From hip-hop parties in the Bronx to all-night techno raves in Berlin, the DJ revolution has emerged from an underground culture to encompass every genre of music in nearly every part of the world. And now, anyone can train to be the life of the party with some lessons in scratching records at New York's DJ schools. break With complex skills and complicated equipment, DJing can seem a bit overwhelming to the novice looking to master the turntables. Luckily, in the past decade, starting with schools like the Scratch DJ Academy (434 Sixth Ave., between 9th and 10th streets), which was founded in 2002 by old-school legend Jam Master Jay of Run DMC, DJ schools have been popping up all over the city to cater to the needs of both beginning and professional mixmasters. Another popular destination for many DJ students is Dubspot (348 W. 14th St. between 8th and 9th avenues). A small space tucked away in the Meatpacking District, it is equipped with the latest gear for electronic-music production, from standard Technics turntables to Pioneer CDJs. The founders of the school have traversed the DJ scene themselves, both working the turntables and managing massive venues like the famous Crobar. This professionalism and knowledge shows in their teaching approach. "It's more than just the technical skills," co-founder Dan Giove said, "there's a philosophical aspect that comes with it, too. It's less about competition and more about sharing music." At a beginner's class I visited, the wide range of students reflected Dubspot's inclusiveness. An Italian man in a business suit proclaimed his conversion to hip-hop from European house music. A young, professional bass player wanted to learn to DJ so she could spin between her band's sets at gigs. Young teenagers who had never touched a turntable and older cats looking to brush up on skills lost years ago shared the same classroom. Just like lessons for any musical instrument, Dubspot's curriculum includes a combination of technique and musical theory—except instead of hitting keys on a piano, you're scratching vinyl on a turntable. "Music is a spiritual experience," instructor DJ Solis told the class, "and DJing is just another way to tap into that. It's the modern-day guitar." The most recent DJ school to open, In The Mix DJ School offers an additional benefit for some students—it gives lessons in both Spanish and English, making DJ lessons even more accessible to the city's residents. DJ Creme, the founder of In The Mix DJ School, is the only Spanish-speaking Pioneer national demonstrator and partnered with Pioneer to open the DJ school. In The Mix's location in Belleville, N.J. (335 Cortlandt St.) has not hindered its success, with students traveling for two hours or more just to study with an international DJ such as DJ Creme. Getting rid of vinyl and only teaching on CDJs, as is the current industry standard, In The Mix maintains a forward-thinking approach when it comes to the evolving technology on the scene. "You have to grow with the new era or you'll be left behind," said DJ Creme. The latest trend in the DJing world is the use of visuals and music videos running simultaneously with the DJ set, commonly known as VJing. Both Dubspot and In The Mix have already begun to incorporate VJing classes as well as classes in music production into their expanding and diverse curricula. Whether your interest lies in turntabalism, electronic music production, or just mixing party music for your friends, these DJ schools can help find the music in you.
Columbia Spectator Staff