When Dria Rushing was 10 she created her DJ name, DJ Drip Sweat. As she progressed through school she admired hip-hop in all of its forms. She continued to be involved with music through high school.
Rushing, 20, said that since she was little she has wanted to be a DJ. She also knew that the equipment associated with that dream was costly and out of reach.
“One day in high school my mom took me to see a DJ that she knows, DJ O,” said Rushing. Although the meeting went well, it would never go beyond that. “It always was about the equipment and not having equipment.”
In September, Rushing attended her first “Scratch Session,” a DJ class hosted by Tyrone Miller, aka DJ Bizzon. “Had I never walked in here, I would not be DJing right now,” she said. Rushing DJs regularly at a local bar.
Miller, who has been a DJ since 2007, said his career inspiration came from his love for music and distaste for other DJs. “I was hearing DJs that I didn’t like and thinking, ‘Oh, I could do better,’” he said.
Now, Miller is a youth DJ instructor, conducting Scratch Sessions, at the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts, 926 E. Center St., in Riverwest.
Scratch Sessions are free and available to high school youths 12-19 interested in turning their passion for music into a career.
Miller said he knows some students are not interested in being rappers or singers and would prefer to be DJs. “I know that accessing equipment is tough, expensive and complicated at times, so I just want to make it more available for the community,” he said.
“I really enjoy seeing kids come out of their shells and getting money in their pockets,” Miller added.
Miller uses Serato DJ software, vinyl turntables and Traktor equipment to teach his students the basics of being a DJ. The cost to buy the three products can be up to $2,000.
Since Miller pays for rental space and equipment, he seeks donations and time from volunteers. Some drop off food for the meetings; other volunteers are DJs themselves.
“When it comes to youth work and nonprofit work, sometimes funding determines what you are able to do or not and I wanted to do something that whether there were donations or not we would still be able to be here,” Miller said.
He added, “Youth will always know that they can be here on Mondays, they have a safe space to come to, they have food to eat and they have other good people in the community to work with.”
The sessions are open-ended, so students do not receive a diploma or certificate of completion. Instead, they are given the opportunity to accompany Miller to his personal gigs and receive a portion of the fee.
Miller has been teaching students at Ronald Reagan High School how to DJ for the past year. Miller and Adam Murphy, instrumental music instructor at Reagan, meet with 10 to 15 students once a week for two hours after school.
“It’s obvious that his knowledge of music and genuine concern and care for our students is taking the club to the next level,” Murphy said.
Shaq Matthews started attending Scratch Sessions with Miller in late November. Matthews, who is about 10 years older than most students, wants to pursue DJing as a career.
Matthews started DJing at home with her friends from their laptops, and performed for friends and family at neighborhood parties.
“From there, I was really inspired to learn more about the craft so I reached out to Miller,” she said. “I said, ‘I know I don’t really fit the age parameters but I’ve seen you DJ and would love to learn,’ and he made it work.”
Matthews has felt a positive vibe since she started coming to the sessions last November.
“A lot of people will stop by and drop off food,” she said. “Others will stop in and say, ‘Hey I’m coming in to serve and see what people need.’ So the community has been supportive for sure.”