."
The biggest obstacle he had to overcome: "I'm kind of hesitant to change ... I get into a comfort zone and then I don't want to change."
Why he settled on music as a career: It was because of a teacher at Oxon Hill High School. "Her name was Mary Cole. She did her graduate work at Miami, and she told me some of the jazz greats had gone there and encouraged me to go. I hadn't thought about music for a career because in that era, you weren't conditioned to think that something you loved could be a job."
His big break: "Meeting Victor. He's the most well-known bass player on the planet and I happen to be the bass player in his band. Before people heard me play, they knew who I was."
When he knew he had arrived: Riding on a train in Spain. "I was in a foreign country where very few people speak English, and I speak no Spanish. Somebody came up to me and asked me if I was Anthony Wellington. I realized that I was known outside my house. I always say I'm the biggest bass player in my house. If I'm in Belgium or someplace and somebody tells me I influenced them, it still throws me for a loop because I don't think of myself like that .... I'm 45. I have no desire to be a star. That life doesn't appeal to me."
First job: "Performing with the ... summer jobs program. I was making more than all my peers who were working at fast food restaurants and doing something I loved. They had gigs for us each summer. The guy who was managing us was a famous soul singer with a group called Sir Joe and the Free Souls named Joe Quarterman. His son Terrence played drums in my band, Hot Property."
Best job: "The best job is the one I have now, which is four jobs really. I'm a music teacher, I operate my own recording studio, I'm a local gigging musician and I'm a touring musician."
Smartest move: Expanding his business. "I have a soul mate who could always see the bigger vision that I could see. I was teaching in a music store and she told me that I should open my own school .... When you teach at a record store, you get locked into teaching someone their favorite song each week. When you teach at home, it's considered lazy and not professional, but when you take the time to set up an office and design a curriculum, it gives you credibility."
Biggest misstep: "I would say that I would have liked to have gotten serious about music when I was younger."
What inspires him: His mother, Willa Mae Evans. "No matter what I did and how bad a boy I was, she loved me unconditionally .... She put me through college. My mom was married and had a kid by the time she was 16 .... She had four bad kids by the time she was 20. She had to drop out of high school. She got her GED in June. It was the happiest moment of my life. She enrolled in college this fall. She exemplifies the fact that you are never too old."
What's next: "I'm writing an instructional book. I'm developing an iPhone app for Bassology. I have an April shooting date for an instructional DVD .... I hired a manager earlier this year. He's good at making me work diligently on the book and the record.
Advice to the aspiring: "The reason why I'm successful is that I can do many things well. There are so many ways to make a living with music. You can be successful at just writing, at just producing, at just arranging, just teaching or just performing. But I can do all of those things well, and by doing that, you enhance your chances of being successful."
Avis Thomas-Lester| December 1, 2010; 12:00 AM ET | Category: success stories Save & Share:
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