Friday, August 21, 2009

Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Scratch DJ Academy

Lest anyone think that the learning I just completed at Scratch DJ Academy was only about how to rule the turntables, let me correct that misconception. Among the things I learned from the experience:
  1. If you have a passion and a bit of a dream (it doesn't have to be in full focus), go for it when you're young.

  2. Corollary to #1: If you have a passion and a bit of a dream (it doesn't have to be in full focus), pursue it at any age
  3. You're never too old to rock and roll.

  4. Don't be embarrassed by what you can't do yet or by what you don't know yet. Be embarrassed only by what you wanted to do or know and never bothered to pursue.

  5. Real learning (as opposed to simply memorizing facts) is hard work. It often calls for creating new brain pathways and for exercising parts of the brain that might otherwise atrophy. So it's always good to learn.

  6. Every person needs to have a personal advisory council. That council needs to have enablers (who are going to tell you to "go for it"), muses (who inspire creativity), realists (who are going to ask "you're planning to do WHAT?"), cheerleaders (who will cheer you on), and funders (thanks again to my homies for the birthday gift of DJ Academy tuition!). Probably other roles, too. On the occasion of completing this course, I send out love to all my advisers.
  7. Leave prejudices and stereotypes behind, especially when choosing mentors or teachers for yourself. My teachers and advisers for this recent journey included males and females, as well as every race, nationality, socio-economic group, religion & age. Some are people that, before this experience, I would have likely gone out of my way to avoid were I to see them on a dark Manhattan street. Were it not for them, I would have missed out on some life lessons about what teaching really is. And would have missed meeting some incredible human beings, each one a true mentsch.

There is a lot for me to learn. About DJ'ing and about life. I am blessed with great teachers, advisers, mentors and guides. I wish you the same.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Notorious R.A.V.'s DJ Journal - #6: The Graduation

The last class of DJ 101 is over, and I have received my certificate of completion. In the last two classes, some new skills have been taught and learned.
In addition to Noumenon's teaching, DJ Carnage has been particularly helpful. During one class, as I struggled with coordinating left and right hands, learning chops and such moves, he stood at my turntables, and stuck by me for close to ten minutes, refusing to give up on me. Carnage is pretty good at the DJ thing. He looks tough and has a rather large key medallion dangling. In short, he walks the walk. Yet here he is, the real deal, and he's standing around stubbornly coaching a middle aged white guy who probably doesn't even belong in this room. And he coaches and teaches. Damn, he's good. And after class is long over, he, like Noumenon, Rob Swift, and Tim Martell, accepts my friend request on My Space.

The class has thinned out. Early in the course, nearly every turntable was filled. By the end, about half, perhaps less, are left standing. For the most part, we didn't know one another, but we instantly recognize one another and know that we have persevered.

Homework, since the start of the course was to come up with a DJ name. I am called on first. Yes, I am The Notorious R.A.V. The class loves is. Since I was first, I had no way of realizing that most others would explain their names. So I didn't have the chance to tell them that RAV is rabbi and that, surprise, I'm likely the first rabbi to attend Scratch DJ Academy. The other names are all great. Some are in other languages, some reflect character traits. But, through sheer survival, and some emerging skills, we've earned the right to name ourselves. Noumenon notes that this is far from his first name. As he's grown professionally, well, we doesn't want to be still known as the same person who was once far less sophisticated in his work than he is now. We're novices, although some are farther along while others are less advanced.

As the last class goes on, the discussions revolve around what to do next. For some, it's the next course, in which students prepare to actually perform a set. For others, it's adding digital sound to the scratching and spinning. For me and a few others, it will be about buying some used equipment, practicing what we know, picking up a few new skills on You Tube videos, and then coming back to the Academy in another semester or so.
It's been a great six week course (plus the one freebie demo class that Debbie and I took). We still get to go to the Academy to practice for another few weeks, but now, for those of us who made it, it's on to the next hurdle.