Nearly a dozen people sat in a small room painted black and lit only by two theatre lamps, drawing attention to a DJ booth with its chrome and silver equipment glimmering.
DJ Patrick Blin stepped up to the booth, and the silence was broken by the sounds of record scratches as those watching pulled out their phones to begin filming. Smiles broke out across their faces.
This is how it starts.
The Iowans watching Blin gather monthly at a free, learn-to-DJ workshop hosted by Iowa Techno, a collective of DJs based in Iowa, at CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids.
Blin, who is based in Cedar Rapids, is one of the workshop organizers. He began DJing in 2012 and was mentored by another area DJ named Matt Fee. He wanted to give the same opportunity to other aspiring DJs, so he started a workshop.
“One of the biggest hurdles in the beginning is definitely not knowing where to start, not knowing what type of equipment you need, or who to go to if you have questions,” says Blin. “My main goal with the workshop is giving people the mentorship and the tools they need to get started, and at least try it and see if they like it.”
The monthly workshops last about an hour, with different styles of music and DJing on display each month with demonstrations and performances following the more formal workshop session. The December workshop focused on DJing with turntables, an older technology.
Blin and the other workshop organizers place a heavy emphasis on allowing attendees to practice and get the basics down. They also allude to how part of DJing is learning to accept the evolution of technology.
“People like me have been spinning for a long time, but we’ve adapted to the technology,” says Troy “DJ Commando” Williams. He’s been a DJ for 36 years and was at the December workshop to lend his expertise. “At first it bothered me, but it’s a passion.”
Cyerra Hutchins, who lives in Cedar Rapids, has been attending the workshops monthly since she learned about them on Facebook. She's been to four now and was inspired to get into DJing by watching “Jersey Shore.”
Both Blin and DJ Commando say she is one of the few female DJs in Cedar Rapids.
“I’m learning a lot and gaining a lot of confidence,” says Hutchins. “Like Commando says, there’s not a lot of female DJs out there, so that gives me more confidence – like, I’ll be more in demand.”
The next workshop at CSPS is happening on January 15 at 7 p.m. and is open to all ages and DJs of all skill levels. No equipment is necessary. Anyone interested in attending can learn more at IowaTechno’s Facebook page.