Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that, along with being a first-rate composer, instructor and bandleader, Shannon Hoover is a brilliant bass player. He’s been a fan of low-end sounds since he was a child.
“I really took to music early,” Hoover says. “and the two instruments that I really got attached to were tuba and upright bass. So from then on, I was really into low brass and I definitely wanted to play bass. By middle school, when I was able to start in band, I played trombone and bass guitar at the same time.”
Bass eventually won out over brass, though, because of the instrument’s elemental role in a band’s sound, whether that band played jazz or classical or rock music.
“I just caught on to the bass and how powerful the bass is in an ensemble,” Hoover says. “You need the bass to outline the rest of the story. I still realize today how much learning how to play bass has influenced my compositions, my sense of harmony and time. It’s something that always stuck out. Even now when I hear music, the bass line stands out.”
Hoover’s earliest musical exposure was to gospel music, and there are numerous bass players from that genre whom he cites as influences. As time went on, other players from the jazz world began to shape his style.
“Some of the main players that showed me what you could do on the bass were Victor Wooten, Jaco Pastorius, John Patitucci,” he says. “Those were the main people, and of course the Motown guys like James Jamerson, who was from South Carolina.”
Hoover also mentions a teacher, Ray McGee, who was with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra for years, as one of his most important mentors, which might be why Hoover teaches almost as much as he plays. As part of Upstate nonprofit the Greenville Jazz Collective, he works to create appreciation and awareness of jazz in the Upstate through performance and education, but that’s merely the most recent of Hoover’s many educational efforts.
“The Jazz Collective is the newest educational thing I’ve been part of, but I’ve been teaching music for a lot of years,” he says. “I actually started teaching lessons in high school, when I was about 17, and I taught at USC Upstate for 10 years. I like giving back; I like to see other players come up, and music teaches you so much about yourself, and life. It’s healing.”
Hoover says that his teaching philosophy is simple: Enjoy playing your instrument.
“I like to make sure my students have fun with it,” he says, “even if they’re really serious about it. Because it’s not just a job to me. I still love to play. I still make time where I can play music and have fun.”
Much like the man we spoke with last week, drummer Tez Sherard, Hoover has a busy schedule. His most visible role is with the Greenville Jazz Collective, but he also plays his own shows, and he’s served as a sideman with a long list of local and national names, including Jeff Sipe, Branford Marsalis, Clarence Clemons, Col. Bruce Hampton, Derek Trucks and many more.
“People joke that I play with everybody,” he says, “but I love playing different kinds of music with different people. I love seeing what’s out there. I’ve learned a lot doing things with other bands just by being out there, like how to channel your energy or get your practice routine together. And all of these things that I learn help me to focus on my own projects.”