Meet Tim Wolfe, Jr., a versatile bassist who spends a lot of time with music – and a lot of time in his car getting there. Tim is our reader in the spotlight for the week of July 8, 2013.
I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Double Bass performance from Lebanon Valley College and a Masters of Music in Jazz Studies from The University of the Arts. Being in college was only half the battle (many of my favorite musicians don’t have music degrees). While in school, I earned another, equally important education attending jam sessions and working regularly as a freelance musician, gaining knowledge and experience from the wealth of great players in Central PA and Philadelphia. There’s nothing quite like a good butt-kicking to get you motivated to practice!
Telford, PA, USA
Like most freelancing self-employed musicians, I do a variety of gigs and I teach private lessons out of my home studio. I am an adjunct music professor at Lebanon Valley College – where I went to school – and I work part-time for a well known music publisher that specializes in contemporary American classical music.
15 years on electric, 13 years on upright
Bands & Gigs:
Have bass, will travel. I freelance and am very fortunate to have a busy schedule (I put over 35,000 miles on my car last year!)
While a majority of my gigs are in Central PA (Harrisburg and Lancaster), I play regularly in Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. I do occasionally get to lead my own group. We’re going to be recording an album in August 2013 and will be releasing it sometime in the Fall. People can check my website for more info on that.
- My main bass is a Shank’s Strings shop bass (fully carved Romanian-made Panormo model)
- Schicker bow
- Pirastro strings (Oliv G and D, Evah Pirazzi A and E)
- Fishman Full Circle pick up
- 1930’s German factory plywood bass, labelled Anton Schuster (given to my by my Grandpa)
- 1962 Fender Precision Bass (also given to my by my Grandpa)
- Early-90’s American Standard Fender Jazz Bass
Why I play the bass:
I was always attracted to music and knew that I wanted to play an instrument from a very young age (I had a pretty sweet air guitar when I was 5). When it was time to decide to join band in 6th grade, my parents couldn’t afford to rent an instrument, so I had the choice of alto sax or trumpet – my parents had them sitting in their closets. Alto sax was a little easier for a beginner, so I chose that! I was always drawn to the lower register of the instrument (I was the first and only 6th grade saxophonist to hit a low B-flat). In 7th grade I moved to tenor sax, in 8th grade I moved to baritone sax and started playing electric bass to be in a punk rock band with friends who played guitar and drums. I began playing the double bass to avoid getting caught in a lie. When I was in the 10th grade, my high school’s concert band and string orchestra announced that they were going to attend Busch Garden’s Music In The Parks. Most of my friends were going, and I wanted to go. When the orchestra director told me that he couldn’t have an electric bass in the concert, I looked at a beat up double bass sitting in the corner of the band room, and having never touched the instrument before in my life, pointed at it and blurted out, “I can play that.”
My bass superpower/claim to fame
I guess my bass superpower would be my work ethic and my desire to constantly learn and grow (at least that’s what some of my friends tell me). I auditioned and was accepted into college as an electric bass major (I had only been playing upright for about two years at that point). I was allowed to play upright in the school’s orchestra for my first semester, but when I registered for classes the next semester my name wasn’t on the orchestra list. The director told me I really needed to get my playing together before he would let me back in to play. Of course this upset me, so I started practicing 5 or 6 hours a day (sometimes skipping meals or ignoring my girlfriend), and when I came back my sophomore year, I re-auditioned and made principal (first chair)! Harrisburg had a great weekly jam session (I think it was either Wednesday or Thursday nights), and I went every single week without exception (I put it in my calendar like it was a class at school), and by my senior year I was driving 1.5 hours into Philadelphia every Sunday night to go a jam session at Ortlieb’s (I’d get back to my dorm at 2 or 3 in the morning and still make my Monday morning classes).
Firstly would be my parents, I learned my work ethic from them. When I was really young my dad was working his way through college (he went straight through from Bachelors to PhD with a wife and 4 sons!) while working full time. My mom was also working full time, and yet somehow I feel like my brothers and I never missed out getting to spend time with them. I’ve the oldest of 4 boys, but all of my brothers play music, as do my parents and a ton of extended family. My extended family is great too! I have uncles, aunts, and cousins who are all really hard working and successful with their passions. My grandfathers (my dad’s biological father and adoptive father) are both professional musicians (one a bassist, one a saxophonist!) and they’re great men to whom I owe a great deal. Of all the people I’ve studied with, of particular importance is my teacher Jim Miller (not only did he teach me to play upright, he hand-picked me to replace him at LVC when he retired!)