Providence DJ Guild: Musical Mentorship, Cultural History and Community Development

Kathleen Haughey

Abstract


A coalition of DJs and community arts activists in Providence, Rhode Island has identified the need for a DJ workshop for young people that, in addition to teaching the art of DJing, will contribute to intergenerational, cross-class, cross-sexual orientation, and interracial community development. While Providence hosts an arguably rich assortment of community arts programs for young people, none of these programs specifically teach students the performance art of DJing. Providence DJs, Micah Salkind and Jackson Morley—with support from existing community organizations and facilitators—aim to develop a workshop for 15-20 year-olds to learn "DJ performance skills, business acumen, and critical communication skills while defining the sound of their city at safe and supportive public performances" (Micah and Jackson: Draft Mission Statement 11/3/12). They have named their project the "Providence DJ Guild: Musical Mentorship, Cultural History and Community Development". This paper addresses the following questions: why are Micah and Jackson starting the DJ Guild? Is there a 'need' for this in Providence? and what do they intend to teach? In addition to Micah and Jackson's dedication to fostering a more gender-balanced DJ community, they are also committed to developing the workshop in an organic, fluid and needs-based fashion. Structuring the program on the 'guild' model, they aim to provide access to DJ equipment and basic DJ skills, but also ensure that each student learns from his or her individual vantage point. Drawing from interviews, participant observation, and collaborative work, I outline Micah and Jackson's visions and overall mission, arguing that the DJ Guild has the potential to align with Laurie Hicks' three goals for empowerment in arts education: an education to diversity and difference, an education to context, and an education to a community of difference (Hicks 1990: 43-5).

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