School of Rock: Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp

A woman over 40 attends rock and roll fantasy camp

By Katherine Lanpher

How Do You Get To The House Of Blues?
Winger stands in front of us in jeans, a T-shirt and an old denim jacket. "Being in a band is all about telepathy," he says. "Even more than the music."
I look around and realize that I don’t even know everyone’s name. The room is pinging with sound: the sharp squawks of electric guitars, some mellow notes from a keyboard and the beats and brushes from a set of drums. How am I supposed to communicate telepathically with men who seem more interested in communing with their instruments?
Winger says we should be able to go through a song and know exactly what the other person is doing without looking. We should hear the notes in our head before a single instrument is played. As he talks, he bounces a large rubber ball.
"When the ball hits the ground — that’s when you begin," he says, holding it aloft.
The ball hits the floor and five guitars, a bass, two drum sets and one keyboard launch into the opening chords of the Who’s "The Kids Are Alright."
"Not quite there," Winger says.
Bounce. Music. Again.
Bounce. Music. Again.
The ball disappears. So does our reticence. Gradually, personalities emerge.
I dub Steve Kaminer, 39, our alpha guitarist. He was five when he strapped on a guitar and announced that he was going to be a rock star; now he’s a real estate broker.
Martin Guy Haines, 60, jokes that he sounds like he only had one hour of guitar experience before camp. A divorced divorce attorney, he is recovering from double knee replacement surgery, and camp is his reward. He gets more than he bargained for when Winger decides that, as well as playing guitar, Haines should sing lead.
Cayea and I back up Haines on harmony. When we are moved to another studio, a seedy, second-story room with a roof deck, the three of us stand with our backs to the Hollywood sign. We practice over and over, mostly because I’m finding it difficult to hit and hold my notes, which wobble away from me like marbles on a floor.
Hap Pomerantz, 49, is our keyboardist and a friend of Kaminer’s. He plays in a band back home in Florida, and you can tell from his comments that he tends to forget who is in charge. One night, he offers to show me a video his wife took of the previous day’s rehearsal; he’d be glad to give me some pointers.
A look of horror crosses my face, and I explain my new personal theory of rock ‘n’ roll performance: suspended disbelief. I’m singing only because I think I can. If you show me what I really look and sound like, I’ll never sing again.
As he walks away, I reflect on the fact that if we were in an office setting, I would have torn his face off. Instead, my usual defensiveness is replaced with amusement, because we all just want to make good music. We even change our name to Vulcan Mind Squeeze for the moment of silence that occurs when we gather our thoughts before bursting into sound on the same note, at the same time.
I think that’s called telepathy.
So You Wanna Be A Star?
The first day of rehearsals, Mickey Hart, the drummer for the Grateful Dead, drops by. The next day, it’s Neal Schon, the guitarist from Journey. But it’s on our last day of rehearsals that we hit celebrity jackpot. Lisa Loeb walks in, followed by Tommy Shaw from Styx. I find myself dancing and singing two feet from Daltrey. Finally, all four members of Cheap Trick arrive, and we do another rendition of Paul McCartney’s "Live and Let Die."
Kaminer starts the song and then hands it off to me.
But if this ever-changing world
In which we live in
Makes you give in and cry
But when it’s time for the next line, I hold the mic out and look Cheap Trick singer Robin Zander in the eye. "C’mon, big fella," I think. Zander obliges and sings, "Say live and let die!"
There’s a wall of guitar sound as Kaminer leaps into the air. I grab the microphone back from Zander.
Say live and let die!
The horns blare, we move to the song’s reggae bridge and the studio pulses with music. Before I know it, the song is over. On his way out, Zander tells us, "You guys are great!"
Don’t tell me I can’t sing.
Once, I Was In This Band . . .

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