Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recordheadz: Community Projects...With Class

Now that we are done with the "big sale" it is time to start working on the RecordHeadz community projects. I am interested in developing DJ and music production classes or workshops that can be offered to school aged kids and young adults. There are lots of programs already developed and being used in larger cities. Here in Seattle, groups like WAPIFASA and (206)ZULU have been doing variations on the workshop theme for years.

I was hoping to design an actual curriculum that could augment an existing music class or operate in place of one. The cultural phenomena that is "deejaying" has spanned five decades...from the radio station personality just putting on a record--one after another to the modern DJ, working with laptops, samplers, two turntables, and the "kitchen sink".

Shomari (Shonuph) and I have both worked extensively with kids in various community programs. Informally we have used our knowledge of music and hip-hop culture as a bridge between the programs objectives and the interest of the kids. The need and desire is there...but not the funding or the time. Most school classrooms past the 9Th grade are crammed full of testing based activities that leave little room for outside music programs to come in and borrow the teachers precious time.

I think that for now, our targets will be:

  • After school programs within the community
  • Group homes and youth centers
  • Middle Schools and Alternative High schools
  • Late night programs
I'm really excited to work with the "at risk youth" and there are lots of great programs here in Seattle like Youthcare's Orion Center, Ryther Childcare, Seattle Children's home...etc that targets street involved and youth at risk for drug abuse, crime, and other social issues.

I will be updating this idea as I learn more. I have been contacting the DJ's I already know and have also made contact with many new ones on Facebook and Myspace. I am asking folks to share their knowledge about DJ and music production curriculum.

Another focus I have is how to outreach to women (of all ages) and get them involved with Deejaying and musical production. Just think...if 10% of all producers and deejays were women...what would music (especially Hip-Hop) sound like? What if that number was 50%? As women seem to be 50% of the subject matter in today's hip-hop and R&B music (the other half being the latest dance moves, high priced intoxicants, cars, clothing, self praise, and the need to "represent" for various crews and neiborhoods) I think that they should be better represented in all forms of the music industry. Even if 25% of the deejays were women, I think that it would have a dynamic effect on what is popular...what is played...and what is acceptable for men to say within the hip-hop culture.

We are planning to have a once a month class at the Electric Tea Garden sometime in April. I would like to do some weekly classes in the summer when school is out. We will probably find another location for that...Jefferson Park Community Center...Miller Community Center are the first that come to my mind. Right now we are trying to collect equipment: turntables, mixers, headphones, needles, and of course vinyl. It helps if we have music close to the type that the kids are already listening to...my hip-hop crates stop at about 2004-5.

The questions I have are:
  • What is the skillset a begining DJ needs to have to get started?
  • What is the basic vocabulary?
  • Who are the iconic DJ's that should be used as an example?
  • Should digital DJ formats (CDR or Serato) be introduced right away?
  • How log should each session be?
  • How often should a class meet?
  • What are things a student can work on WITHOUT a turntable at home?
  • Should they learn basic audio (signal path, cabling, routing, eq'ing)?
  • When should scratching be introduced?
  • What is the best way to teach mixing, beat matching, and blending?
I could go on...but I wont. If you have any questions or ideas feel free to comment on this posting or email me at recordheadz@gmail.com

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