THERE IS NO LONELIER DAY in a musician’s life than the day upon which she or he actually decides to learn how to create music. It’s intimidating as hell: As you fiddle clumsily with your chosen instrument, you begin to realize just how vast the world of musical composition really is. To top it off, unless you’re lucky enough to have some kind of mentor or guide, you’re plunging into that world head first, without any clue as to where or how you should land.
This is especially true in the world of DJing, where any attempt to scratch records brings with it all kinds of baggage attached to "paying dues" and earning street credibility.
Fortunately San Diego DJs are about to get a helping hand from a man who’s climbed all the rungs of the up and coming musical ladder: DJ Jason "Tipsy" Santiago. Santiago, a Bronx-born DJ, filmmaker, and television producer, is opening a DJ Academy in Clairemont designed to give aspiring scratchers, beat scientists, and noise psychos all the knowledge they can handle.
Santiago, who previously worked at a DJ school in New York, designed a 6sixweek curriculum for teaching people the art of mixing records, complete with a formal syllabus inspired by the curriculum models Santiago saw at other DJ academies in Europe, as well as his own perspective on the vital aspects of learning the art form.
The classes will meet at California Sound & Lighting on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. CSL sells musical equipment and records, and when Santiago approached the store with his pitch on the DJ Academy, the owners offered him the use of the CSL’s 12 in-store mixing stations, as well as an overhead projection system that Santiago will use to demonstrate techniques to his students. The classes consist of one three-hour session of formal instruction every Saturday, as well as an hour of post-class discussion, chill time, and one-on-one interaction between Santiago and his students. Class subjects include History, Equipment, and Basics; Music Theory, Mixing and Blending, and Battle DJing. Santiago has also arranged to have local DJs and celebrity guests such as Kid Koala, D Styles, J-Rocc and Mr. Sinsta come in to give students special hands-on training.
Santiago, now 32 years old, first immersed himself in the scratching subculture when he was 15 years old, through the connections he saw between the hip-hop musicians and graffiti artists of the Bronx.
"It was a four-year, homogenous process," says Santiago. "For two years I was just carrying crates of records around for some of the bigger DJs. That’s what you have to do in New York. I was carrying crates for Frankie Bones, Junior Vasquez, and other house DJs. I was that 16 year-old kid calling up DJs, saying ‘I want to be down, to absorb what you’re doing.’ I got the chance to speak with these DJs in their homes—I’d talk with them, get stoned with them, and they’d tell me everything: ‘Don’t do these drugs, don’t try this, these are the records that are golden, these are the times when you have to play them;’ I absorbed all of it. And I was always that kid saying, ‘Let me get on your decks, let me show you what I can do; I was always chasing it."
Santiago went on to produce and press his own records, and he later founded "Chillin' Chillin' TV," a public access television program that is still on the air in New York City. The show features eclectic performances and interviews with everyone from Barrington Levy to Kanye West to surfer Joel Tudor.
There are no equipment or experience requirements to sign up for Santiago’s Academy. The cost is $250 dollars and class size will be limited to 12 students. Classes begin on April 30. To register for classes or for more information, contact the West Coast DJ Academy at 877.267.4376.