Are you ready to go the distance? I was – for the second time. Philadelphia was holding down the low end the weekend of March 13-15 when bassists from around the world converged on the Crowne Plaza in West Philadelphia to take part in Gerald Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp. Established in 2002, BBC has built an excellent staff of instructors who are well-respected professional musicians, and provide a fun, informative experience for the hundreds of campers who have attended since the first camp.
This year, the instructional staff was superb. Anthony Wellington, a perennial favorite instructor, was back to teach theory. Oteil Burbridge led a terrific session on “The Three Views of an Interval.” Chico Huff led an educational (and humbling) sight reading session. Rob Smith walked us through how to create a groove one beat (or rest) at a time. Rich Waller and Joe Aranda hauled in the drums and demonstrated how a 4/4 beat could be interpreted to a variety of different musical styles. Liam Wilson taught us about bassline construction for metal. Gerald Veasley led classes on practice techniques and Adam Nitti taught Intervals. Master Classes were led by Norm Stockton, Doug Wimbish, and Oteil Burbridge.
Saturday at camp also featured a gear expo for campers which was open to the public. The hotel’s ballroom was crammed full of some of the biggest names in bass gear with Michael Tobias Design, Phil Jones Bass, Epifani, Zon Guitars, Ibanez, La Bella Strings, Tec Amp, Lathon Bass Wear, Roscoe Guitars, Bass Specialties, and others on hand to display their wares. There were basses to play, amps to test, and all kinds of bass-related goodies to feed our Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS).
Every BBC weekend features a themed concert put on by the instructional staff, and this year was no different. Instructors choose a song by the theme artist or artists and develop their own arrangements. This year’s theme was The Music of Sting and Stanley Clarke. For almost two hours, I sat on the floor at the front of the ballroom shooting photos of the performance and heard some of the most beautiful music ever written. Among my favorite arrangements were Rob Smith, Chico Huff, and Pete Skjold playing Message in a Bottle and Anthony Wellington, Oteil Burbridge, Rich Waller, and “Weas” with a stunning arrangement of Shape of My Heart.
To close out the Bass Boot Camp weekend, campers participate in a fun little graduation exercise called “Groove Exam,” where we get to choose a little piece of music and play along for a couple minutes with Rich Waller on drums. This year I did better than the first year I attended, but it’s still a sure way to introduce giant flocks of butterflies in my stomach. Butterflies are a great way to usher in spring, though. Right?
My two experiences with Gerald Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp have been incredibly inspiring to me as a musician; as a photographer (check out some of the photos here); and especially as a person. I’ve met some of the kindest, sweetest, most talented people and formed some amazing friendships. I’ve witnessed the growth and development of fellow campers as bassists and experienced it myself. Boot Camp weekend has become one of my “must do” events every year. It’s a great program run by terrific people who want to share the enrichment of music with others. One of the best examples of this is the annual scholarship awarded to a young musician to attend the camp. This year’s scholarship winner was Emma Bello, and she rocked it!
If you’re a bassist, you should seriously consider signing up to attend this camp. Experience level doesn’t matter – there’s something for everyone at every level. The dates are already set for 2016 and early registration is already open. You won’t be sorry. As one of my fellow campers and first time BBC participant Steve Smith said, “I have never engaged in anything that I wanted to do 24 hours per day. The BBC came close (about 16), and the more I participated in, the more fun and educational it was. You will never have an opportunity to immerse yourself in music theory and bass performance with 8 accomplished, professional bassists for an entire weekend anywhere else.”
Thank you to Gerald Veasley, Roxanne Veasley, Lee Patterson and the Bass Boot Camp staff and faculty for a wonderful experience.
Special thanks, as well, to the sponsors who helped make this rewarding experience possible:
We all appreciate the sponsorship and the donations of wonderful swag that was given away throughout the weekend.