The following article appeared in the Arizona State University State Press on February 7, 2002

DJ class puts new spin on study time

By Tia D'Ambrose,Assistant Editor, State Press Magazine

Media Credit: Photo by Laurie Ellis/State Press

Photo: Instructor Rob Wegner gives his Club DJ class a quick "how to" on working their way around a turntable.

Put the needle on the rec­ put the needle on the reco­ put the needle on the record and it goes a little something like this

Welcome to Club DJ Lessons at Scottsdale Community College (SCC). Instructor Rob Wegner hopes this class will introduce an entirely new genre of record mixing as an art, science and business venture.

The passing of the needle has begun. The competitive nature of mixing the smoothest sounds, working the biggest crowds and matching beats to a tee is evolving to camaraderie of sorts, at least at SCC.

Wegner brings his 20 years of turntable experience to the classroom. The DJ who has spun for clubs like 411, Axis Radius, Sanctuary and currently Voodoo Lounge, is a legend in his own right, especially in a heavily rock-infused city like Phoenix.

But, today, valley DJs are considered by some to be veering away from rock and mixing their own beat styles, respectively. The once presumed fad has consistency and doesn't seem to be budging anytime soon.

Wegner, 37, is a prime example that DJs are sticking around for decades. Wegner is well aware of the potential and vast opportunities DJs have today. It's just a matter of convincing the academic world.

"Colleges and universities are centers of research and innovation. They should by nature be one step ahead of the curve. When it comes to this, they're two steps behind," he said.

Wegner is well aware of the little knowledge of club DJs that college campuses extend to students. With a B.S. and M.A. in political science from ASU, Wegner hopes to educate the school and students on the thought process a DJ goes through.

"Just like a writer constructs sentences, a DJ constructs sets. There's a reason, a rationalizing that goes on," said Wegner. "We're like writers or even lawyers. A lawyer picks the cases that he or she wants because they're trying to make a persuasive argument. And the DJ picks his or her songs because they're trying to make a persuasive argument in getting you to dance."

Starting this week, Wegner is leading a new generation of DJ hopefuls. Every Monday night for an hour and a half, students with spiky hair and spacers in their ears sit alongside balding men in leather bomber jackets. Men and women of all ages and experience levels are there to learn about what it takes to move a crowd.

Tom Clark, 22, a full-time student at SCC and Paradise Valley Community College, has been immersed in the club/rave scene for three years. He and his girlfriend, who is also taking the class, just bought equipment to DJ last year.

"We want to learn more about DJ'ing. We want to get more knowledge, contacts and just get to know our equipment better," said Clark.

Club DJ Lessons is in its second semester, but by far, the first of its kind on any local college campus. The course material, "Turntable Basics" by Stephen Webber, has never before been assigned in a college. However, getting the class off the ground wasn't easy. It took some convincing on Wegner's part to get the department head's OK.

"I think a lot of people in the college and university system view this (Club DJ'ing) as a subculture. They don't see it as the mainstream - yet."

According to Warner Brothers Publications, as Wegner cites in his syllabus, there are now over 200,000 DJs in the United States. Also, the DJ industry generates more than $10 billion a year. If the numbers don't begin to legitimize the work DJs are doing, perhaps bringing the lessons to a classroom will.

Student Ray Miranda, 30, is taking this class to further his skills and have questions answered that, before, he felt no successful DJ would share.

"To tell you the truth, I'm starting a record label. I want to make $100 grand a year and this is going to be my way to do it," he said with wide eyes.

Miranda, a Chicago native and full-time printer, made the comment, "People around the country don't think of all the good things coming to this city. They are thinkers here."

Wegner plans on proving Miranda right. DJs have to think not only about equipment like turntables, mixers, CD players, headphones and the like, they also need to be open minded when playing for diverse crowds, flexible to accommodate changing music trends, street savvy and responsible.

Guest speakers throughout the semester include: DJ Radar (rumored to be sixth in the world for scratching); DJ Kevin Brown (of Swell Magazine); DJ Timothy Heit (of Sonik Magazine); DJ Shad (resident DJ at Axis Radius); and Steve Ratz (DMA Magazine feature writer).

Some students have been professional status DJs for several years and some bring only enthusiasm for the subject as preparation for the semester. Either way is perfectly fine with Wegner.

"The only prerequisite for the class is a love of music. If you do not love music, then you should not be in this class."

Reach Tia D'Ambrose at tia.dambrose@asu.edu