Philly Students Explore Art of DJing Through School District Program | The key to learning

When Christian Harrison first found out that Hill-Freedman World Academy would be one of the pilot schools for the Philadelphia School District DJ program, he didn’t hesitate to enroll.

“I knew right away that I wanted to be a part of it,” said Harrison. “I thought a program like this would help improve my own musical skills.

“Since becoming a part of the program, I’ve learned to break down songs, assess the audience for which songs to play, and smoothly switch between songs,” he added. “I also learned to make the experience enjoyable for anyone who listens to music.”

18-year-old Harrison started DJing at the age of 12. Known as DJ Blacx Rose, he graduated in 2021 from Hill-Freedman.

“My mom was traveling a lot for work, so I spent a lot of time with my uncle,” Harrison said. “He had turntables in his basement so I started to get into DJing and it became something that I really enjoyed.

“I am naturally a musician, I have been playing instruments since the age of three,” he added. “I play drums, bass and keyboards. Music is my thing; it has always been my passion.

Launched in 2019, as a pilot program at Hill-Freedman and Strawberry Mansion High School, the DJ program provides students in the Philadelphia School District with professional-grade DJ equipment and the opportunity to learn and improve their skills from the city’s professional DJ community. .

The district launched the initiative with the aim of deepening the connection between music education and the city’s strong community of music artists.

Some of the musical artists who have participated in the program include DJ Active, DJ Matthew Law, DJ Cool Out, and DJ Top Choice.

“In schools, where the curriculum is more structured, we envision weekly instruction that includes introductory and skill development,” said Frank Machos, director of music education for the Philadelphia School District.

“We teach the students how to use the DJ controller, what the software involves, and how to load tracks and set up cue points,” he said. “Students will probably spend a semester learning all aspects of DJing.

“We also create opportunities for mentors to connect with them and then create platforms to present what they have done in a real context,” he added,

This school year, the program will be presented at Philadelphia High School for Girls, Palumbo Academy, Joseph W. Catharine Elementary School, and Bache Martin Elementary School.

Bartram High School will be expanding the program to a full class this school year and Frankford High School will be adding additional program stations to their school.

In addition to Hill-Freedman and Strawberry Mansion, other district schools that have been part of the DJ program include Edison High School, CW Henry Elementary School, South Philadelphia High School, and Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School.

“One of our priorities right now is to align our alumni with professional DJs from their alma maters,” Machos said.

“We’re looking at the professional DJ scene and where we might attract some of these people and then reach out to their school, just like we did with George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science and the track from Carver records, ”he said. .

“We really want our students to be incredibly well connected with the musical landscape of Philadelphia,” he added. “Philly is such a rich musical city. We want to continue to honor the heritage and history of the city through this program.

Despite the success of the DJ program, Machos said the district is still finding ways to improve the program.

“We are working with our partners to develop the program and the infrastructure so that it is easier for teachers to integrate the program into the classroom,” Machos said.

“That way, if the teachers have students who want to DJ, we will already have a curriculum, a list of equipment and all the materials and resources available,” he said.

“We also want to connect the network of professional DJ artists who are available to come and work with them for their own professional development which will lead teachers to work directly with their students,” he added.

Since graduating from Hill-Freedman, Harrison has continued to build his skills as a local producer, drummer and performance DJ. He was also part of a few groups.

He is currently a freshman at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He specializes in drums and bass performance with a minor in music technology.

Harrison said he’s learned a lot since joining the school district’s DJ program.

“The program has given me an outlet to meet other people, especially people who work in this field,” Harrison said. “I was able to network, refine my skills and gain more experience and visibility.

“It’s a great program overall,” he added. “I encourage the students who have the program in their school to take full advantage of this opportunity. “

About Margaret L. Portillo

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