On College Avenue in Broad Ripple, just south of 62nd street, the road is lined with houses that have been transformed into cozy homes for businesses and local storefronts. Two of the commercial neighborhood’s newest tenants are Nick Saligoe aka DJ MetroGnome and Douglas “Sir Doug” Morris, co-owners and founders of Deckademics DJ School.
Although it’s advertised as “Indy’s First DJ School,” the seeds for Deckademics were planted long ago. In 2006, Saligoe started an Indianapolis chapter of Hip Hop Congress. Working out of The MLK Center at 40th & Illinois with a $5,000 grant from the city, he and local legend DJ Topspeed started teaching kids in the neighborhood how to DJ. The project ran through 2009 as a free service to the community until they plateaued.
Shortly after Hip Hop Congress shuttered, he started working on what would eventually become Deckdemics. Taking his time, Saligoe started with rewriting the curriculum. Later, in 2012, he formed Deckademics as an official LLC, but it wasn’t until mid-2013 that the pace picked up and it seemed he would soon have all the pieces to the puzzle into place.
One of the key pieces of that puzzle would be Saligoe’s business partner, Morris. With a business relationship dating back to 2006 when DJ MetroGnome became a staple for Old Soul events, the foundation for success was already in place. Saligoe credits their healthy, honest friendship for their ability to keep each other in check when it’s time to get down to business.
“Sometimes you have a personal relationship and you don’t want to taint it with business. With us it’s kinda personal and kinda business. We joke around, but we’re also quick to call each other’s shit if we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do, which is good.”
In addition to the amicable vibes that come with holding class in a residential dwelling, Saligoe specifically wanted the school to be in a house in order to compartmentalize concurrent sessions and isolate students. Each of three rooms accommodates two students at once, letting one use speakers and challenging the other to use headphones only.
“It changes the way you have to DJ in that kind of setting,” Saligoe explains. “If we had everyone in one big commercial space, there would be nothing to separate the sound.”
What’s more, Deckademics’ methodology is steeped in classic DJ’ing and insists that all beginners learn the trade on the traditional platform of vinyl and turntables. Saligoe points to a bookcase full of vinyl records and continues, “Deckademics teaches on records because there’s nothing to stare at and it forces the student to use their ears.”
Entry-level classes stick to turntables only for instruction, but the school doesn’t totally reject new technology, either. CDJs and controllers occupy a table in one classroom for advanced learners, but Saligoe and Morris both want their students to develop the foundational skills of the craft before embracing the technology that augments it.
“We want to make sure that students have the flexibility to show up to a party and be able to perform with whatever is there,” Saligoe says.
It is certain that Deckademics’ most valuable point of differentiation is their arsenal of instructors- most notably the legendary DJ Topspeed.
“He’s probably the most respected and the most talented. I don’t think that can be challenged,” Morris contends when I ask about the school’s staff.
“I don’t think anybody can challenge that Speed is the best in the Midwest, and you can probably even stretch that further. There’s certain things that Speed can do and teach that nobody else in the city has the knowledge for.”
Topspeed joined the Deckademics team for more than just his famous name, though. Saligoe points out that he was very intentional in his selection of instructors, considering more than just experience and skill in the art of DJing. His formal degree in education helped him look at the bigger picture and take into account all the traits and skills that go into making a good teacher.
“The reason that I chose the people that I did was that there’s a lot of people that are good DJs [in the city], but it’s different to try to explain how to DJ. That’s a totally different animal,” he says while going over the roster of instructors at Deckademics.
Alex Edgecombe aka Cool Hand Lex, another member of the Deckademics faculty, is also a fantastic DJ with a great reputation for having a very well-rounded musical background, but Saligoe notes that he’s also very personable.
“A lot of times when you’re teaching people at the lower level it’s less about getting busy. I mean, you can do that, but it doesn’t really help somebody that is trying to learn. You need to be approachable and make people comfortable because there’s a lot of growth that has to take place. People have to build confidence.”
Rounding out the roster of instructors, Saligoe calls scratch DJ Chase their “secret weapon”. What he lacks in local fame, he makes up for in technical skill.
“He only teaches upper-level scratching courses,” Saligoe says as he explains Chase’s role in the DJ school. “So for the people that want to become scratch nerds, that is his lane. He’s highly skilled, technically advanced, and he understands a lot of the really, really difficult stuff. We’ve had people approach us for those kinds of classes; they’re not worried about being a party rocker, they just wanna learn how to cut better. This is the perfect avenue for that. “
Generally speaking, Topspeed, Edgecombe and Saligoe handle the majority of the intro level through intermediate courses, while Chase specifically teaches advanced classes. Saligoe and Morris have intentions of adding to the staff in the future, as well as offering supplemental one-day courses that are taught periodically, but not on a regular repeating schedule, such as “DJing for the Radio” and “Personal Branding & Marketing 101”.
Flexibility, adaptability, and personalization are recurring themes with every student at Deckademics. Saligoe and Morris have seen the gamut with regard to age, skill, and musical taste in their classes. Many students are totally new to the craft, but they also see a lot of seasoned DJs who want to get better at scratching. Deckademics emphasizes that they’re not trying to cater to a specific demographic or “scene”.
Most of Deckademics’ clients are in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, but they do have a few high school and middle school students. They hope to add a children’s class to their offerings in the future and look forward to expanding their younger clientele-base.
Deckademics’ Weekend Warrior class is their most popular offering – a four-hour crash course specifically designed for people who don’t know if they’re ready to commit to the craft.
“DJing is a very expensive hobby,” says Saligoe. “That’s why it’s a popular class, because they don’t have to commit too much time or money up front. Come in and discover that you love it, or chalk it up as a good experience and hang your hat.”
Deckademics is also thoughtful in helping self-taught DJs determine where their current skillset fits into the classes offered. Saligoe points to the trend of DJing with controllers- a technology that takes a lot of the challenge and skill out of mixing- as the culprit for many miscalculations about which class a student should be taking.
“They’ve been [DJing with controllers] for a long time and think they’ve got it down, so they see themselves as intermediate or advanced, when they’re actually novice because they’ve been using technology that does the work for them. So they actually don’t know how to DJ at all if you remove that crutch.”
Julio Rolon aka DJ Rican took the ADVANCED: Practice Makes Perfect course to learn more scratch techniques, sharpen his fundamentals and get an overall refresh on his skillset. He’s been a DJ for ten years.
I didn’t think I would be able to pick up some of the fundamental scratch techniques so quickly since this all was a new way to learn. I was forcing myself to act as if I was coming as a beginner and just absorb as much information as possible, but as each session passes, it just starts to feel natural.
I HIGHLY recommend this program to anyone that loves music and/or controling a room with music with a skill set. The DJ industry has changed so much due to technology that people tend to think it’s an easy task to just “press play.” Deckademics allows you to get kind of a history lesson into what makes a DJ, how to control your audience, what song selections should you use, which type of equipment would you prefer using, or a music lesson on where certain samples came from.
Jerry Rickard aka DJ Trounce signed up for the AMATEUR: Application of Fundamentals class with two years of DJ experience behind him.
After attending Deckademics for only two months I did a show and my friends could see a big difference in the way I mixed, scratched (which I never done), blended, and much more. No need to describe my experience, because my new found skills from Deckademics have done all the describing.
Deckademics recognizes that not everybody wants to be involved at the same level. They don’t expect everybody who enrolls in a class to end up as a club DJ and they don’t necessarily want everyone that comes through to try to “be on the scene” in six months.
Like many other things in life, taking a DJ class at Deckademics is what you make of it, but there’s never any pressure to advance to another class when it could be something you just want to cross off your bucket list.
But if you’re ready to chase your dreams, Deckademics is certainly ready to help you get there.
“Indulge your senses”. This is both Oranje’s motto and goal. From brilliant pieces of art to shattering live musical performances, Indy’s premier culture festival is a haven for sensory stimulation. The twelve year old event has transformed immensely since its grassroots beginnings, and last Saturday night was a shiny, orange testament to its local prowess.
Strolling into the main quadrant of Oranje, which was composed of the lawn and building of Centennial Hall, festival goers were greeted by live art and music. Graffiti artists wielded their cans in creative glory as they sprayed a PBR themed mural onto a trailer. Orange little globes softly glowed along the paths leading to different attractions. Additional artists drew and painted on easels surrounding the PBR stage, which hosted a slew of musicians.
While The Bright White, rockers from the Windy City, had this stage they played some pretty typical pop rock. They sounded like they’d definitely taken a couple of pages from the Goo Goo Dolls. This fact coupled with their non-native status could have attributed to their lack of listeners. Nonetheless, when Audiodacity and Jomberfox hit the stage later on, the PBR tent received plenty of love. Local outfit Jomberfox strummed and serenaded a growing crowd with their rock tunes. Brandishing a lap steel guitar and a unique indie-rock subtlety, it was exciting to watch this group perform. Audiodacity followed up with their energetic horn driven sound. They had their large audience swaying and dancing through the entire set. Although the dynamics of Oranje outdoors were terrific, the interior also had plenty to offer.
Inside Centennial Hall, the scene was even wilder. Booths of artists lined up against both sides of the three levels of the facility. With a stage at the end of each level, the masterminds behind Oranje had left no space for quietude. Honestly, with only six hours to cram all the attractions in, there wasn’t a soul present who minded being sounded by stimulations. Visual artists like Izaak Hayes, who unearths inspirations in his found art, and Caren Charles, who creates richly colored paintings, interacted with patrons at their booths. Most presented business cards and had works for sale. Charles was offering face paints which ranged from playful kitten whiskers to inspiring, and vivid designs. Down the hall from these artists more musicians were performing.
At the Jakprints stage an indie rock band, from Chicago, titled Landmarks played ambient tunes. Both relaxing, and reminiscent of the nationally popular indie sound present at this time, they were a calm addition to a very high-powered musical roster. At the Indy Mojo stage, DJ Topspeed spun an eclectic mix of rap and pop songs strung to a fast paced tempo. It has been said that Topspeed can play for any crowd, which is certainly the truth. Hippies, hip-hop heads, and general music lovers thrashed to his beats. Topspeed’s beat weren’t the only ones being spun that evening, though. The Beats and Breakfast Lounge was home to the evening’s rap music. Indian City Weather put on a stellar performance that had the crowd nodding their heads. Blending elements of hip-hop, rock, and pop, these guys brought hot sound to Oranje. However, the late night set by the Breakdown Kings was the perfect climax to the night. Ace One and his group brought the night to a boisterous and crashing finale armed with their raw rap-rock sound.
As the night drizzled to a close, and the partiers hopped in their cabs or rides from Uber, there was a glow that seemed to surround Centennial Hall. The orange globes that lined the path shone in solidarity to a night that should make Indy proud.
This Saturday evening, a diverse gathering of Indianapolis residents will assemble at Centennial Hall and Dow AgroSciences Celebration Park at the Indiana State Fairgrounds for the 12th annual Oranje. The art and music fusion event has become an indispensable part of the Indianapolis arts community through showcasing hundreds of local visual and musical artists since its humble beginnings in 2002.
As Oranje has grown over the years, so has the need for tighter coordination between all of the moving parts that make the unique event come together. Last year Oranje relocated to the state fairgrounds from the run-down former Ross-Gage building at 24th and Illinois where it has resided for the previous five years. With improved access to amenities such as air conditioning and electrical outlets as well as a generally cleaner environment (added bonus: way more stalls in the ladies room), moving to the fairgrounds makes everyone’s experience more enjoyable- from the artists building exhibition booths to the attendees finding close, safe parking.
Oranje co-founder and director Ryan Hickey elaborates, “I think everybody shares the same opinion, which is also my opinion. Yeah, those older buildings were way more fun and cool. But you know, it was also a lot different being 24 [years old] and doing Oranje than it is being 36 and doing Oranje. It was a lot more fun and interesting and edgy- all that type of stuff- but at some point you go, ‘Alright. I’ve got 23 sponsors, 100 participants, 50 staff people and 3,000 people coming. And I’m responsible for all of them and they all have different demands and the best thing to accommodate them is to put them into a space that’s just a little easier to work with and not filthy the minute we walk in the building.'”
Hickey says the biggest thing that’s different from last year is the Beats & Breakfast lounge- an extension of the annual series from Lonegevity (of Hinx Jones) and Skittz (of The Proforms and Breakdown Kings). The pair have teamed up with Oranje to have two live sessions occur during the event with multiple talented artists from Indianapolis. Festival patrons will be able to get some tasty breakfast food and hang out in the Beats &Breakfast lounge while observing the raw creation of tracks before their very eyes. Moreover, the fine folks at Bringing Down The Band (who also sponsor Beats & Breakfast) will have a live recording booth so that attendees can experience Beats & Breakfast themselves. Everyone will have the option to record over a beat during Oranje in their custom booth. This noteworthy addition to Oranje is not to be missed!
Outside, returning patrons will notice a few changes to the PBR courtyard. Last year’s isolated Red Bull DJ Truck will be relocated to a more prominent spot and upgraded to a Red Bull Fire Truck. The vehicle-turned-DJ booth will serve as The Welcome Stage and project chillaxed, downtempo beats from Christ!an and Cool Hand Lex for attendees as they arrive to the event.
Last year’s event was chilly and forced a lot of patrons inside, and this Saturday appears to be on the same trajectory. Be sure to grab a jacket on your way out the door so you can hang outside late into the night, or else you’ll risk missing out on the interactive art and music installations happening outdoors.
Another PBR-sponsored trailer will be painted with vibrant, authentic street art over the course of the evening. Frequenters of downtown and Fountain Square may recognize last year’s trailer as the area’s Monarch Beverage Company delivery trailer. Additional live art will be in action in the PBR courtyard and those finished products will be donated to top PBR accounts, such as Sinking Ship, for year-round public display.
Be sure to look for the State Farm tent in the courtyard. Anyone who decorated their own trucker hat at at WARMfest will be excited to hear the company will have a similar presence at Oranje, but with blank miniature canvases instead of headwear.
Be aware of the alternate entrance to the Indy Mojo stage from the courtyard just north of the main entry point to the building. Unlike last year, there are no bands scheduled to perform on The Indy Mojo stage. Legendary DJ Topspeed will play a captivating 90-minute that’s not to be missed.
“Topspeed is one of the only DJs outside of the Mojo demographic that really works well with the Mojo demographic,” Hickey explains his excitement for the performance. “The DJs who don’t play in that scene can’t really connect with that crowd that well. But Topsepeed can connect with anyone because he’s that good.”
The Indy Mojo Stage will also host Magnetic, Jeremy Daeger, PoundPoundPound, and jFET. Outdoors, the PBR Stage will showcase straight forward rock-n-roll and indie rock from Swig, Tied To Tigers, The Bright White, Jomberfox, and Audiodacity. Inside and upstairs, the Level 3 Stage will present a more eclectic mix from Rugged Russian Bear, Shimmercore, Landmarks, Black Cat Rebellion, and The Bearded Lucys.
Indy Mojo’s top musical picks for the night include Topspeed, Jomberfox, Audiodacity, Jeremy Daeger, Indian City Weather, Rugged Russian Bear, and The Bearded Lucys.
Visual art is arguably the focal point of Oranje; more than 25 artists are currently building elaborate exhibition booths on all three floors of Centennial Hall. Among the many others, be sure to check out Stella Brickel and Homeless Cop near the Level 3 Stage.
Last, but not least, keep some cash on hand and plan to pay $5 for parking in addition to the cost of your ticket to Oranje. Watch the Oranje facebook page for special give-aways all week leading up to Saturday’s main event.
Oranje – Indulge Your Senses
Saturday October 12; 8 pm – 2 am
Centennial Hall and Dow AgroSciences Celebration Park at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
1202 E. 38th Street, Indianapolis, Indiana 46205