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Talented Youngsters Going to School to Become DJs

December 28th 2012

DJ woman turntable

From hip hop parties in the suburbs to dance clubs in the cities, DJs are spinning and mixing music for audiences young and old. In recent years, some DJs have become international superstars - better known than the groups whose music they play! Those who aspire to a career in this growing field can now learn and hone their skills at DJ schools. One of them is called the Beat Refinery, the first such school in the Washington area.

"What I am doing is called beat juggling. Essentially you are taking one record and putting it on both turntables, so while this one plays I am getting this one ready to start back of the beginning of the loop," said Sean Johnson, who is in an advanced mixing class, his final course at the Beat Refinery. He's been taking evening classes at the DJ school outside Washington for about two years. By day, he works as an audio engineer. "I don't do that full-time anymore. I am slowly working on my way to be a full-time DJ. It is really just kind of making a dream come to life," Johnson said.

Twelve-year-old Ethan Feinberg has been taking classes here for a year and a half. "I want to be a DJ when I am older, and I really like music. And it is fun," Feinberg said. "We have 10 year olds all the way up to 50 year olds.  Women, men all nationalities, sometimes we have had students that can't speak English but there is the music that brings them together," said long time DJ Chris Stiles, who co-founded the Beat Refinery in 2010.  It is the only DJ school in the Washington area.  "We felt that there was a need to have the school because today's world you see a lot of different places where people use DJs whether it is at weddings or at bars, clubs, or clothing stores, the profession of DJ has become a very sought after job," Stiles said.

The school offers classes for those wanting to become professionals as well as those who just want to mix party music for friends. The two year program leads to certification and helps with job placement. "We have had about six hundred students in the last two and a half years," Stiles said.

Kim Venetz is one of the graduates. She was an office worker before she began spinning turntables full-time under the stage name, DJ Alkimist. "When I discovered deejaying at the very first class that I took from the Beat Refinery, I was immediately hooked and I knew there was like no stopping me. I love just all about music," Venetz said.

As electronic dance music continuously spun by DJs has become the primary sound in clubs and parties, Stiles says some DJs have become superstars, opening the industry for others. "There are a lot of DJs that make, especially at the world stage, at the big, big stage DJs can make a few million dollars a year on that top side.  And then a DJ that works very hard locally can make six figures for sure,” Stiles said.

Sean Johnson is confident his future is bright. "There is no question about that at all.  There are a lot of more opportunities now.  Now the DJ is the featured performer.  And because of that now is the perfect time to be a DJ," Johnson said. Kim Venetz agrees: "I am feeling more comfortable than when I was working in my office job for sure." Most of all, Venetz says, she is happy that she makes a living doing what she loves: playing music and helping people have a good time.


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