When does one become a master? If you don’t have teachers, who gives you the passing grade?
When I started mixing in 1991, I was living with my family in Laguna, New Mexico; a pueblo years ago surrounded by the flowing Rio San Jose, now flanked by Old Route 66 and Interstate-25. There were no other DJs who lived within 50 miles. I taught myself to mix by improvising, overcoming, and adapting. I made a commitment to learning. I became a student of mastery and a master student.
When students entered my life I assumed the role of the master. I put trust in my skill, continuing to improve and grow, now sharing knowledge with the community.
It has now been over two decades since I began creating music sets for myself and others. There are always questions now about where to take this skill, this art, this love.
I try not to overlook what is in front of me. I enjoy playing at the events in the town of Santa Fe, New Mexico because despite the size, we have a wealth of knowledge and demand for better. Naturally, we go through fluctuations and cycles depending on who’s here and what we care about. Keeping it fresh in the desert is a challenge.
In 2015 a friend asked if I would be interested in teaching her son to DJ. At the same time, a co-worker suggested that I meet up with her girlfriend who was interested in DJing.
I began the lessons the way I first started. Full immersion and experimentation. I let them go through the record stacks and choose based on sight and sound. I taught them how to connect the gear and how to troubleshoot when the gear is not working. We began with mixing vinyl on a 3-channel Rane, and ended mixing with Serato and cdjs on a 6-channel Allen & Heath mixer.
I wanted to show them that the façade of DJ is meaningless without the passion that goes behind it. Teaching people to DJ is a tricky thing because depending on what they want to learn, DJing can be as simple as pressing buttons and moving a crossfader; or as complex as building a lifestyle and persona supporting the DJ. I continued to enforce the idea that using your resources creatively will bring the results that you desire.
After a year of teaching and mentoring, the students went off to do their own thing. Z bought sound and DJ equipment and moved out of state. I recorded a live broadcast with her before she left!
In 2018 I volunteered to be part of a mentoring program. I continue to create a curriculum, using DJing as a platform for personal growth and empowerment.