DJ Chonz (born Mario Rodriguez) is a graduate of the Music Industry program at he University of Colorado at Denver. He recently returned to UCD to pursue a Master's Degree in Communication. A full time on-air personality on Denver's KS 107.5 FM and still a force behind the decks in the nightclub scene, Chonz embodies many UCD students who balance work and school.
He was approached by the Music Industry program at the Communications school -- they asked him to guest lecture. But Chonz wanted to do more than just share his knowledge. He recently announced an all-inclusive scholarship to the summer Music Industry program. You can apply here. Westword caught up with the Denver Street King to get the straight dope on his plan.
Westword: So Chonz, you are currently pursuing your Master's in Communication. Why would a successful DJ need a Master's much less a Bachelor's degree in order to spin records?
DJ Chonz: In the real world. it's more than just being a DJ. Deejaying is more than just spinning records. There's the business side of deejaying, so [in college] you can learn the business side of it -- knowing how to conduct yourself, and present yourself in a professional manner. In school, you learn how to deal with timelines and deadlines and how to speak in public. Maybe you can learn the "hard way" through the school of hard knocks, slowly but surely.
But you need an education, you need to know how to write properly, so that you know how to write proposals for sponsorship or how to write your own press release. I've been able to make a living off my career as DJ with my business savvy, which I learned in school.
Is this your first time doing something like this scholarship?
Yeah, this is my first time doing a scholarship. When they approached me, they actually wanted me to come speak at the program, which is cool. But I was like, "It would be really cool to offer somebody who is underprivileged or under-served an opportunity."
There's a lot of poor people out there who just don't have the money to go to school, and there are families who are right in the middle. They make enough money to have a cool living, but they can't afford to send a child to school. That's where I fell in when I was coming up. We weren't rich or poor, but I wasn't able to get financial aid. We didn't have money for school.
Have you gotten any direct feedback from people?
Yeah, you can take a look at my facebook and my website. A lot of people are giving kudos and congratulating me. The social media aspect is good. Some guy hit me up and wants to contribute [money] so we're entertaining the idea of creating a fund. People can contribute to a DJ Chonz fund, so we can send more than just one kid off to the Music Industry Program for the summer. This is a full-ride scholarship: They're going to get their tuition, their meals and their dorm for free.
I am always fascinated by artists with the desire and capacity to help other people, where did you get that from?
My mother was a social worker, she worked on the East Side at this small center it was called Twin Parrish off of Humboldt street. It's a real small Parrish, it's a non-profit there to people who don't have enough to eat. There's a little food bank, and my mother worked there for many years. And that's straight in the hood, the hood hood. As a little kid I would see her always in that environment giving back. From there she worked for United Way for a while, and she has always been helping out people though out her whole life. Even if it's just a conversation. At the end of the day, DJ Chonz might be done in 5 years, but at least I got to have an awesome career over 20 years in this business, and whatever the next chapter of my life will be at least I was able to inspire some kid if they have the passion for music or whatever they want to do, if I can pass that [opportunity] on to them it makes it more gratifying.
The CU Denver Summer Music Industry Program is designed to offer high school students, ages 14-18, a window into what it takes to be a musician today. The program dates are June 15-27, 2014.
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