In this video, Wooten central idea is that music education should be treated more like children's language acquisition. While I agree with Wooten generally, I think he simplifies the issues in a few places.
At the beginning of the video, Wooten lists the similarities of music and spoken/written language. Yes, music can make you laugh, cry, question. And I agree that music be used to communicate with others. I would make one caveat, however: one has to be very educated in a particular dialect of music to understand what exactly is being communicated. I suppose that is the same for language, also.
Wooten also suggests that music does not have to be understood to be effective, which he says sets it apart from language. I would argue that for this attribute, music and language are not really as far apart. In either case, we can understand generalities without understanding the specifics. Yes, a loud, consistent beat seems to get people moving not matter what the music genre, but someone shouting can also express similar things across many languages. A slow, atmospheric piece of music might communicate the same thing across cultures, but so might a soothing whisper. The specific meanings of music and language are still lost to those who haven't studied it. One could argue that a soothing whisper could carry a specific, opposite threatening meaning, but I believe soothing music could also carry the same threatening meaning. I'd like to hear more examples from Wooten about what he meant by this.
I really like what he talks about teaching music as we teach language, however: if people grew up with and absorbed music instead of being taught it, they would be better musicians. I like his thoughts about mistakes ("You were allowed to make mistakes, and the more mistakes you made, the more your parents smiled."): mistakes should be smiled at instead of punished. We still know that the mistakes were a problem, because of the reaction. And these aren't moral mistakes, but semantic mistakes. If we as music teachers and students followed this, I think we would lose less music students and have a healthier view of our own music making. I also like Wooten's idea that teachers should find out what their students want to say with their music, because students will be more motivated to learn if they find music or messages they really believe in. Teachers will have to be willing to let their students pursue that, however, even if what's the students choose is against what the teachers believe.
I foresee problems with the implementation of this new model of musical acquisition, however. If young people played with professional musicians daily instead of taking lessons, how would the older musicians make money? Would the professionals just charge for every playing session? That would price most students right out of the system. But we can't take away paid lessons, because often, a musician's steadiest form of income come from teaching lessons. This new system might mean the end of professional musicians, with the exception of some big acts who could attract large crowds. On the other hand, if there were a larger body of amateurs, perhaps we might able to support more professionals. Another implementation issue is that unlike English speakers, there's not enough musicians to go around. We'd have to create a culture of musicians, which is perhaps what Wooten is suggesting. At he moment, I don't think society values music-making enough to throw the time and resources necessary for this kind of program.
Another issue is Wooten's admonition to "play" more than practice, meaning mess around and play music for fun. This can be a problem, too, as people don't necessarily play what's best for them to improve their skills. They could play the same song over and over again, and play it badly, because it sounds okay to them instead of trying something more challenging (like episode 6 of Freaks and Geeks, "I'm with the Band"). I guess playing with better musicians daily might solve this problem. While I think that we should encourage students to mess around more than we do, I think play encouragement needs to be tempered with some pedagogy and directional advice.
Finally, Wooten's approach would probably work great for jazz, folk, and rock music (where jamming is possible), where oral tradition is how the music is transmitted. But would this approach work for Western, classical music, with its written tradition? I'm not so sure. We learn oral languages naturally, by assimilation and trial and error, but do we learn written language by osmosis? I think the existence of many illiterate adults living in a literate world suggest that Wooten's approach would not work for classical music.
What are your thoughts about Wooten's video?
And how about that bass playing?