While a number of the campers at Rock N Roll Fantasy camp got to play with some of their idols from their teen years, I had a chance to meet a guy who was quite helpful in my drumming skills early on. It wasn't like meeting Dave Grohl, Lars Ulrich, or Stewart Copeland, but I came to know who Sandy Gennaro was by Christmas 1994.
Sandy was featured on a VHS tape called Drum Basics 1, something my father got me for Christmas. I had started playing a drum set earlier that year and my dad thought the tape would be helpful. It was to a degree, but it was really designed for people that had never sat down behind a drum set before. The degree that was helpful involved playing straightforward beats as solidly as possible. That's something I still find a useful technique.
I had a chance to meet Sandy about seven years ago when he played with the Monkees at Billy Bob's. As I stood in line to get a picture with Mickey and Davy, Sandy walked by all sweaty and tired. I decided to let him pass and not geek out.
Flash forward to last summer and my editor at the Observer asks me if I'm interested in interviewing David Fishof from Rock N Roll Fantasy Camp. I saw that Sandy was a camp counselor and brought up my little story to David. He was quite impressed with the story and he brought it up when he introduced the two of us on Friday.
Luckily for me, I had the chance to have two lessons with Sandy, along with some of the other drummers in the camp. I never had a drum lesson in my life. I've always tapped along, watched other drums, and played to records (and played a lot of shows too). There's always room to improve with something you love, so I gladly took Sandy's advice on drumming. (Now to find a metronome at Guitar Center that won't remind me of the metronome we had over our home piano or the ones in the high school band hall.)
What I'm very happy about the experience of doing the camp was that my sixteen years of self-taught drumming, composition, and band relations have been incredibly valuable. And seeing how hard Sandy pounded his drum set, I'm glad to say that people always respond to when it's obvious you're playing your heart out.