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More than 300 drummers of all ages took part in the third-annual Drum Fantasy Camp August 15-19, 2009, at the Hyatt hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. Campers came from all over the United States and 10 countries, including: the U.K., Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Taiwan, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Turkey!

2009 instructors included Dave Weckl, Steve Smith, Peter Erskine, Tommy Igoe, and Dafnis Prieto. Other world-class musicians who took part included: Vinny Valentino, Baron Browne, Chrissi Poland, Mark Soskin, Andy Fusco, and Gary Keller.

Opening Day

The camp started at Noon on Saturday with an opening clinic that featured Steve, Dave, Peter, Tommy, and Dafnis on the same stage. The instructors casually walked onto the stage, and Dafnis started cool rhythm that the other instructors picked up on and joined.

Each drummer listened carefully, feeding off each other and complementing one another. The rhythm built and built until, finally, the instructors began trading solos. The solos went stage left to right and provided some exciting moments!

After a big ending, 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. They also discussed music education, the general state of the music industry, and professionalism.

The audience asked questions and, at the end, was treated to a closing piece performed by the entire group!

After the clinic, the instructors rehearsed with Steve Smith's Jazz Legacy for their 8pm concert. Tommy Igoe, who had played his Friday night Birdland gig the night before and flown in at 6 a.m., went through his songs and nail everything immediately.

During the rehearsal, a brief photo shoot for the new Zoom Q3 took place. Peter, Dave, and Steve filmed each other with this great new video camera while the photo crew caught all the fun moments! Of course, the entire concert was recorded with the Zoom H4N audio recorder. Amazing sound!

At 8:00 p.m., the lights went down to a rousing applause. Each instructor sat in with Steve Smith's Jazz Legacy for three songs and took an extended solo. After the show, the instructors signed autographs, posed for photos, and mingled with attendees.

The Camp

Saturday was a long day - but attendees energetically made their way down from hotel rooms to the conference area for morning classes. The morning class went from 9:00 a.m. to Noon and the afternoon class went from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

As always, Steve Smith's classes were as much about music history as they were about drumming. Steve traced the history of the swing pulse and showed how it has been applied to each generation and genre of music. Many of Steve's campers got up and played in Steve's class - executing various significant rhythms used in modern music.

Dave Weckl's classes focused heavily on elements of groove. Many of Dave's campers got up to play, as well. Dave offered words of encouragement to each camper in terms of achieving the right feel - something Dave is well-known for. The lessons were invaluable.

Tommy Igoe's Groove Essentials DVDs/books are some of the most widely used instructional products around. In Tommy's classes, he played music through a speaker and chose key grooves for campers play along with.

Tommy is an inspiring teacher with lots of energy and enthusiasm for his students' growth. His classes were the talk of the camp during the evening jams!

Reading charts is an area in which many drummers can use help. Peter Erskine provided that help by passing out charts and encouraging campers to follow along - tapping out the rhythms together.

Peter's great sense of humility pervaded the classes as he shared stories about being a student who was afraid to make mistakes. He also shared wisdom about how to play freely and naturally; achieving a smooth swing pulse, and being musical. Few drummers have made as much music as Peter. His lessons were priceless.

Dafnis Prieto dynamic playing and friendly and refreshing attitude impressed everyone. A composer, bandleader, and incredible drummer, Dafnis' classes broke down barriers of playing Latin jazz. Dafnis explained his complex compositions and his approach to the drum parts. He also shared practice techniques to achieve a high level of mental and physical independence.

Jam Nights

Many people write in throughout the year to ask about the "Jam Nights." What are they? How do they work? Does everyone play?

Jam Nights are fun hangouts that take place from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights of the camp. They are held in a large conference room that is part of the general classroom area.

The hotel serves meals and drinks to campers who sit at tables or on bar stools at high-top tables. The instructors hang out among the campers.

In the front of the room, a world-class band plays rock, funk, and jazz tunes all night. The band is made up of guitarist Vinny Valentino (Vital Information, George Benson, etc.), Baron Browne (Jean-Luc Ponty, Billy Cobham, Vital Information, etc), and Chrissi Poland (Sam Moore, Moby, Solo). Each night, campers are called up to sit in with the band on tunes of their choice. Each camper gets a chance to play (if they want to), and everyone enjoys watching and hanging out with each other each night.

Instructors also get up to play, creating some really fun moments!

This year, we had some extra-special moments. Two ten-year-old campers brought down the house with their solid grooves. Also, there were some great duets between the instructors. As in years past, Dave Weckl spent most of each of the three nights accompanying campers on timbales. Each instructor took turns doing this. Peter Erskine treated everyone to some serious funk, and we also celebrated Steve Smith's birthday on the final Jam Night.

So, the answer to what Jam Night are is this: like the rest of the camp, they are fun evenings of bonding, laughing, and experiencing GREAT musicianship.

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Drum Fantasy Camp Recap
A full recap of the 2009 camp

Dave Weckl and Peter Erskine
Playing together during Jam Night

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