If all the blissful, bass-heavy beats permeating the air during Miami Music Week are touching something deep inside your creative soul, telling you that electronic music is your true calling, there’s hope.
The Scratch DJ Academy, conceived and created in New York by Rob Principe and Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay, can teach you how to rock the crowd just like your idols Tiesto, Sasha, Calvin Harris and even turntable wizards such as DJ Craze and mash-up master Z-Trip. Whatever style excites you – from straight-up house to drum-‘n’-bass to hip-hop, freestyle and sick scratching – you can learn from the best instructors, including Miami Scratch DJ Academy’s DJ Immortal, a winner of several DJ competitions whom Jam Master Jay and Principe entrusted to bring the franchise to the Magic City.
“We chose Miami because it’s such a musical town, such a diverse community, and it’s obviously influenced by DJs,” said Immortal, real name Jamie Keogh, 32, who describes his sound as a mixture of New York and Miami style. “I’m really into scratching and a lot of energy in my sets, and I also incorporate a lot of rock music. I’m just known for doing something unexpected, like I’m not gonna get up there and play Lady Gaga or Black Eyed Peas or anything obvious. I always do something crazy and choose songs that you would never think of.”
So why start the academy – aren’t there enough DJs in the world?
“Really, they just wanted to lower the barrier of entry for DJing,” said Immortal. “It’s kind of tough to get into it unless you have an older brother that’s willing to show you, or you have some connection with a DJ who really knows his stuff and is willing to teach you. I know when I was starting, a lot of people didn’t want to share their knowledge – it was very competitive. So you never knew whether people were showing you the right way. So Jam Master Jay said, “I have to put this information down, or one day my secrets and my knowledge will just die with me. I want this stuff to live on.”
So let’s embrace this art as a true instrument, and teach it officially as a college course, like you would learn guitar or piano. It deserves that same recognition.”
But how much does it cost?
“It’s super-affordable,” he said. “A lot of people think that when they go to a school like this that it’s gonna cost so much money, and they’re always amazed. You could take a six-week class to learn all the fundamentals of DJing and mixing, for $350. And that includes unlimited access to the academy.
“And the biggest thing for most people is they don’t know what equipment to buy, so before they go and invest all this money into a bunch of stuff they might not even need, it just makes so much more sense to come to Scratch, learn the fundamentals, learn how to mix on all these different mediums, learn the history and the lingo. And that way, you’ll know what to buy and whether this is something you really want to invest in.
“It’s crazy, because things that took me years to learn on my own, I see students learning in months. They’re going through 30 years of DJing skill and technology in six weeks.”
The entire program, which stretches over a year and about 70 hours of class time, is $1,950, and goes over all the levels of DJing and is just like a college course, complete with an evaluation on your performance at graduation.
“We’re doing our annual Scratch Summit party from 1-5 p.m. March 21 at the Scratch Academy, and we have food and drinks and DJs from all around the world to come and jam with us. Last year we had more than 200 DJs and producers attend, and we have a lot of surprise guests – you never know who’s gonna show up. It’s a very free-flowing and spontaneous type of jam."
DJ Immortal teaches class at Scratch DJ Academy. Photo: Tomas Loewy