A Drummer’s Dream
By Kyle Tassone
By the time you are reading this, it has been about nine months since I got back from the trip of a lifetime. I will admit that I had no idea what to expect. From the beginning, I knew it would be awesome, but what I didn't know was to what extent. Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy Camp was an unforgettable experience, and most definitely one that changed my life for the better.
I started playing the drums about 2 years ago in early 2015, and as soon as I picked up my first pair of drumsticks and sat down to perform for the first time in front of people, I knew that this was something I could really dedicate myself to and be thrilled doing. Little did I know that in 2 years, I would be doing the exact same thing. Only this time, instead of sitting down to play in front of 50 or so people at a middle school jazz band concert, I would be sitting down to play in front of hundreds at the famous Whisky a Go Go, located in Hollywood, California. This legendary venue has seen the likes of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Frank Zappa, The Rolling Stones, and many more!
It all started back in August of 2017 when I went to a concert in New York City with my father. My father’s boss, Ken, organized the concert and all of the proceeds from the event were donated to the Teen Cancer Association, founded by Roger Daltrey of The Who. At the concert, there was a live auction of very extraordinary items and event opportunities, and the money raised from this also went to benefit the charity. During the auction, one of the items announced was a package to Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy Camp.
Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy Camp is an interactive musical adventure in which campers get placed in a band with fellow campers, and coached by a rock and roll star. The camp lasts typically for a week, and on each day, campers get more and more involved in the process, which consists of them practicing for long hours on setlists, perfecting their musical craft, bonding with, and learning from their band members and superstar counselors. All of this effort and intensity culminates as each band performs at various world-famous locations with legendary musicians and genuine people in a non-competitive, super exciting environment!
For each camp, there is a different theme, which is determined by the main guests who attend the camps to hang out and jam with the counselors and campers. For my camp, the guest rockers attending were the heavy metal band Judas Priest and Sebastian Bach, frontman for the band Skid Row from 1987 to 1996. These rock and roll legends do not merely visit. Instead, each group is given the incredible opportunity to jam with these all-star headliners and ask any questions they may have during the live press conference that follows.
It truly was an unforgettable experience; getting to play some of my favorite heavy metal songs with the members of Judas Priest and Sebastian Bach was a crazy fun time, especially since many of the songs our band played were written and made famous by these musicians!
Being a self-taught drummer, and not having any prior experience of listening to or playing songs with the other band members before, I felt that I was letting the band down. Unlike the others, I had not been a dedicated heavy metal enthusiast for the past 30-40 years. I was one of the few young kids there, and most of the other campers who were older than me and had grown up listening to this genre of music. Sure, I really enjoy listening to and playing rock and roll, but I had nowhere near the amount of experience that these guys had. At first, I felt very stressed and out of place, as most of the songs we rehearsed and later performed I had never really even heard before, let alone played them in their entirety on the drums. However, after loosening up, bonding more with my incredible counselors and band members during approximately 10 hours of practice a day, I was able to pull through and learn the songs we decided to perform while having a ton of fun getting into the groove on stage!
For myself, this was one of the most difficult articles to write, as putting into words the emotions I felt during this time and explaining and capturing the excitement of such a wonderful trip/experience proved to be quite challenging. Throughout my time at camp, I met some of the most amazing people I've ever come in contact with and grew both musically and creatively along the way. When my Dad told me that this would be the experience of a lifetime, I had no way of knowing just how right he would be. Because, after something as unique as this, when you meet your moment on stage in front of a couple of hundred plus fans, it is not hard to see that this program is genuinely authentic. For instance, when the members of Judas Priest and Sebastian Bach spoke during their questionnaire sessions, one of the first things they said was that no one is forced to be here; all of the staff members, headliners, coaches, and music producers were here by choice. They were there because they loved the experience of interacting with other great people, and especially, being able to share their love for music with other incredibly passionate fans. In fact, my coach, Nita Strauss, an incredibly famous and talented guitarist who tours with Alice Cooper, was using her in-between time during a world tour, to come and coach at this camp. She took time out from her personal break, and like all of the other personnel at the facility, made campers such as myself feel a part of it all… the glory, the rush, and hard work of the life really kicked in, and I got to do something I never even imagined possible. To this day, I still look back on my trip, and reminisce at how awesome of a time it was, realizing almost instantly when I got back, that my life had been changed forever.
Yours in print,
Kyle Produces electronic music as well, which is separate from his camp experience.