The Vai Academy 4.0 “Unlocking the Mystery of Music Theory & Technique” kick started my New Year in a serious way. Held from January 4-7 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Palm Springs, this installment of Steve’s annual guitar camp was the most fun yet, thanks in part to the all-star cast. In addition to hosting their own master classes, Steve Morse, Yngwie Malmsteen, and St. Vincent each joined Steve for insightful afternoon master classes, and inspirational evening concerts.

Steve’s camps are always a blast, but there was something truly special about this year. First and foremost, hearing Steve Vai teach about theory and technique was nothing short of amazing. Steve’s ability to make theory musical is uncanny, and he not only loves to teach, he’s really good at it – no surprise there!

Another thing that makes Steve’s camps so special is that every, and I mean every camper gets to jam with Steve. In looking at the photos, I’m always reminded about how much Steve enjoys doing this. To put this into perspective, these camps are four action packed days and nights of events and Steve spends hours jamming with the campers.

As you can see in the photos, Yngwie definitely brought the most amps, as well as “the fury”. I’ve never seen a YJM clinic before, so I’ll be the first to say this was totally awesome. Let’s face it, Yngwie pretty much wrote much of the book on shred as we know it, and it was great to see him share his wisdom and insights about the guitar, as well as get to hear him play in that environment. Everyone loved having him there, myself included. As a sad aside, I had the opportunity of picking up a then unknown Swedish guitar player at the airport when YJM first came to the U.S. in the 80’s and blew it off to stay home and practice. Obviously, I didn’t leave him hanging, and someone did pick him up!

This was also Steve Morse’s first camp with Dreamcatcher Events, who puts on the Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, Andy McKee, Tommy Emmanuel and a host of other guitar and songwriting camps. It was great to see Steve in a clinic environment again. He’s an incredibly well-studied and brilliant musician, but also has a down home sensibility that is always refreshing. And it was great see him and Mr. Vai trading riffs during their evening concert!

This was also St. Vincent’s first Dreamcatcher camp, and she was awesome. Her insightful masterclass was as fun as it was informative. Also of interest was how familiar the Vai Academy campers were with her material. I love the fact that she lives outside of the shred zone, but is still very much a guitar geek. She too steered the camp in great new direction and her joint masterclass and evening concert performance with Steve were equally awesome!

As usual, Thomas Nordegg’s masterclass on guitar maintenance and repair was totally packed out, and was 100% awesome. In case you didn’t know, Thomas worked with Frank Zappa for many years before becoming Steve’s right hand guitar man!

Other cool events included masterclasses with Miles Copeland, Sterling Ball, Dave Weiner and Philip Bynoe from Steve’s band, as well as Steve’s social media guru Andy Alt. Joining myself, Stig Mathisen, and Federico Miranda as teachers and jam room hosts was none other than my esteemed [GTR] colleague, Larry Mitchell. Everybody loves Larry (and his playing), and he was a great addition to the camp. I’ll add that it was also at the Dreamcatcher camps where I met Stig, chair of the guitar program at GIT, and now a contributor to [GTR] as well. I encourage you to check out the insightful columns from Larry and Stig in this issue.

For more information about the all the Dreamcatcher Events camps, please visit:


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