Students are going back to school across the city — and that includes at Scratch DJ Academy, the disc jockey instructional institution founded by the late Jam Master Jay of Run-D.M.C. fame.
amNewYork spoke with the Scratch Group’s chief operating officer Colin Kelly to talk about why, in an age of auto-mix computer programs, aspiring DJs should head back to the classroom.
Equipment advances and computers seem to have made being a DJ much easier than in the two-turntables-and-a-mixer days. Why would an aspiring DJ want to take classes?
That, to me, is a great example why you would want somebody to help you navigate. The tools are ever-changing. We have experts here that are current on whatever the industry standard tools are of the moment. We have a lot of students who took classes years ago who want to master something new, or they bought a new controller and they want to understand how to use it. Some tools are more plug and play, but there’s really a difference between actively DJing, doing what you learn to do in the classes, and putting playlists together and hitting auto-mix.
Scratch put out a book in 2009 (“On the Record”). What’s changed for you since then as a school?
What we’ve mainly seen is that what once was something like a cool hobby — maybe they were taking DJ lessons for a month, and then were taking photography lessons in two months — now it’s become something that people are actively looking to be trained in because they want to pursue it as a career, or a second career. They’re approaching it from a more vocational standpoint as opposed to it being a fun thing to do for a few weeks.
What’s the biggest trait for aspiring DJs to take from the career of Jam Master Jay?
I think Jay always saw DJing as an art form — something to be treated as its own entity. When you talk to DJs who have taken the art form in all different directions today, people like A-Trak, that’s what they would look back and say — he was one of the first to honor the art form as an art form. That was a big reason why he was so into the idea of a school, where people could learn. It would be quite cool to see what he thought of what some of the boundary-pushing DJs today are doing.
For more information on Scratch DJ Academy, go to academy.scratch.com.