When Orianthi stepped into Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp’s studio to play with the bands during GP’s “Ultimate Musicians Camp” on February 16, she probably didn’t expect to see a shy ten-year-old holding an Ibanez JEM7V on the stage. But there was Ben Bluestein, standing beside fellow bandmates decades older than him. Orianthi couldn’t have known that Bluestein had already surprised former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony with a spot-on rendition of “Eruption,” brought a smile to Eric Johnson’s face, wowed Steve Vai, and had reduced the always cool, no-B.S. rock icon Joe Perry to shaking his head in amazement.
So when the drummer clicked the sticks, and the camp band launched into its song, it didn’t take Orianthi long to marvel at Bluestein, walk over to the preteen, and play right at him. The friendly “duel” lasted almost ten minutes. It was awesome.
How a ten-year-old comes up with the desire and dedication to get his technique honed to such a staggering level is a head-scratcher, and you won’t get many answers from Bluestein, who is polite and reserved with a hint of a wild streak.
“I started playing guitar because of the ladies,” says Bluestein, eyes barely peeking out from under his bangs. “But I also liked hearing Paul Gilbert, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads, and Zakk Wylde, and I wanted to play like them. I loved their licks.”
Bluestein started playing at seven years old—there must have been some hot chicks in his classroom—and immediately devoured instruction from his guitar teacher, Jeff Sprayberry, as well as studying YouTube videos of his favorite guitarists. The dedication initially ran deep, as Bluestein’s father confirms the guitarist would spend nearly eight hours a day practicing in between school and other pursuits.
“I don’t hit it that hard all the time anymore,” says Bluestein, whose rig also includes an EVH 5150 III amp, a PRS Custom 24, an Ernie Ball/Music Man Axis (with D-Tuna), and a Taylor GS Mini. “But I wanted to be really good at Rock Camp, so I worked it.”
Frightening technique is one thing, but everyone at Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp also wondered how Bluestein could be so comfortable, confident, and accommodating around other players way into their 40s, 50s, and beyond.
“I’ve never played music with someone my own age,” he shrugs. “I always play with much older musicians. That’s just the way it is.”