Wyoming

 

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?
Where Are They Now: Spotlight on Alumni


Educational Aide by Day, Musician by Night: Jonathan “Mike” Cobb

Story originally written by Andrea Brady with additional material provided by Jonathan “Mike” Cobb

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Jonathan “Mike” Cobb on a recent visit to the hallowed marble hallway at Wyoming Middle School.

“He’s doing it – why not me?”
This is Jonathan Cobb’s rallying cry, and boy, has it worked for him.
Jonathan’s “Clark Kent” identity is as an educational aide at Indian Hill High School; but when he dons his “Superman” cloak – the identity that is a direct result of the focus he has had since he was seven years old – he becomes music director and bass player for Bootsy Collins, an internationally-known, all-time great funk and R&B bassist, singer, and bandleader.

A Wyoming Music Education
“Growing up in Wyoming, I heard my older cousin playing bass,” Jonathan describes. “He was also playing some Bootsy Collins music at the time – I saw the album cover, saw the bass, and decided. I was seven years old, but I knew from the time I touched my first bass, I wanted to be a performing musician. Specifically, I wanted to BE Bootsy Collins on the bass!”
After Jonathan started playing his cousin’s bass, his cousin offered him an extra – but it had only two strings! “I put shoe strings on for the rest,” he laughs. Then when Jonathan was in fourth grade at Vermont Primary he was formally introduced to music by legendary music teacher Mrs. Alberta Schneider, “who recognized my natural talent and urged my parents to keep me in the school music program (BIG thank you to Mrs. Schneider!!!!).” If Jonathan agreed to play with the school orchestra, his parents agreed to buy him his own bass. Jonathan was in the orchestra all the way through his years at Wyoming Middle School and beyond, “but I was always drawn to Funk.”

The path after Wyoming
In 1984, after Jonathan’s middle school years, he moved out of Wyoming, but “I remained an ‘honorary’ Cowboy by continuing to attend school functions and participate in various musical events with Wyoming Alumni Dave Criddle and Craig Comer. I was there so much, some people still don't realize I didn't graduate with the class!”
“As a youngster, I always had a passion for music and sports,” and upon leaving Wyoming, Jonathan attended and graduated from Colerain High School where he continued his participation in both their music and athletic programs. “While I excelled in sports, my interest in music led me to attending The Ohio State University as a student of their prestigious school of music. It was in my OSU dorm room I taught myself to play additional instruments in order to produce and record my own music -mostly to impress my classmate, Rob Cherry - who, to this day, still encourages me to push for musical excellence!!!!”
Two years later Jonathan transferred to University of Cincinnati in search of a different path through life other than music. “It is during that time, I found my other passion - working with at-risk youth and other adolescents. I worked at several child care facilities, including Hillcrest School in Wyoming prior to relocating to Atlanta briefly in order to scratch the itch I still had for being a touring musician. Realizing at the time I was not quite prepared to be the ‘starving’ artist, I returned back to Cincinnati.”
Jonathan “dibbled and dabbled” in the corporate and private sector before finally graduating from Xavier University with a Liberal Arts degree with a concentration in Entrepreneurship.


Jonathan’s love of music began in Wyoming City Schools – with many thanks to his first music teacher at Vermont Primary School, Mrs. Alberta Schneider!

“But no matter what, I always played.”
Through all the work and school transitions, Jonathan continued to perform with local and regional musical acts, and “at one point was playing with a combination of nine different bands!” And one night, amazingly enough, Catfish Collins, Bootsy’s brother, heard him play. “He came up to me after, said, ‘Has my brother ever heard you play? You sound like him!’” remembers Jonathan. “He invited me over to his home many times, so I could meet Bootsy, but I was afraid - I never went.” And unfortunately, before Catfish could get Jonathan and Bootsy together, Catfish passed away.
At this point, Jonathan was working as a buyer for the City of Cincinnati, and that feeling of not being in the right place returned. “One night, I was sitting on the couch. I once again just knew there was something that I was supposed to be doing differently, something new that had to do with music. I remember saying a prayer, asking the universe to put me where I was supposed to be, knowing it was SOMEthing musically.” Two weeks later, a local band needed a bassist - and Jonathan stepped in.
By the end of the first set, the group was amazed. “Has Bootsy heard you play?” the rhythm guitarist, Keith Cheatham (of the 70’s R&B group, SUN) asked him. Keith was impressed with Jonathan’s ‘feel’ of the bass, comparing him to a young, Bootsy Collins. Clearly, he agreed Jonathan was someone Bootsy should hear … yet the two had still not connected.

Then, it finally happened…
Jonathan was invited to play a James Brown tribute show with musicians from around the world, and Bootsy was there. “Bootsy had backup bass player auditions scheduled for the following Tuesday,” says Jonathan. “He had never looked for backups before, this was a first… and I decided to use the tribute show as my audition.”
Sure enough, after hearing Jonathan play, Bootsy canceled auditions and hired Jonathan the next day. “Within two weeks,” he continues, “I was practicing to go on tour.”
It’s now been five years, and it’s still a dream for Jonathan – who is known as "Monster Mike" on the road. “I always had goals, but this was surreal, to have that opportunity.”
Reflecting on his nonlinear path, Jonathan is thankful for the opportunity to “to live my dreams in real time.” Jonathan has had the amazing opportunity to meet many bass players and recording artists that have inspired him over the years - from Stevie Wonder and Sheila E. to Marcus Miller and Larry Graham. “Most importantly to me, however, is using my experience to inspire, encourage, and motivate others (ESPECIALLY young adolescents) to pursue their dreams because I am living proof that dreams DO come true.”
This spring, Jonathan will travel to Hawaii; then this summer, the band is back to Europe for a tour before finishing up stateside. But it’s not all fun and games. “We put in 10-16 hour days, putting a show together,” Jonathan explains. “As music director, it is my job to find ways to make performances fresh, to transition from one song to another, and to add new elements to classic masterpieces.”

Looking back – an enchanted childhood in Wyoming
“Growing up in Wyoming was an enchanted experience. The sense of community, family, and diversity is something I share with others who grew up in different communities, and they can only imagine.” Jonathan was shaped from his relationships saying that, “my friendships were of all colors, races, religions, ethnic, and economic backgrounds.”
Jonathan’s favorite childhood memories are dense with the sweet Wyoming experiences, “summer time in Wyoming was amazing!!!! Playing in the Mill Creek, swimming at the Municipal Pool, the Fourth of July fireworks parade, evening fireworks, and neighborhood fireworks wars, trips to the Wyoming Pastry Shop (which I continue to make a family tradition!!!!), playing basketball at the Oak Ave. park, Officer Carl, Coach Gene Pitman, and most of all, Sunday dinner at my grandmother's house with the family.”

Wyoming Words to Live By
Wyoming students need to “enjoy and appreciate each and every day of growing up in such a wonderful community.” We often forget what a special place we get to call home. Jonathan adds, “I urge them (Wyoming youth) to find their passion early on in life and not to be afraid to pursue their dreams. Without question, to live one's dreams takes hard work, dedication, and sacrifice; nevertheless, always believe that dreams DO come true... Mike Cobb is living proof.”
And one last nugget of advice, “most importantly, once you weave your way through this maze of life, always reach back and do your part to help the world become a better place for the next generation behind you.”

He’s doing it – why not me?
Traveling the world with Bootsy is exciting and inspiring for Jonathan, but he always comes back to having the right attitude. “He’s doing it – why not me? is what I always say to others. I’m living proof that you can achieve your dreams. I’ve never had the ‘can’t do that’ attitude.” In fact, this is one of the most rewarding things for Jonathan – being able to share this experience to inspire other people, to help them believe in themselves, and believe that dreams do come true. “I always promised I’d be there for those who want to be inspired,” he says. “If I can’t share this with anyone else, then it’s not worth it.”


Jonathan’s Advice for Aspiring Musicians
For those students who are interested in making a career of music, Jonathan has one overriding piece of advice: “Do it the right way.”
To do that, he says, “Get formal training, but also develop the ability to just play, on your own. You have to be able to play. With formal training, you’re usually playing what someone else felt. You need to be able to play the way you feel – get to that artistic expression, develop your own voice. The formal training will help you with formal jobs, studio jobs.”
He also talks about looking to stories of other bands who didn’t make it, and understand where they went wrong. “Watch shows like ‘Behind the Music,’ Hollywood stories of bands. See where they went wrong and do the opposite. You don’t have to do drugs, have an ego, be inaccessible, have a chip on your shoulder. You don’t have to be that way. I’m living proof.”
“Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Hang out with musicians - those with the same attitudes, goals, and dreams as you. That’s important. When I did that, I flourished.”
And finally, always keep Jonathan’s rallying cry at the forefront of your mind: “Why not me?”

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