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drumFantasy.07

What would it be like to hang out with some of the best drummers in the world for a weekend? To attend small clinics, intimate master classes, incredible concerts at night featuring world-class drummers...and...to have the chance to sit in with a world-class band?

109 drummers of all ages and playing levels, and from all over the world, found out at drumFantasy.07, held at Seton Hall University, August 17-21, 2007.

Steve, along with Dave Weckl, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, and Jason Bittner, ran a series of lectures and small master classes at the camp. They were joined by Pat Petrillo and Jason Gianni (courtesy of New York's The Collective), plus Glenn Weber of the New Jersey School of Percussion.

Students arrived on Friday afternoon. They registered, and then hopped on a bus over to Seton Hall for a reception and kick-off concert with Steve Smith and Vital Information!

The crowd was treated to a fantastic concert featuring Steve, Tom Coster, Baron Browne, and Vinny Valentino. Of course, for the camp, Steve had a few surprises in his back pocket.

On flute, hand percussion, and konnokol, was the great Ravichandra Kulur. Steve also invited New York percussionist Gilad. It was an amazing lineup and the camp attendees saw a very rare and special performance.

Saturday morning saw the beginning of classes. Everyone was assigned to a group and that group went from class-to-class together.

"It was amazing how people bonded so quickly," said Steven Orkin, organizer of Drum Fantasy Camp. "Drummers seem to share ideas rather than competing with one another, as evidenced by the scene in the cafeteria."

Orkin is referring to groups of campers huddled around tables talking drums and trading concepts with their sticks and practice pads. "I can only imagine what the university's Summer students, staff, and the nuns were thinking when they heard that racket!" Orkin added.

The instructors also ate in the cafeteria. This provided more time for questions and discussion - as did the the lawn right outside the classrooms. Steve was seen leading impromptu lessons out there after lunch, with campers tapping out odd time signatures and trying Indian konnokol!

The second evening provided campers with another incredible concert. But this time, it was a double feature.

The first show was a band put together by Horacio Hernandez. He brought with him Turkish pianist Fahir Atakoglu and bassist Melik Yirimibir. The trio played an assortment of fascinating tunes.

One special treat: Horacio performed "Lullaby for Miles" on Mbira and invited Dave Weckl to accompany him on a snare drum with brushes.

Dave returned to the stage for the second show with a band he put together exclusively for this occasion. It featured Tom Kennedy on a 250-year-old upright bass, George Colligan on piano, and Ralph Bowen on saxophones.

Days three through five consisted of daytime master classes limited to just 15 campers per class. This gave everyone some quality time with the teachers.

"Steve and Dave wanted to make sure the classes were small enough to give each student personal instruction in addition to the larger concepts" says Orkin. "The hardest part was keeping the classes on-track time-wise...because the teachers wanted to keep teaching and sometimes went an hour over!"

Of course the campers didn't complain.

The last two nights of the camp were called "jam nights," in which the campers got to sit in with an all-star band. The band was led by guitarist Vinny Valentino, and featured bassist Baron Browne, and singer Chrissi Poland.

This band often performs on Monday night in New York city with a very great drummer - Joel Rosenblatt. But, on "jam night," it was the campers who were given the opportunity to contribute.

But there were some conditions...

Ms. Poland, an extremely professional and accomplished singer who graduated from the Berklee School of Music, and who appears on the new CD from Moby, joined Vinny in expressing what they wanted from the gig.

Specifically, they made it clear that they wanted a solid groove and all eyes on the bandleader for direction during the group's funky rock and blues tunes. No soloing. No competition. Just music.

The drummers responded.

Put to the task of being professional musicians for the night, each drummer, no matter what their level of play, was able to hold the songs together. With two kits on stage and drummers lined up for each kit, a new drummer would start as the previous drummer stopped - allowing the groove to flow, and each drummer to do their thing.

And, each drummer left the stage with a pat on the back from the instructors, who also jumped in from time-to-time. This led to some very fun moments.

For example, when the band broke into Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher," campers were treated to Jason Bittner's blindingly fast version of the song's double-bass shuffle. Steve also joined in on the song, showing a different side of his playing!

Many students also appreciated Steve's groove on some disco/R&B tunes. He was all pocket - loose and flowing, and even had to turn his ball cap around to fit the mood!

Dave Weckl and Horacio Hernandez spent most of the two nights on timbales and congas, accompanying campers during their turns on the drum kits. There were a lot smiles back and forth as campers realized who was backing them up!

All-in-all, a lot was learned and there was much fun to be had!

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Horacio Hernandez Solo
Performing with Fahir Atakoglu and Melik Yirimibir

 
Dave Weckl Solo
Performing with George Colligan, Tom Kennedy,
and Ralph Bowen

 
Dave Weckl and Horacio Hernandez
An impromptu duet with Horacio on Mbira and Dave Weckl on the snare drum

 
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