June has been the designated month to celebrate excellence in and the impact of Black music since President Jimmy Carter created Black Music Month in 1979. This June, the Indianapolis Recorder will feature four African-Americans making an impact in the Indianapolis music world.
This week, the Indianapolis Recorder spoke with Doug Morris, one of the creators of Deckademics — Indy’s first and only DJ school — about the school’s offerings and Indy’s vibrant (yes, really!) DJ scene.
Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper: What kind of background leads someone to creating a DJ school?
Morris: There was a lot of culture in the neighborhood I grew up in. There were people on the block who taught African dance, hip-hop dance. My older brother was a DJ, so I was always at the house parties. He would want to go talk to a girl and would be like, “Hey, you better figure this out, man, or you’re gonna get booed.” And he would just walk away, and I’d be some 12-year-old kid cuing up the next record. It wasn’t like I could scratch or do anything fancy (laughs). I also grew up in Grace Apostolic, at 22nd and College, and my mother was in the choir. They toured and cut albums. So music was all around me, part of who I was.
How did that background evolve into Deckademics?
There was a grant written about seven or eight years ago to teach kids hip-hop out of the MLK Center. So DJ Metrognome (Nick Saligoe) and I bought some really cheap equipment and we taught for free; it was just something to do for the community. But it was the basement of a community center. There was nowhere for it to go; there was no exposure. It was Metrognome’s idea to pursue it as a business. We got serious about it about three years ago.
How has business been? Are classes really popular?
The school is doing really well. First off, we’re the first and only DJ school in Indianapolis, and in Indiana as far as I know. There wasn’t even one in Chicago until recently. We’re seeing a large range of people who are interested. Some people take the classes just as something to do after they get off work, but some are interested in pursuing a career, or they want to make some extra money on the weekends.
What do people learn at the most basic level?
There’s a system to it. It’s not just playing records. There’s math involved, learning to count the music out, intros, outros … that’s mainly what the novice class is. We have other classes also, like our DJ Date Night classes where couples can learn how to DJ. We also have group classes where people come celebrate birthdays, anniversaries. They can bring the whole crew. Then we have our Weekend Warrior class; that’s a four-hour crash course on a Saturday.
You mentioned you have a summer program. Tell me more about that.
This is our second summer running our DJ Summer Camp. It’s for kids 9–14. The thing people don’t think about is it’s not just about DJing; it’s about exposing kids to technology, giving kids something to do, piquing other interests.
We had quite a few people at the MLK Center who learned how to DJ and used it to pay their way through college, DJing parties instead of working in the cafeteria or wherever else. It should be looked at like a trade like barbering or auto mechanics. It’s not just a cutesy thing.
Camp starts the second week of June. And we don’t just stay in the classroom. We get outside the building, we explore Broad Ripple, tour the Vogue, hit the record store. It’s really more of a technology and culture camp.
Overall, how is the “scene” in Indy?
Indianapolis has always had a rich DJ culture. To be from Indianapolis and call yourself a DJ, that holds a certain amount of weight. Indianapolis is kind of a technical city when it comes to DJing. People say Indianapolis is a slow city or it’s not popping, but when it comes to DJing, we have really great DJs in this city and have always had great DJs in this city.
For more information about Deckademics, visit deckademics.com.
Novice: An Introduction to DJing
Amateur: Application of fundamentals
Intermediate: Studying the craft
Advanced: Practice makes perfect
Weekend Warrior Crash Course
The Professional DJ
The Art of Preparation
DJ Date Night
Private one-on-one lessons