Section: Arts

Horn’s DJ workshops turn tables with student instructors

by Elana Spivack

Many Kenyon students have strutted into an Old Kenyon party and slid into a groove courtesy of the DJ at work, whose job is not as easy as you may think. DJing is more than lining up tracks for partygoers to dance to. The Horn Gallery is currently offering workshops to teach students how to DJ and mix their own masterpieces. Over the decades, DJing has spawned subgenres such as varieties of electronic dance music (EDM), dubstep, house music and more.

Co-manager of the Horn Sonia Prabhu ’16 came up with the idea when she and others at a Horn meeting mentioned how rarely the Horn’s sophisticated DJ equipment gets used. Prabhu thought a DJ workshop would both be a good way to use the equipment while enriching students’ skills.

Nate Sloan ’16 and David Hanna ’18 are slated to teach the workshop. Both have around five years of DJ experience under their belt. Aspiring DJs can download a variety of free sound-mixing software, from GarageBand to VirtualDJ, an MP3 mixing software that allows DJs to play their music on the computer. Hanna began experimenting with these programs the summer before ninth grade  while Sloan started during his senior year of high school. They currently DJ on-campus parties and Hanna occasionally gets booked at clubs in Cleveland.

Sloan and Hanna encourage students to experiment at the workshops, even if they have no experience. The two plan to teach the technical side of DJing and its equipment before exploring its compositional side. “I’d say the method that would be good to stick to [is] getting people to learn the science of DJing and then learning the art,” Hanna said. “Before people start really working with equipment, they’re learning what they’re aiming to be doing with that equipment, rather than blindly throwing them in.”

Sloan said he may project his tracks on VirtualDJ, and students on laptops can follow along. He and Hanna hope the workshop can culminate in a DJ recital and a fresh supply of DJs on campus.

Prabhu said one purpose of the workshop was to attract minorities, because the DJ industry is dominated by white males. The promotional email the Horn sent out welcomed all students, but particularly encouraged those, the email read, “from a demographic group typically marginalized in the dj community (you identify as female, femme, trans, non binary, LGBTQ, are a student of color, or have a disability), or don’t have access to dj software and equipment.”

Prabhu, Hanna and Sloan all pointed out that the DJ industry about 20 years ago was largely influenced by gay men. Sloan cited an article from DJ publication Thump that described the origins of house music. “[The Warehouse] was the name of a gay club in Chicago where Frankie Knuckles played disco music with a drum machine and created house music,” Sloan said.

These workshops offer another outlet for creativity on Kenyon’s campus, and even promotes a marketable skill, Prabhu said. “It’s empowering to create something that people are moved by and can decompress to.”

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