I attended the Metalworks "First Annual Drum Festival" on the weekend and came away more than impressed with both the event and the Metalworks school*.
The day started at 10 am, although I arrived for the 1:00 session with Chris Lesso. Sessions were held in the school’s two auditoriums, which are laid out and equipped much like TV studios. Chris was demonstrating “Rhythm in Motion” in the North Auditorium, and his playing was suitably impressive. This was followed by Nathan McLaren showing the latest goodies in Roland electronic drums. Again, an impressive performance shot through with a thorough demonstration of the virtual set's capabilities -- a very exciting instrument.
Then off to the South Auditorium for a clinic titled 'Odd Things' with Metalworks instructor Dave Patel. As Dave explained, odd time signatures are only part of the story. He then proceeded to amaze the audience with a stream of polyrhythms accompanied by plenty of explanation.
I felt the need of a dinner break at this point, so I missed much of “Real Life Drums” with Chris Sutherland -- an overview of playing in a recording situation. I managed to catch the tail end of it though, and was very impressed.
Then it was time for the guest of honour. One of the goals of the event was to highlight and recognize people who have made a significant contribution to the craft. The first honouree was (my teacher) Jim Blackley. Now 85, Jim seems to be coming into his own as a drum celebrity. The presentation was punctuated by a tribute from Dave Patel (also a Blackley student).
The day wrapped up with a clinic featuring Gavin Harrison. I'd seen a number of youtube videos of Gavin, and was prepared to see some amazing stuff. And he certainly blew us all away with his playing. But what made this the single most enjoyable and beneficial drum clinic I've ever attended was the man's openness and honesty, complemented by well thought out answers, a rigorous musical philosophy and a riotously good sense of humour. Had he played nothing at all, it would have been worth paying to attend. Given that this was a free event and Gavin presented for more than an hour and a half, I'd say the value of the day was immeasurable.
Be sure to watch for future events event. If you contact Metalworks, they'll put you on their emailing list.
* Metalworks Institute is an accredited Ontario college, so start dusting off up those RESPs.