Feature Stories

Southlake Wedding Singer Dan Quinn Wants to Teach Kids How to DJ

At first glance, you might not expect Dan Quinn to front a DJ camp for kids. On top of being a full-time, one-man-band wedding singer, Quinn is also a dad. So in between belting out cover songs for corporate events, dropping the latest David Guetta track for prom kids and coaching his daughter’s soccer games, Quinn decided to branch out into teaching deejaying to the next generation. His camp takes place this week in Southlake. 

“The reason I started a DJ camp is because I do a lot of parties where kids come up and they’re just like, ‘What does this button do? Can I have a turn? Can I listen to your headphones?’" Quinn says. "I realized that everyone wants to be a DJ now.”

That wasn't always what Quinn wanted, though. An East Coast kid from upstate New York, Quinn trekked to Texas, where he earned a college degree in optical engineering. After holding down a sweet tech gig in Austin for 10 and a half years, he decided to needed a change. “I just reached a point in my career where I was ready to do something different. I decided in 2014 to take the plunge, if you will, and I decided to play music full-time.”

Quinn's isn't the only DJ camp in this neck of the woods; last year, DJ Jay Clipp started his own, more traditional turntable-centric camp for kids. But Quinn's approach will be different: "The concept of turntablism is a whole art in and of itself. I don’t go that route for a couple of reasons. One: That’s not how I perform.” As Quinn puts it, while vinyl DJs are incredibly talented individuals, the process itself can be expensive and not the most accessible for kids.

“The truth is, a kid with a laptop, who wants learn the basics of DJing, can get an all-in-one controller for a couple hundred bucks, take all the music they already have on iTunes, import it into DJ software and now we can teach the basics," Quinn says. “There’s no wrong way to DJ. I’m not going to be putting down any style of DJing. Everyone’s going to have real Pioneer software, Pioneer controllers. All of the kids are going to have some real gear in front of them.”

Many old school DJs look down on their all-electronic counterparts — and, to some degree, so does Quinn. While he says he doesn’t intend for the campers to run straight into headlining a festival, he is determined to teach them the basics, and in the process, review how not to DJ by highlighting some of the internet’s best “DJ fail” videos. “You know, pushing play, putting your hands in the air and taking a bunch of selfies — that’s not deejaying,” he says.

The focus will be on fundamentals. “We’re going to learn about tempos and beat matching,” Quinn says. “We’re going to learn about cueing, being able to filter, transitioning from one song to another. We probably won’t get into a lot of scratching, because typically, it’s not necessary. But we’ll do some stuttering and some hot cue points, where they can hit buttons repeatedly and make some beats come in.”

He laughs, unable to resist the obvious joke: “We’re going to teach them how to drop the bass.”

That being said, Quinn says music elitism will not be tolerated at his camp. Moreover, inclusivity is going to be one of the biggest themes of the entire experience. “The first rule in class is: Be excellent to each other. And yes, that is a Bill and Ted reference,” Quinn jokes. “But what I really mean by that is, dude, if you want to drop a Taylor Swift track in your mix, if you want to play Katy Perry, if you want to play dubstep or country, you go right ahead. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like, you are welcome in this class — there will be no music snobbery here.”

So far the response has been positive and he plans to continue offering the camp during school breaks. “If you’re worried that somebody’s going to make fun of the song that you pick — no, that’s not going to happen. It’s like being in an art class. There’s no right way to paint, there’s no right way to draw and there’s no right way to DJ. You can do absolutely anything you want with these tools and there’s no wrong way to do it.”

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Molly is a Dallas/Austin-based writer who's been published in the Austin Chronicle, Phoenix New Times, Euphoria Magazine, Listen Hear and Nakid Magazine. When she's not writing about music, this diehard non-vegan is tirelessly searching for the city's best elotes, discussing East versus West Coast rap and forever asking for 10 more minutes of sleep. For a good time, tell her your favorite band is Muse and wait for the five million reasons why you're wrong.
Contact: Molly Mollotova