drummers, including 80 full-time campers, attended the
second-annual Drum Fantasy Camp August 23-27 at the Hyatt
hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. Campers came from all over the
United States and 10 countries, including: Mexico, Canada,
Aruba, Brazil, England, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Greece, and
Our 2008 staff of instructors was exciting and diverse,
including. Steve Smith, Dave Weckl, Horacio
"el negro" Hernandez, Tony Royster, Jr., Jamey
Haddad, Ganesh Kumar, and Dave Brewer.
The camp started at Noon on Saturday with an
opening clinic that featured Steve, Dave, Horacio, Tony, and
Jamey on the same stage! Jamey started the clinic by playing
several Middle Eastern percussion instruments and
demonstrating how he creates electronic loops.
The rest of the instructors then joined in to
create a completely improvised piece. They started by using
only their hands so that they could listen to one another
and create music.
It was interesting watching each drummer
contribute to this piece in their own way. Over the next ten
minutes, the piece developed in complexity and musicality as
brushes, Talawands, and sticks were added. The audience
a grand ending to the song, the instructors came to the
front of the stage, sat down, and began a "roundtable"
discussion about drumming and music. They discussed
everything from broad technical concepts to the bigger
picture of creating rhythm and, ultimately, contributing to
the integrity of great music.
Some of the most interesting moments were
borne of the instructors' diverse musical backgrounds and
professional experiences. When it came to world rhythms,
Jamey's insight was invaluable. He said "when I want to
understand the music and rhythm of a particular culture, I
actually visit that place, and sometimes end up living
This created great contrast with Steve
Smith's experiences learning from and performing with great
Indian masters, and Horacio's incredibly diverse musical
The audience asked questions and, at the end,
was treated to a closing piece performed by the entire
group. In this piece, the dynamics were intense, highlighted
by Tony Royster Jr.'s creative and explosive playing. The
clinic closed to a
ovation for these great instructors.
As if a three-hour clinic was not enough, the
drumFantasy.08 crew of helpers and campers jumped on
transforming the clinic stage into a concert stage once the
As drums were taken down people scurried
around, Dave immediately started mixing his drums while
Will Lee and Oz Noy began setting
up for their
sound check. Once everything got going, the band ran through
some numbers and then vacated the stage for soundcheck #2:
Steve Smith and Vital Information!
Setting up for Steve's band was no easy task!
Not only did the crew have to leave room for Dave, Will and
Oz (who went on second), but Steve brought a powerhouse
lineup to drumFantasy.08! In addition to regular band
members Tom Coster, Baron Browne, and
Vinny Valentino, Steve included percussionist Jamey
Haddad and Kanjirist Ganesh Kumar!
7:30 p.m., the lights went down to rousing applause. Right
before this happened, Steve told the event organizer, Steven
Orkin, that he wanted to alter the plan a little and just on
by himself to open with a solo. Orkin's response: "LET'S DO
THAT!" Steve walked down the aisle to a standing ovation,
and the concert was underway.
The band played for 90 minutes and wowed the
audience with Vital Information classics, plus plenty of new
songs from Vitalization. Jamey and Ganesh's
contributions to these songs was incredible. Both are
masters, and both contributed konnokol (Indian vocal
Once the Vital show wrapped up, the crew
jumped on stage for a quick transformation. A half-hour
later, Dave Weckl took the stage with guitarist Oz Noy and
bassist Will Lee.
Oz is a fresh, cutting-edge composer and
performer. His compositions are filled with sharp and
angular riffs, odd time signatures, and sonic intensity. The
crowd enjoyed seeing Dave in role they haven't seen him in
before. On the last song, he treated them to a solo over a
guitar vamp that Oz looped before leaving the stage.
Saturday was intense, but the campers were
energized when they showed up for
classes on Sunday morning!
Each camper was assigned to a group of
approximately 10. Throughout the camp, that group traveled
together from class-to-class together, ensuring that
everyone worked with each teacher. Starbucks in-hand (for
both the campers and the instructors), classes began!
As the campers made their way through the
camp, one thing was evident: no two classes would be the
same. Though musicality was the underlying theme of the
camp, each instructor had a different angle.
Smith's classes focused on historic elements of groove, how
we arrived where we are today in music, and how one can
build a foundation of good playing. Dave Weckl's classes
also addressed foundation - how to play more musically by
listening to other musicians.
This subject attracted a special guest
instructors: singer Chrissi Poland! Chrissi and Dave worked
together at the 2008 Yamaha Groove All Stars concert at
NAMM. Chrissi knows a lot
about what makes a drummer effective in a group, and shared
her feelings about what drummers need to pay attention to in
the studio and in a live setting.
Dave's class attracted one more guest teacher
- Tony Royster, Jr.! In the middle of one of Tony's classes,
he began to address drum tuning concepts and procedures. He
told the class that he always wanted his drums to sound like
Dave's, so without wasting another moment, he took his class
on a "field trip" to Dave's class and asked him to explain
his approach. In less than 10 minutes, Dave cleared up many
obstacles that drummers face in this daunting task!
mentioned above, diversity was a key to the 2008 camp. In
one class, Jamey Haddad was teaching his class about various
Middle Eastern percussion instruments, while also showing
the class how he approaches straight-ahead jazz with
incredible touch. The whole class got involved.
Right around the corner from Jamey's class
was Ganesh Kumar, a master on the Kanjira. drumFantasy.08
was very luck to have this very special man at the camp.
Ganesh brought with him this very small instrument, yet
created a world of sound, and demonstrated a command of
rhythm and music that transcended all musical backgrounds.
Of course, none of the campers were familiar
with this instrument, but Ganesh showed
them everything. Not only did he introduce the Kanjira, he
taught Indian konnokol and related it to Western music and
Then, on Sunday and Monday, Ganesh and Steve
Smith taught an "optional" class at 4:30 p.m. where they
both played together, demonstrating the compelling konnokol
structure. Campers walked away with mind-blowing concepts of
time and feel, and were treated to world-class playing by
these two instructors.
three "Jam Nights" at Drum Fantasy Camp highlight the
incredible experience of the event. Campers get to sit in
with Vinny Valentino and Baron Browne
(of Vital Information) plus New York singer
This year, "Jam Nights" were held in a large
conference room in the main camp area. Previously, they had
been held in an auditorium. The idea for 2008: make the "Jam
Nights" one big "hang" for all
the campers, with food, drink, and plenty of fun.
Throughout the three nights, campers chose
from a list of songs they wanted to play. The list included
plenty or rock and r&b tunes, plus some of Vinny Valentino's
music, and songs from the Vital Information
order that campers played in depended on the group they were
in. Everyone got to play, and many were accompanied by the
instructors on various percussion and a second drum set
(pretty cool to look over and see an instructor playing
along with you!)
On the first night, Dave and Horacio did a
jam at the end of the night, with the entire
camp erupting into applause! On the second night, Steve
Smith, Jamey Haddad, and Ganesh Kumar took everyone on an
incredible rhythmic journey with an ambient backing track
created by Vinny Valentino, Chrissi Poland, and Baron
Browne. Then, Tony Royster took everyone on a wild ride
through a Jackson Five tune and a straigh ahead tune with an
exciting extended solo!
Finally, on the last night, all of the
instructors took turns trading solos etc. for one grand
finale! Then, everyone went out for drinks at Wonderbar on
East 4th street, right behind the hotel (the youngsters were
The Last Day
Everyone packed up and brought their bags
down for the last day. But there was one more exciting event
that evening: a concert at Cleveland's Nighttown restaurant
featuring Vinny Valentino, Baron Browne, and Tony Royster,
Jr.! This gig was the perfect way to close drumFantasy.08...
band grooved to lots of Vinny's music, including a few songs
on the Vital Information release,
Vitalization. Tony tore it up all night, creating deep
pocket grooves with Baron, and exploding through several
solos with great showmanship.
During the second set, Vinny invited Steve
Smith to sit in for a few songs. As a "reminder" of how
these songs were to be played, Steve kicked it into a gear
many in attendance had seen, including a pounding 16th note
double bass groove. Jaws were on
After the show, campers hung out one last
time, exchanged e-mail addresses, and made their way back to
the hotel for a good night's sleep and a journey home with
memories that will last a lifetime...
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