Jay Clipp is a career DJ. For the past 10 years, he's made a living from live performances. But in the past year something changed: He started offering music production courses through his Keep Spinning DJ Academy and now admits that educational entertainment is what he is most passionate about. That's why Clipp is preparing to offer the first-ever Back to the Books DJ Camp, with three days of training for kids and teens starting on Wednesday, August 12.
“I am definitely a representation of hip-hop,” Clipp says, and his resume backs it up. He’s had regular gigs with DJ Spinderella, performs on Wednesday nights at The Prophet Bar with RC and the Gritz, and serves as a resident DJ for Fresh 45’s every third Thursday at Crown and Harp. He also travels all over the world spinning for record labels, designers and television shows. Clipp has performed with Erykah Badu several times. He’s even become one of the go-to DJs in Dallas for touring artists, spinning for the likes of Jay Z at American Airlines, Dave Chappelle at House of Blues, and even LeBron James at a private party.
“I consider myself a DJ in the truest form,” he says. He started out with vinyl, but continued to evolve with technology, using digital platforms and controllers. But Clipp also sees how many DJs use newer technology as a crutch, without taking the time to learn how to do it starting with the basics. With this in mind, he starts his students with the fundamentals, having them begin with scratching on turntables and learning the essence of the craft.
Next year, the Keep Spinning DJ Academy will transition to a normal classroom setting. But for now, classes run year-round, with students receiving one-on-one training. The students’ ages range from 8 to 50. Many of us can recall how much effort it took to convince our parents to buy a musical instrument and pay for lessons, but Clipp says parents have been nothing but supportive so far. Many of them had previously taken their kids as far as Austin or Houston for similar training.
Beyond his desire to see new DJs learn how to spin, Clipp was greatly inspired by working with students with special needs before opening the Keep Spinning DJ Academy, including working with underprivileged children at the Nike Sneaker Ball in Portland. His very first student has Down syndrome.
“I had to teach him in a totally different way,” Clipp recalls. Individuals with Down syndrome do not have the ability to pattern think. The main element of mixing is counting beats; so teaching someone who does not have the ability to count in sequence was a challenge. “It reminds me to never let anything stop me,” says Clipp. After teaching his student how to use the equipment, he had him focus on certain parts of songs before adding new ones. Eventually the student was able to perform in front of an audience.
On another occasion, Clipp traveled to Nigeria with a non-profit organization to work with autistic students on musical therapy. He received a very enthusiastic response from parents when his music made the students dance. This was music he played all the time at home, but it was new to the crowd in Nigeria.
“It was amazing to have a song that they would want to use in their own teachings,” he says. Clipp was also struck by the power of music to heal; he noticed the way it had an instantly calming effect on some of the children. “It was a very touching experience and it opened my mind."
Now preparing for the first ever Back to the Books DJ Camp, Clipp is getting enthusiastic support from the local community. Joel Salazar, founder of Too Fresh Productions and host of Fresh 45’s, is finding b-boy dancers and graffiti artists for the camp. Josey Records will help sponsor meals and Virdiko will supply headphones and DJ setups. “I’m not an expert by any means,” says Clipp. “But I try to bring unique individuals together.”
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The first day focuses on kids from ages 8 to 12, a workshop with graffiti art, b-boying and the basics of DJing with a scratch showcase. The next two days are for ages 13 through 17, for those who are more serious about being a DJ. It’s more of a Hip-Hop 101 course that also covers live music production. Several DJs, including Rob Viktum and DJ IZM, will work one on one with students, along with producers Jah Born and Zach Witness.
“It’s very fulfilling work,” says Jay Clipp. “I want people to keep the respect for the DJ. A lot of people don’t value the DJ as they should. So many people just get out there and play songs. I don’t want to stray away from the origins of it.”
Back to the Books DJ Summer Camp starts August 12. For more info, visit keepspinningdja.com.