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Deckademics: a New Spin on Teaching

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Nick Saligoe, known better as DJ MetroGnome, has been spinning records since he was 11-years-old and has decided to share his knowledge by opening Indianapolis' first and only disc jockey school. This project has been years in the making but a logical next step for the musical entrepreneur.

According to Saligoe, 10 years ago, one of the nation's largest music chains was selling 20 guitars for every one set of turntables. Today, they are selling 20 guitars to every 20 turntables. Practicing deejaying is a fairly new national trend, but the disc jockeys are the rock stars now. They're the focal point and drawing name of a party.  Indy's new DJ school is a response to this trend.

Nick Saligoe and Douglas Morris are joining together to advance the art form of deejaying.
  • Nick Saligoe and Douglas Morris are joining together to advance the art form of deejaying.

"Because there is a high volume of people doing it," says Saligoe, "I want to make sure that they are doing it well for the art form's sake. People will get much better much quicker with our help, honestly."

The DJ school, tagged Deckademics, is completely independent, unlike many other U.S. DJ schools. There is neither outside money nor influence. The curriculum, the physical school and the training are all organized by one of Indy's best and most popular DJs.

Saligoe is opening the school with one of Indy's favorite programmers, Douglas Morris. Morris does the event scheduling at the Jazz Kitchen and for the city's annual Jazz Fest. Calm and confident about the new school, Morris says, "DJ MetroGnome is successful because people like him--how well he reads a crowd. He's a people person first, and that makes him a great DJ."

The two have joined together to advance this art form. Saligoe will train students, and Morris will market the business. "This isn't about growing a generation of new DJs, but supplying an outlet for an existing demand for learning about this art form," Morris explains.

It wasn't until 1995 that deejaying was even termed an art form. It is a musical practice, much like singing or playing the violin. Naturally, and more now because of pervasive technology, people are visual, but DJs need different skills.

"The first thing we will teach is how to listen," says Saligoe. "Being a DJ changes the way you listen to things. People should know how to multitask--how to focus on a sound in your left ear while doing something with your right hand."

Music lovers and fans of deejaying talk often about party DJs that don't know how to spin actual records and whether or not they should be considered DJs. One article explains that, "as a DJ, walking into a party with 50,000 tunes on a MacBook does NOT make you a better candidate to work a dance floor."

Saligoe keeps more of an open mind. "To some degree, they select the music, they can change the mood and influence the crowd. In that regard, sure, they are a DJ," he says. "I, on the other hand, spend hours trying to beat match. Anyone can be a DJ, broadly speaking, but knowing how to match beats per minute is different."

Deckademics isn't forcing people to stay on turntables, spinning physical records; it's just teaching the foundation of deejaying. The school wants students to learn the skill of listening to the beats in a song and knowing how to match that to another song for a smooth transition. It is also about knowing how to touch a record while it's spinning to create a desired sound effect. Think: playing a record backward and what that might sound like. Deckademics will teach students such techniques and how to incorporate them into a song.

Teaching isn't new to Saligoe. He's taught soccer, taught at Broad Ripple and has been teaching people how to deejay for five years without a school. "I've been teaching tons of kids this for years as part of their after-school program at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center," says Saligoe. "Now some of them are deejaying out in the world and getting real, paid gigs and are genuinely really good. It's time to step up and make teaching its own endeavor. "

Deckademics will begin classes in January 2014 in a cozy Broad Ripple house. The school is open to all ages, with the understanding that some concepts are harder for children, but there are opportunities for parents and children to take a class together. There are no eligibility requirements, only financial commitments. Four courses, ranging from $75 to $500 are offered, based on the students' experience. Single and "Weekend Warrior" classes will be available for those wanting a crash course or to see if this is something they really want to do. For those not interested in mastering the craft at all, Deckademics will offer events such as "date nights," where couples can create and then take home their own mixes.

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