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August 23-27
Hyatt Regency Hotel
Cleveland, OH

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 Japan!

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 loved it.

After 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 there!"

This created great contrast with Steve Smith's experiences learning from and performing with great Indian masters, and Horacio's incredibly diverse musical career.

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 standing ovation for these great instructors.

When the clinic ended, the drumFantasy.08 crew of helpers and campers jumped on transforming the clinic stage into a concert stage. 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!

At 7:30 p.m., the lights went down to rousing applause. Steve Smith and Vital Information 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 percussion).

Once the Vital show wrapped up, the crew jumped on stage for a quick transformation. A half-hour later, Dave, Oz, and Will took the stage.

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.

Steve 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. Dave was happy to help everyone understand his tuning concepts.

As 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 time signatures.

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.

The 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 Steve Smith and Vital Information) plus Chrissi Poland.

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 album Vitalization.

The 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 straight ahead jazz 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.

On the final 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.

The 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. Steve kicked it into high-gear to match Tony's amazing performance. It was a fun night.

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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More Information

drumFantasy.08 Videos
drumFantasy.08 Recap

Dave Weckl Drum Solo
with Oz Noy and Will Lee at the Opening Concert