Guitar Center today announced Ramon Sampson as the winner of its Drum-Off, the search for the nation's top undiscovered drummer.
Performing in front of a capacity crowd this past Friday, January 8 at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, 19-year-old Ramon Sampson from Cordova, Tennessee beat out four other Drum-Off finalists from all across the country, winning a prize package worth more than $40,000 and earning the title of Guitar Center's Drum-Off champion.
Ramon was chosen by a panel of judges that featured some of today's most respected and distinguished drummers, including the legendary Peter Erskine (STEELY DAN), Taylor Hawkins (FOO FIGHTERS), Drew Hester (FOO FIGHTERS, JOE WALSH), Thomas Lang, Jason Sutter (CHRIS CORNELL), Kenny Aronoff (JOHN MELLENCAMP), John Tempesta (THE CULT), Tony Royster Jr. (JAY Z), Nisan Stewart (JAMIE FOXX, 50 CENT) and Ray Luzier (KORN).
The evening's competition was the culmination of months of local and regional competitions held at each of Guitar Center's 214 stores across the country — competitions that resulted in selecting the top five undiscovered drummers in the nation from nearly 5,000 competitors.
As Guitar Center's Drum-Off champion, Ramon takes home a grand prize package worth more than $40,000, including $25,000 cash, a Roland TD-25 electronic drum kit, a custom-designed drum kit by Tama, a set of custom signature cymbals from Zildjian, drum, stick, cymbal, and drum head endorsement deals as well as a feature in Modern Drummer magazine, along with a VIP appearance at NAMM 2010 and a Monster Energy drink-endorsement deal.
Guitar Center's Drum-Off finals, hosted by Stephen Perkins (JANE'S ADDICTION), also paid homage to the drum greats of past, present, and future and featured exclusive performances by many of today's drumming elite. The evening began with a collaboration by metal heavyweights Danny Carey (TOOL) and Brann Dailor (MASTODON), followed by the Drum-Off finals where the top five undiscovered drummers in the nation competed for the drum world's ultimate prize. Following the Drum-Off finals was an emotional performance by Jason Bonham and special guests Glenn Hughes (DEEP PURPLE) and Joe Bonamassa as they paid tribute to his father, the legendary John Bonham of LED ZEPPELIN. Next came a surprise performance from drum legend Billy Cobham, whose work with MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, Miles Davis, and Carlos Santana, as well as his own acclaimed solo work earned him the second induction in Guitar Center's Drum Legends of the night. Guitar Center's Drum-Off finals culminated in with MÖTLEY CRÜE's Tommy Lee and the STREET DRUM CORPS' Frank Zummo presentation of "Bezerk." The wild production, exclusively commissioned by Guitar Center, featured some of the world's most accomplished drummers, including a phenomenal duet by Max Weinberg (Bruce Springsteen's E-STREET BAND, NBC's "The Tonight Show") and his son Jay Weinberg, Chad Smith (RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS), Matt Sorum (GUNS N' ROSES, VELVET REVOLVER), José Pasillas (INCUBUS), Abe Cunningham (DEFTONES), DJ Aero, Sully Erna (GODSMACK), BANG! and more.
For Ramon Sampson, winning Guitar Center's Drum-Off is the result of his lifelong passion for music. Born in South Africa to a family of musicians, Ramon began drumming with his father at age two. By the time he was 14, he was touring South Africa, playing with his own jazz group, and studying at South Africa's prestigious National School of the Arts. In 2006, Ramon's family emigrated from South Africa to the U.S., and in 2007, he signed up for Drum-Off at his local Guitar Center. Ramon didn't make it past the preliminary rounds that year, but with much practice made it all the way to the Drum-Off finals the following year. This year, Ramon beat out over 4,000 other drummers from around the country in five rounds of intense competition, becoming Guitar Center's Drum-Off champion.
After winning the competition, Ramon is keeping his career options open, but is especially interested in educating other drummers about the craft. "I believe that in life if we are given a talent, it's meant for us to share with other people," Ramon said following his victory.
Like Guitar Center's other talent-search competitions King of the Blues and On-Stage, Drum-Off is part of Guitar Center's ongoing mission to provide emerging artists and musicians with career-altering opportunities and vehicles to achieve success. Now in its 21st year, the Drum-Off is more than just a competition to find the most technically skilled drummers from around the country. The event is designed to seek out the most passionate, innovative and authentic drummers and give them a shot at stardom. For example, previous Drum-Off winners Tony Royster Jr. and Cora "CC" Dunham have gone on to perform with stars like JAY Z and PRINCE, respectively.