Beats Per Month:The Next Generation

As we all know, there is a serious lack of recreation for the youth of New Orleans. Far too many kids end up running the streets and causing trouble for others as well as themselves. NORD and other agencies have attempted to curb this trend, but without much funding, many of these efforts have fallen short. There have even been projects from outside the city to help the young people here such as the skatepark donated by Red Bull but due to bureaucratic red tape, progress has been slow. However, there are a few locals that have taken it upon themselves to try to alleviate some of the problems facing the city’s youth and NOLA Mix is just one of them.

NOLA Mix is the brainchild of Ben Epstein, (aka DJ Yamin) and focuses on teaching kids the “ins and outs” of DJing and production. Still in its infancy, the program explores the equipment, techniques, history and creativity that are paramount to becoming a DJ. Partnering with Jerald White of the Charitable Film Network, Epstein hopes to provide an alternative to the drugs and violence that have become so commonplace in New Orleans. Classes take place in the Bywater’s Antenna Gallery and are aimed at 8 to 18 year-olds, but he says that anyone is welcome regardless of age. Epstein’s first class series, which finished up last month, was comprised of five students ranging in age from 8 to 24 and he hopes to expand those numbers in the near future.

This is not Epstein’s first foray into teaching youngsters a new skill. While based in Boston he started a similar program; and after relocating to the Crescent City he felt there was a void that needed to be filled. He states, “I wanted to give something back to the city and provide an outlet for kids to express themselves.” Teaching the fundamentals comes naturally for this longtime DJ/producer and the focus of his classes are on everything from the history of the art form to the technical prowess that goes along with it. Crate digging, scratching, beat-matching and technological advances are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Epstein also uses his vast knowledge of Funk, HipHop, Reggae and Jazz to teach his pupils not only where the music comes from, but also the limitless possibilities of what can be accomplished with two turntables. “I don’t discourage them from bringing new music to the table, even if it’s something I’m not familiar with,” he says. Technique is ever important and his hands-on approach, which applies both to practice and repetition, is the core skill that any DJ worth his salt must maintain. Along with these basic technical nuances, Epstein focuses on reading the crowd as well as knowing when and what to play at different points in a set. “Along with the basic fundamentals, I encourage the kids to be spontaneous and to try new things.”

While most of the class is based around turntables and a mixer, Epstein also uses Serato to bring the learning curve into the 21st century, and hopes to bring other avenues of DJing and production into the picture in the near future. “We’re working to get funding through grants and other sources” he says, “so that we can move into a permanent space, as well as expanding our curriculum to include more teachers, new technology and different approaches to the classic DJ format.” He also hopes to incorporate breakdancing, graffiti and other art forms in the future to round out his students’ experience.

With upcoming student showcases at the Contemporary Arts Center and Big Top, NOLA Mix is set to bring the next generation of DJs to the forefront of New Orleans music. Classes are priced at 20 dollars per session and a limited number of scholarships are available to those that qualify. For more information regarding classes or instruction, be sure to check out nolamix.com or contact DJYamin@hotmail.com.