Kids DJ Classes
A pair of schools provide two turntables and expert instruction for aspiring spinners.
Mon Nov 19 2007
Photograph: courtesy of DJ Academy
In an age when even CDs are becoming obsolete, kids are about as familiar with record players as we were with Victrolas. But that doesn't mean deejaying (scratching, beat matching and song mixing, not on-air radio hosting) is a dying art. With the rise of digital-to-analog programs like Traktor—which allow users to blend songs together on a computer in a way that comes out similar to vinyl—learning to spin has become easier than ever. Old-schoolers may grumble about digital's inferior sound quality, but aspiring DJs who don't want to lug around boxes of 12-inch albums need only a laptop to get the party started. Even better, whatever their age or ability, they can train at one of two Manhattan facilities. How to choose between them? Read on.
The first spinning school in the city, Scratch DJ Academy was founded by the late Jam Master Jay of Run-D.M.C. and Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk writer-producer Reg E. Gaines. Its current teaching staff includes top names in the hip-hop deejaying world. (Grand Wizard Theodore, said to be the pioneer of vinyl scratch deejaying, is a guest instructor.) Both newbies and veterans—up to 30 at a time—are welcome to gather round the turntables for lessons at Scratch's West Village building. Courses run for six- and ten-week stretches during the school year and weeklong intensive sessions over the summer, and include lessons in both deejaying and music production, here known as beat making. Beginners learn the traditional style of deejaying: scratching vinyl records to change the pattern and progression of the beat of one song in order to make a seamless transition to the next. Advanced DJs learn the more high-tech digital-to-analog program Serato Scratch Live, which converts MP3s to mixable music. And because classes are arranged according to skill level only, anyone age nine and over can sign up.
Photograph: courtesy of DubSpot
The year-old DubSpot gives children tall enough to see over the turntable the option of taking courses in deejaying and music production, plus extras like free practice time. Fifteen-year veteran DJ Robyn Rodgers, a.k.a. Reborn, who has performed with the likes of the Roots and John Legend, currently heads up DubSpot's kids' curriculum. The school earns points for capping its class size at eight students and for outfitting all its turntables with the easy-to-use Serato program. But it's the Youth Program that truly deserves a gold star: Eight-week sessions in both deejaying and music production are reserved specifically for kids 17 and under—all of whom graduate with a CD mix of their own music.