DJs used to be in the background, providing a beat to rap over or a song to slow-dance to at a wedding -- but now the DJs are rock stars in their own right.
Enter Spin DJ Academy, a new school in Amityville and Hauppauge that exclusively teaches the art of mixing music.
"The DJ scene has been developing with the rise of EDM and all these festivals," says Spin DJ Academy owner Ian Berk. "We saw a need for music education for people interested in this genre."
DJs are the conductors of a party, controlling the energy of the room through music. "Each song coming in has to complement the last song going out in a way that's building this big picture," says instructor Joe "Joe Jack" Giacopelli. "This is what makes it an art form."
One technique taught at Spin is taking a piece of a classic song like Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and weaving it into an EDM track.
"People love hearing things that they recognize. It triggers certain emotions," says Giacopelli. "It piques people's interests, and that's the job of the DJ -- to keep people entertained."
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Spin student Julia Albanese, 13, of Lindenhurst likes to take current top 40 songs and mix them with EDM tracks. At her recent student performance at Revolution Bar & Music Hall in Amityville, she mashed up Hardwell and W&W's "Jumper" with Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball."
"I didn't know anything about DJing when I first came in. They taught me everything," says Albanese, who has been taking lessons for six months. "At first I had some issues about knowing when to come in , but now it's easier for me."
Jullian Avgi, 12, of Old Bethpage, loves to drop the bass mid-track. So much so that he earned his DJ name: Mixer Monster.
"I tried guitar and piano, but it didn't work out," he says. "I would hear these mixes on the radio and I told my dad, 'That's what I want to do!'"
The goal of DJing is compiling music that flows together cohesively. Very often homework from the classes involves gathering music that is paired according to their BPMs -- beats per minute.
"You have to know your songs and be very organized with them," says instructor Dan Brass. "The key is finding that sweet spot where the two songs match nicely."
Lessons can be held individually or in a group setting (4-8 students). Levels range from intro classes to pro mixing and music production for students age 6 to 60. The school can provide the equipment, but very often students use their own gear (laptops, headphones and DJ controller) so they can practice at home. Spin offers classes in both scratch for hip-hop fans and mix for those who are into the EDM movement.
During group sessions, everybody works individually, then shares their music with the group.
"We will put up what each person did on the main speakers," says Giacopelli. "We critique, help and inspire each other."
Students get an opportunity to perform at open mix night -- essentially jam sessions -- on Friday evenings at both schools. Students who take courses that are at least eight weeks long put on live shows at Revolution. This ticketed event is open to the public and students invite family and friends to come and cheer them on.
Spinning in a club environment under the lights with the smoke machine and all the effects, "it's like a real concert," says Spin director Jared Feldman.
Brass adds, "They get a chance to be the life of the party."
SPIN DJ ACADEMY
WHERE 16 Broadway, Amityville (631-608-8858); 531 Hauppauge Blvd., Hauppauge (631-780-6305)
COST From $199 for four-week group class package
DJ HOUSE CALLS
LONG ISLAND DJ SCHOOL
INFO 516-318-1430, lidjschool.com
COST $100 an hour
If you want to learn how to be a DJ but don't want to leave home, Paul Cassella from the Long Island DJ School will come to you. He offers private lessons in Suffolk and parts of Nassau counties for aspiring DJs interested in spinning any style of music.
"It's important to be versatile," he says. "You need to learn how to do oldies, disco, hip-hop and Latin in addition to EDM."