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Scratch Academy: Where Kids Will Become DJs

Through Scratch Academy, Jesu Berkeley would bring deejaying skills to Denver youth.
Through Scratch Academy, Jesu Berkeley would bring deejaying skills to Denver youth.
Jesu Berkeley
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Jesu Berkeley, aka Deej Karbon, worried that his daughter's Denver elementary school had no music program, so he asked the principal if he could start teaching deejaying classes. The response: Sure, if you can find a way to fund it.

Now he's running a Kickstarter campaign and hosting a March 4 fundraiser at Platform T to bring in money to buy gear to launch his Scratch Academy, a deejaying workshop for youth who want to learn to spin. He'll be running courses soon at the Denver Music Institute.

The thirty-something father who works in IT once traversed the globe as a professional DJ. He grew up in the West Indies, where he learned to scratch and mix vinyl from his uncle, who would throw block parties that would draw all the neighbors out. Berkeley started carting around his first crates of records at sixteen and has been spinning ever since.

While he's no longer working as a full-time DJ, he passed the skills on to his daughter when she turned six. Now she's eight, her friends call her DJ, and she breaks out a pair of turntables and spins records for school parties. As Berkeley tells it, she's building skills she will be able to use in her professional life, skills he hopes to impart to her peers.

Wearing a "Make History Now" hat, Berkeley waxes passionately on a snowy February morning about the after-school program he wants to start in the Baker neighborhood, at DCIS at Fairmont. He has already started recruiting DJs that he plans to pay to show up or Skype in and teach the students about the craft.

The curriculum, dubbed Scratchology, takes place over several courses. Students will learn everything from multiple genres of music to the anatomy of turntables and records to how to produce a podcast, design a business card and promote a gig.

"Music is not just music. It can be a path that leads to so many careers," Berkeley says. But it's not just careers: Deejaying builds community, preserves a dwindling art form and helps people have a good time.

You can find out more about Scratch Academy at Berkeley's Kickstarter or at the fundraiser from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 4 at Platform T, 95 Lincoln Street. For more information, go to the event's Facebook page.

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