Backbeat Confidential

At Miami's Scratch Academy, students master the fine art of spinning vinyl

Principe dismisses this notion. He recalls that Jam Master Jay "used to always say öMan, I wish they'd have had a school like this when I was learning!'"

But if Jay had taken DJ classes, would he have become so innovative?

No one at Scratch Academy believes that teaching people the "right way" to DJ will hinder anyone's creative process. Principe — who estimates that his three academies have graduated some 5,000 students over the years — takes a broader view regarding his and his students' motives. "If it wasn't taught," he says, "there would be thousands of people less that got to experience music this way."

Beginning spinning
Beginning spinning

Principe says Miami was a natural choice for an academy, because of the city's thriving nightlife scene. True, South Beach's extensive club scene draws partiers who are more apt to dance to the music than truly listen to it. But, Principe notes, "there's a lot more musical diversity here now. In New York we get mostly people interested in hip-hop. In L.A., people are interested in rock. In Miami it's just everything. "

Keogh concurs. "In Miami, we need to have a real versatile group of instructors," he says, "because students here all have different backgrounds and different musical interests, from rock to reggaeton, salsa, merengue."

Accordingly, the Miami Scratch Academy is the only one to offer classes in Spanish. Colombian-bred DJ NVS Styles is one of the school's Spanish-language instructors. "Latins in my classes spin mostly hip-hop, some house music," he says. "But it's fun to teach someone in your culture to do what you do." Styles also lauds the intimacy of the Miami school. "Miami students get more one-on-one time with the instructors than in New York," he says, "and more lab time to experiment on the equipment, alone."

Styles admits that he himself came to the academy with some reservations. "I was thinking when the school first started: It's gonna be an overflow of DJs!" he recalls. "But for me it's like, if you love what you love to do that much, you should teach someone else to do it."

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