11-year-old Williamsport bass musician goes viral with video of performance

A video by 11-year-old Williamsport resident Gabriel Severn, in which he plays bassist Jaco Pastorious’ solo “Havona,” has gone viral on social media.

His “Havona” video, which originally was posted on YouTube in late August 2016, has had more than 10,000 views as of mid-September. In early October, Severn received a message from the founder of Bass Players United magazine, asking permission to share the video on the magazine’s Facebook page. Within hours of being posted on Oct. 8, Severn’s video was viewed thousands of times, hitting the 1 million mark within four days.

To date, the video has been shared by more than 23,000 people around the world, including some of the most well-known and respected bassists in the music industry, such as Bootsy Collins from Parliament Funkadelic and top session bassist Leland Sklar, based in Los Angeles.

As a result of the “Havona” video, Severn’s artist Facebook page has had tremendous traffic and his other videos have had more than 130,000 views and thousands of shares as well. He has received messages from a number of his bass heroes and famous musicians. He also has been offered some special opportunities — Marco de Virgiliis, founder of Mark Bass Amps based in Italy, noticed that Severn uses a Mark Bass amp in his trio’s videos. He was so impressed with Severn’s playing that he offered him an amp and sent him a rig from Italy. Marco also has invited Severn to be a Mark Bass Amp artist and he will be on the Mark Bass Amp website.

Gabriel has been invited to be a special guest in the YouTube series “Detroit Bass Players in the Bassmint.” In November he will travel to Detroit to be interviewed on the show, which has thousands of subscribers.

Severn was honored to meet Victor Wooten last week after a concert, and was thrilled that Wooten had seen his video and offered support. Not only did Wooten spend quality time talking to Gabriel about bass and music, he also signed a tardy slip so Severn could be excused for arriving late to school the next day, which his middle school principal approved.

As a toddler, Severn was drawn to the bass, always pointing it out at gigs and festivals as he’d watching his dad Eddie Severn, a well-known jazz trumpeter, perform. He loved listening to The Yellowjackets and Weather Report in car rides. He developed his love for Pastorious’ music at age 3.

In 2012, at age 7, Gabriel began private lessons with Tim Breon. Four months later, Uptown Music Collective director Dave Brumbaugh invited him to join the Urban Souls, a band of musicians age 13 and under that played Motown and soul music. During their three years together, they gained significant recognition in central Pennsylvania, performing more than 80 gigs including music festivals, TV and radio appearances, and numerous community events and benefits. In 2015 the members moved on to perform with other UMC groups. The Sharp Red Quartet was formed with three former Urban Souls members. They now are a trio, Just Jazz, with Cade Palmatier on guitar and David Montis on drums.

In addition to performing with the Urban Souls, the Sharp Red Quartet and Just Jazz, Severn has been a guest performer at the Central PA Jazz Festival, the Scranton Jazz Festival, the Lock Haven University Jazz Ensemble, Bucknell University Jazz Ensemble and the Ann Arbor Art Fair. He occasionally performs with the Central PA Friends of Jazz Youth Band. He played double bass with the Williamsport Symphony’s Junior Strings and plays in his school concert and jazz bands. He also has performed in several mainstage UMC productions, and occasionally performs with UMC faculty member and blues performer Gabe Stillman. Just Jazz performed in the first Lock Haven Jazz and Music Festival in August, and recently performed for the second time in the Dauphin County Wine and Jazz Festival.

Severn continues private lessons with Breon and takes Skype lessons from Anthony Wellington. He’s been a student at the Uptown Music Collective for several years, learning music theory and participating in the jazz workshop. He also has attended several music camps, including the Keystone Jazz Institute and Central PA Jazz Camp, where he played in the top jazz ensemble under the direction of Helen Sung. In March 2017, he will attend Gerald Veasley’s Bass Bootcamp in Philadelphia.

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