DJ Awesome stepped up to the turntable, laptop and mass of wires connecting the equipment to cheers from the audience of over 70 people.
DJ Awesome is 11 years old.
“I want to say a special shout-out to all my friends and family who came to support me tonight,” he said to the crowd before his performance. (See above video.) “Drop that beat.”
Employing artful transitions between his curated list of tracks, DJ Awesome (who also goes by Melvin) displayed the skill set he gained over five weeks this summer at Rock The Beat DJ Camp. The camp held its final showcase Thursday evening, as 10 young DJs exhibited their newly-acquired DJ and lyric-writing abilities.
Camp Director Cleo Fulcher, who works for the Hamden school system, started the camp this summer. She said the most important thing for a DJ is confidence. Her co-director, DJ Bink-B (who said he never goes by his real name, Bertram Goldson), said DJing is all about timing and playing to the crowd.
Following his performance, DJ Awesome was more utilitarian with his answer: A good DJ must know how to use the equipment.
“You’re going to look funny if you get up there and don’t do anything,” DJ Awesome said.
Fifteen kids between the ages of 9 and 12 enrolled in the five-week program, funded with scholarships from the City of New Haven Youth Department.
They each embodied their new DJ identities completely, adopting names such as “DJ Pinkalicious,” “DJ B-Smooth,” “DJ Sparkle” and “DJ Ladybug.” Fulcher said the kids don’t even know her full name, preferring to call her “DJ Cle Cle.”
Each DJ had a binder of written work displayed in the back of the room. Their hand-colored album labels hung on the walls to either side of the seats.
In addition to performing their mixes, the campers also recited lyrics they wrote about their young DJ identities. (Excerpts include: “I am DJ PrinDiva. I feel happy. I touched the laptop,” and ” I see the crowd dancing to the songs I play. I want to make history. I am DJ SkizzyB27.”)
Mixing Up The Standard Summer Camp
In May, Fulcher approached Bink-B and told him it was time they started that DJ camp together.
The two have been friends since high school, and had always toyed with the idea. Aside from his work as a DJ, Bink-B also works in producing and filmmaking, so Fulcher thought they could pair up their educational and DJ skills to engage children.
“They have basketball camps. They have football camps. They have dance camps. Why not add DJing to that?” Fulcher asked.
Thus, Rock the Beat DJ Camp became the first DJ camp in Connecticut.
The two directors applied to the city and were able to hold the camp for four weeks at the Ross Woodward Classical Studies School on Barnes Avenue They split the day into two halves, with Fulcher teaching a Common Core curriculum of reading, writing and math from 9 a.m. to noon. She said the classes focused on famous DJs and disc jockey history, using the subject matter to communicate the lesson plans.
Then at noon, Instructor Dj Double-T arrived and taught the kids about mixing electronically, working with the equipment and performing well for crowds.
Due to scheduling with the school, the directors had to hold the fifth week of camp at Fulcher’s house.
“[Rock the Beat] has been all that I imagined, and then some,” Fulcher said as the 10 campers ping-ponged around the auditorium during the five-minute intermission.
The pair have plans for expansion. Fulcher said the children will have mastered working with the DJ equipment by next year, at which time Bink-B said they should be able to do their own gigs. The group has already been asked to work a birthday party.
Before the award presentations, DJ Bink-B explained to parents in the audience that DJing is a productive pastime as a creative outlet, but also an opportunity for the kids to have a job they could hold part-time or full-time, throughout school, college and beyond.
“Anybody can be a DJ so why not take advantage and start young?” he asked.