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Drum Fantasy Camp

Article by Sean Mitchell // June 15 2014
Drum Fantasy Camp

Beginning July 27th Cleveland, Ohio, will be host to one of North America's premier drum events. The 8th annual Drum Fantasy Camp will feature some of drumming's legendary players including Dave Weckl and Virgil Donati. The Black Page caught up with festival creator/organizer Steven Orkin to get a sneak peak at this year's event.

Steve, you’re at eight years with the Drum Fantasy Camp. Wow!

Yes, we’re going into our eighth year – but it’s the ninth camp because we did one in Turkey last year! 

Let’s do a little background. How did the camp begin? 

The idea originated in 2007 when I began managing the websites for Dave Weckl and Steve Smith. I saw emails coming through from people who wanted lessons or feedback on their playing. So, I started proposing ideas for clinic tours or school visits, etc.  

They both pretty much gave me the same answer: that they had both attended the Stan Kenton jazz camps when they were younger. Both said they wanted to learn from Peter Erskine (in fact, Dave said that in your interview with him recently). They both said, “If you put together a drum camp, we’ll come and teach.” 

Ironically, Peter has been on the camp staff several times. At our opening session, Dave likes to tell the story about signing up for the Kenton camp and then finding out that Peter wasn’t going to be there because he left the band! 

Are you a drummer yourself then, Steven? 

I’m a really bad one, thank you!  And I get worse every time I listen to these guys play [laughs]. But yea, I’m a drummer and I’m certainly a good listener and fan. That, plus 10 years in major ad agencies, really helps me run the camp and market/manage many of these great drummers. 

Your lineup this year consists of whom? 

We’ve got Dave Weckl coming for his eighth straight year -- which is very nice of him, as this is the only drum camp he does. Dave is so amazing in the classroom. Watching a camper play for just a few seconds, he will catch issues relating to heights and angles of the drums, posture, technique, and musicality. It’s priceless. 

We also have the great Chris Coleman, who appeared at the camp a few years ago. There’s a pretty cool YouTube video of him and Dave doing a duet at the 2011 camp and I expect more shenanigans from those two this year!   

Chris is a great bass player and usually plays along with his students. He sets up situations that challenge and stretch their playing. It’s awesome. Plus, he's just about the most hilarious and likeable guy you’d ever want to meet. I’m excited to have him back. 

Then, there’s Virgil Donati. This one is a real coup, and I’m really excited for our campers to get a rare opportunity to work with him. Virgil told me he’ll have everybody up and playing and wants to work on several developmental exercises for hands and feet. Awesome!

Finally, here’s Dave DiCenso. We all remember his appearance at the 2006 Modern Drummer Festival – he’s got that amazing combination of loose and fluid musicality plus incredible chops. He’s a staffer at Berklee, which is very beneficial for some of the younger attendees (and their parents) who are thinking about music school. Ultimately, he sets an example of being a complete player, playing highly technical jazz (Hiromi Uehara) and also getting big pop gigs (Josh Groban). I’m happy we finally landed him.

We also have three musicians who come because we run jams in the evening. This year we’ve got James Genus on bass (Brecker Brothers/Chick Corea/ Saturday Night Live), Chrissi Poland on keys and vocals (Moby/Sam Moore), and Vinny Valentino on guitar (George Benson/Vital Information). 

So if you come to the camp, you end up jamming with these guys. Plus, they do the opening concert. Russell Ferrante (Yellowjackets) will join in on that! 

That was my next question; what can a camp attendee expect to experience or have happen? 

The camp is really intense. Almost every minute of it is spent doing something productive. On the first day, you attend a group clinic. We’re in a larger auditorium and all the instructors get up and jam together, then they take a seat and they run a roundtable discussion. That lasts for three hours. 

In the evening, the drum instructors play a concert. Each one of them sits in and plays with the aforementioned musicians. It’s amazing because you get four of the world’s best drummers up there in one night. No other camp runs a concert like this. 

Then, over the next four days, you attend two three-hour classes per day with each instructor. So, that’s a class on Monday with Weckl from 9:00 a.m. to noon and 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. On Tuesday, you do it with Virgil … and so on. There are 15 to a class and it’s very interactive and personal. 

In the evenings, we do the jams. Everyone gets a chance to get up and play (including me!) and the instructors jump in for some shenanigans.

I would assume then that if you’re going to attend this camp you have to have a working knowledge of the kit-- or is this beginner, advanced? Who could attend this? 

I get asked this a lot and my answer is this: the camp is perfect for anyone who dreams of sitting in a classroom with drummers like this. Even if you can’t play at a high level, you’ll love it and pick up a lot if you’re the kind of person who thrives on listening to drummers of this caliber talk and teach drums. 

So, we get a wide ranging group. The average age is 32, but that means we get a wide mix. We have talented teenagers (usually considering music school), young working drummers, middle-aged or older players who play in church or wedding bands, and some serious pros who want to tune up their playing with big-time players. We split the camp into groups based on the level of playing. 

The location of the drum camp this year is Cleveland, Ohio, correct? 

Yes, Cleveland has been the camp’s home since 2008. I ran a camp in the New York area in 2007 and it was amazing. At the time, I was living in Cleveland and realized it could be done more efficiently. The only question was, will people come to Cleveland? 

I suspected that location would be less important than the instructors in terms of attracting attendees. So, like a good marketer, I did a little research to confirm this. The next year, we were up and running in C-Town. 

Of course, I live in Los Angeles now. But the camp will remain in Cleveland for the time being. It is far less expensive and easier logistically. Meanwhile, people rave about the city, and the proximity to NYC helps attract the international crowd. We have people coming from 11 countries so far. 

If anyone wants more details – where to stay, pricing, and all that – you have the website at www.drumfantasycamp.com. 

Correct. All the information’s there; you can see videos of the camp and the jams.  You can kind of get a feel for it. I have to say the coolest thing about the camp is how it brings out the brotherhood of drummers. Drummers are cool with each other for the most part – unlike guitar players [laughs] – and at the camp it’s exponential because people are there pursuing something they really care about.  Everybody’s in the same boat and that fosters a real bond. 



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About the Author
Sean Mitchell

Sean Mitchell has been an active participant in the drumming industry for over 20 years. He has studied under Crash Test Dummies drummer Mitch Dorge and Drumming's Global Ambassador Dom Famularo. Sean is also a songwriter and regularly performs with his wife (and singer) Jill Mitchell. Sean proudly endorses Aquarian Drumheads.

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