Thursday, October 9, 2008

Upcoming DJ workshop at Big City Swing

Coming in November at Big City Swing, Dave "Lippy" Rentauskas and I are going to be offering a workshop for DJs and music lovers. Dave has done DJ workshops in the past that were mostly focused on technical stuff like how to use a mixer, but this one is going to be much more about finding good music, choosing the right track, and putting together a set. We're still working on exactly what topics we're going to address, but we want to make it accessible to as wide an audience as possible--not just for people who are already DJs and just want some pointers, but also for dancers who only know a little about the music they dance to, but are curious to learn more.

Here's the workshop details:

Who: James and Dave

What: Now You Has Jazz: Workshop for DJs and Music Lovers

: Saturday, November 15th, 2-4 p.m.

: Big City Swing, 1012 W. Randolph, Chicago

How Much
: $10 at the door (call it a suggested donation--if you can't afford $10, chip in what you can; if your mind is blown, tip liberally). No pre-registration necessary, though feel free to tell us that you're coming.

: Short version is, we love geeking out about jazz, and if you are interested too we would love to geek out with you. For the long version, see below.

What to bring
: If you have a laptop or mp3 player with dance music on it, or a case of cds, bring them. Feel free to bring snacks too. And rootbeer. James loves rootbeer.

Another important note
: Since we're still putting together topics, we are very willing to adapt the workshop to people's interests. If you're coming, feel free to leave a comment below, email me, or talk to me--if there are specific questions you have, things you wonder about, things you need advice about, we would be glad to address them.

The long version of why we're doing this:

A couple months ago, there was a DJ contest at Fizz, meant to give folks that were interested in maybe getting into DJing a chance to take a spin, get some fresh blood behind the turntables, and generally just stir things up a little bit. Fizz still definitely needs to add one (or more) new DJs to the roster, so it was very much meant to be a chance to discover new talent. Unfortunately for us Fizz regulars, the winner, Shannon, was only in town for a little while--now she's back in the San Francisco Bay area.

Sure it would have been great to have some local kid show up and blow everyone away with how awesome they are. Short of that, it would also be great if some incredible DJ from another scene just happened to move to Chicago because of their job. But I'm not holding my breath. I think our best bet to make sure that our scene stays strong and interesting is to start encouraging people who are interested and give them opportunities to learn and grow into strong DJs.

It's not a skill anybody learns over night, and I think as a scene we've been a bit negligent about providing opportunities. Many of the regular DJs in Chicago have been doing it for 5+ years (for example, Doug Hillman, Dave Rentauskas, Riley Wymes), and many are also dance instructors (Dave, Riley, Carl Linder, myself) so I think your average dancer may have the impression that its something like a professional gig that requires an advanced degree in lindy hop or something like that. It's definitely not. I think that being an avid dancer helps, but only because it means you'll be able to empathize with the people out on the floor--the dancers you're trying to keep happy. Really the skills required are 1) the ability to press "play" on a cd player or computer 2) ears for listening to lots of music and 3) eyes to observe how dancers react to what you play.

So I am eager to offer a workshop to try to stir up interest in the music we dance to, to start a conversation about things, share what I know, and learn about what I don't. Dave and I tend to have pretty different taste in music and different approaches to DJing, so the process of working together on this is definitely going to be a learning experience for us both. Hopefully hearing a range of perspectives will benefit others too.

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