How Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp Works

There's not a music lover among us who wouldn't dream of having The Who's Roger Daltrey give him pointers on guitar.
There's not a music lover among us who wouldn't dream of having The Who's Roger Daltrey give him pointers on guitar.
Photo by Jennifer Hammer, courtesy Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp

We've all been there. At a party. In the shower. Vacuuming the rug. A song comes on the radio, or screams out of an iPod or video. It's not just any song, but THE song; the best song ever, or at least for that moment. You stop what you're doing. You break out the air guitar and make like Tom Cruise in "Risky Business."

It can't get any better. The stage is yours. Every note is melodious and on key. Hundreds, nay thousands of screaming fans want to be you. The bright lights are hot, but so is fame. You can handle it. You're Elvis in Hawaii; The Boss at the Meadowlands; the Go-Go's at The Paramount. Okay, maybe not the Go-Go's.

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WAKE UP! IT'S ONLY A FANTASY ... or is it?

Whether you're strumming the classic intro to The Who's "Pinball Wizard," or wailing AC/DC's "Back in Black" into a faux microphone, there's not a music lover among us who didn't want to get on stage with their favorite rock group and play just one song.

Fourteen years ago, David Fishof, a one-time sports promoter turned music industry insider, wanted to make such rock 'n' roll dreams come true. So, Fishof, who has worked with the Monkees and Ringo Starr, created the Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp so ordinary people could learn the ins and outs of writing and performing music from high-profile rock star counselors.

Fishof organized the first camp in Miami in 1997. He lost a ton of money, he says, but revived the idea five years later. Suddenly, people were signing up, hoping to check one thing off their Bucket List [source: Rohter].

Since that time, people have been spending up to $10,000 for five-day and night jam sessions with musicians including legendary Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, and Roger Daltrey of The Who [source: Peters]. The camp's motto is simple: "To bring musical fantasies to life."

It's All About the Music

Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp isn't like playing Rock Band on your Wii. It's working alongside some of the greats in the business, including The Who's Roger Daltrey, seen here.
Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp isn't like playing Rock Band on your Wii. It's working alongside some of the greats in the business, including The Who's Roger Daltrey, seen here.
Photo by Jennifer Hammer, courtesy Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp

They come to the Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp from all over the world, and from different lifestyles. Surgeons, CEOs, students, stay-at-home moms -- even Homer Simpson. Some are trying to recapture the glory days of playing in their high school garage bands. Others sang in the church choir or just played guitar to no one in particular. Still others have never pounded a drum or keyed a piano in the lives. They can't carry a tune in a bag.

Make no mistake: Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp isn't like playing "Rock Band" on your Nintendo Wii. It's Abbey Road Studios, it's the House of Blues, and CBGBs. It's working alongside some of the greats in the business, including Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Slash of Guns N' Roses [source: Rohter].

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Each Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp, RRFC, for short, is limited to 70 people and takes place a few times a year in different locations. Camps have been hosted in London, Tokyo, Hollywood and New York City.

Whatever the venue, when you arrive, you will have to audition. After all, this is rock 'n' roll. Once counselors determine your ability, they'll divide you into bands of six or seven with similar talent, or non-talent, as the case may be. Each group is paired with a professional musician. During the opening night party, each band will perform a song. Later, the counselors take to the stage. As the week goes on, campers learn to write and play their own music. During the last night, everyone, no matter how good or bad, performs in front of a live audience in a sort of battle of the camper bands competition [source: Luna].

Playing an instrument is not a prerequisite for the camp. After all, this is a fantasy. Classes are based on an individual's skill. At the London camp in 2007, Spike Edney from Queen was able to lead a group of beginners to victory in the battle of the bands competition. Some campers with no musical experience just come to play the tambourine and sing backup vocals. It doesn't really matter. Either way, you'll be with your rock star heroes from the first to the last day. Moreover, you'll have the opportunity to learn from other counselors at night and in special-themed jam rooms [source: RockCamp.com].

Rock of Ages

During the last night, everyone, no matter how good or bad, performs in front of a live audience.
During the last night, everyone, no matter how good or bad, performs in front of a live audience.
Photo by Jennifer Hammer, courtesy Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp

For the more experienced, there is the rigorous Master's Program. On the first day, each Master's Program wannabe will audition. As with the other campers, those in the Master's Program will be placed in a band based on their audition. Returning campers get a pass. Counselors will place them according to past performances [source: RockCamp.com].

Then it's on to Jam City, population you. For 10 hours a day, you'll play as if you've never played before. Campers get to record an original song. In London, campers went to the famed Abbey Road Studios made famous by The Beatles. The camp even has a Young Rockers Program for children ages 12 through 16 who have desire to learn how to play. The kids will join the adults on stage [source: RockCamp.com].

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You can bring your own gear and instruments. If you left your Stratocaster at home, don't fret. The camp will provide everything you need. You and your band will work long and hard. Every chord, every vocal, has to be just right, or as close to right as a bunch of novice rockers can get. You'll spend 10 to 12 hours a day jamming. You will also have a chance to play with other counselors and campers who are not in your band [source: RockCamp.com].

By the fifth day, rehearsals are over. It's showtime for real. Each group gets on stage and performs. This isn't a makeshift stage in the middle of the woods. No, this is a bona fide, packed house. In Hollywood 2005, the performance was held at the House of Blues. In New York, it was B.B. King's Blues Club and Grill. Wives, children, husbands, parents, friends, strangers will crowd into the seats to watch you live a dream. At the end of the night, the awards are given, and a new best band is crowned [source: McDonald].

The memories, and hopefully the skills, you learn at the Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp will stay with you a lifetime, just like those woebegone days at summer camp when you were a kid.

Author's Note

If I had a rock 'n' roll dream, and I do, it would be to play with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band in front of a packed Madison Square Garden. It could be any song, but I think I would like to jam with The Boss on "Badlands." Bruce, are you listening? As you once sang "is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse."

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Sources

  • Luna, Kristin. "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp." Travel Channel. (June 10, 2012) http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/arts-and-culture/articles/rock-n-roll-fantasy-camp
  • McDonald, Jeff. "So you want to be a rock star?" San Diego Union Tribune. May 15, 2005. (June 10, 2012) http://rockcamp.com/docs/San_Diego_Union_Tribune.pdf
  • Peters, Mitchell. "6 Questions with David Fishof." Billboard. Feb. 4, 2018. (June 10, 2012) http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/industry/news/e3icbd2c8cfc3453e2c6650628a209997e8
  • Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp.com. "What is Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp?" (June 10, 2012) http://www.rockcamp.com/about.php
  • Rohter, Larry. "Rock Stars for a Night, and For a Price." The New York Times. Jan. 18, 2011. (June 10, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/19/arts/music/19fantasy.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1339420375-PtSi4wyaaPYBDs0zBryENQ