Here’s a great testimony about this years and last years Vai Academy!
“(I wrote this on the plane ride home and just have not had time to post until now.) In comparing the two Vai Academy’s based on the lucky happenstance of being able to go to both, I have a few reflections to share with you.
1. I genuinely wish more people who were at this first academy were able to attend at this second academy. I think you would have all had a great time. A chance to hang out with everyone and make new friends is such a crucial part of these camps, so to all of you that I met at the first year, your absence was very notable to me. I especially missed my super far away Australian and New Zealand friends. Not to take anything away from the dozen or so of us who returned, it was awesome to see them all again and I know they all had a great time too! I think we will always think of the first Vai Camp as a phenomenal experience. That being said, meeting even more fellow guitar nuts and shredders is a great thing, and its amazing to watch these communities of new friends grow. Maybe they should merge these pages?!? LOL!
2. I think it’s fair to say that this year’s Vai academy did not feel as “international” – yes, there were many people from all around the world, plenty of great happy Canadians (LOL!), but not “as many.” Another contrast to the first year, The bars were closed insanely early in Vail, (most closed at midnight, but you can walk really far for a bar that was open until 2) so there was no all night drinking with Guthrie at this year’s camp. Not that they need the money, but had those Vail bars stayed open, many a camper would have ended each day with several cold beers and reflect on the incredible fortune of being in the presence of guitar legends.
3. The open jam rooms were phenomenal and sounded better than at our first camp. Closed rooms, and better guitar amps helped. Thanks to the great vibe provided by the various hosts, (I primarily stayed in M.I. Director Stig Mathieson’s room) it was a fantastic place to stretch out your chops and learn something new at the same time. The topics taught this year, “all about your guitar” were excellent and I learned a lot that I didn’t know. (The head luthier from PRS guitars brought a dizzying amount of different woods… so on second thought, I may in fact be more confused than I was about that topic …. LOL! but It was awesome.) Meeting Larry Dimarzio and asking him questions was a real privilege. A little awkward reminder that you have to “be someone” to get a custom built Ibanez. Gotta get more practicing in if you want something like that!! You will all see the movie that Steve had made about a custom built Jem… it was total reality TV. Maybe thats where all the constant video footage is going to wind up…. (gasp!)
4. The Dreamcatcher Event staff seemed more confident and organized at this Vail camp then Saratoga, but they also welcomed volunteers and were great about any questions you may have. They were just as friendly, helpful and kind as in the first year. We did a lot more guitar playing this year than the first, but we also came away with different merch – no signed certificates, but ditto pedals, pedalboards and a bag of goodies. The signing session was accented with cool merch for sale, which hopefully will expand even more next year. I think the group picture will be very different than our Saratoga group.
5. The scenery was nothing short of majestic, and once you got used to the altitude, Vail was absolutely magic. I found a little mountain stream just beneath a mountain and was totally hypnotized with the beauty of Colorado… it totally worked in line with Steve’s Isoterics ;-)~ (except I really want to just be there again now….and now… and now…. LOL! (no I didn’t smoke anything that was legal in Colorado. I would probably pass right out.)
6. There were some incredible guitarists at this year’s camp, (just like the first year) and many local guitarists from Denver and all over Colorado and the American west in general were very well represented. One thought I noted while I was there I think we all need to be bringing the next generations of guitarists up to these camps, its an amazing community of guitarists that is being exposed to such positive energy from these camps. Got my 3 year old a mini guitar for christmas. Crossing my fingers and hoping that it “takes”. It may not be his path, it may be. Either way, I want to bring him with me everywhere – I missed him terribly just being away a week. FaceTime lessened it, but I could feel him missing me and I didn’t like that too much.
7. Steve Vai. He’s an incredibly compassionate and kind human being. He made sure everyone who wanted to play with him could play, (and some didn’t – they were too intimidated) and yet he was gracious as always. His advice and topics he addressed in 3 different q&a’s were amazingly inspiring. Its impossible to quantify if he is playing better, but Steve was absolutely blazing in my eyes. Steve is totally in love with his band too, and for good reason, they were just as magnificent in Vail as they were in Saratoga. Jeremy has a baby on the way next week! I know the incredible awe of that moment. In all, I think these camps mean just as much to the professionals like Steve & his band, Eric and Sonny as they do to the campers. Lastly I think Steve really enjoyed himself, and he seemed a little more at ease than the first year. Steve didn’t get an autographed guitar this year like he did in Saratoga. It was a different camp. Beautiful Camp, but different, but certainly not in a bad way.
Not necessarily a summary… but beautiful. wink emoticon NEXT STOP NEXT YEAR – California!!!! HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!!!!”
-Tom Atkins, Albany, NY