Toddlers Taking a Spin on the DJ Turntable
Natalie Elizabeth Weiss' flyer for her new Baby DJ School, set to begin on Sept. 18, promises that it will get to work "empowering the super young to mix music that is super dope."
The $200, eight-week course for children ages 0-3 aims to encourage kids to use their motor skills to create music. Through 45-minute class sessions, Weiss, 31, said she will show the toddlers how to mix and match musical tracks on a MIDI trigger connected to a laptop. By turning knobs and pushing sliders, these baby DJs will be mixing separate tracks and making music as soon as their first day of class, she said.
"It's going to be easier for me to teach a 3-month-old how to DJ than it is to teach an adult how to DJ because they have especially plastic minds at that age," said Weiss, who is a musician, DJ and composer. "There's no judgment."
The class will use the floor of Cool Pony Crown Heights, a vintage clothing store in Brooklyn, N.Y., that also sells records and serves as a music venue.
"I am using real equipment, so parents will be present. This isn't some drop-off thing," Weiss said.
In a group class, the toddlers will learn to take turns on the MIDI trigger. She said she hopes it will be an interactive family experience that will hopefully "demystify electronic music and make DJ-ing more ubiquitous."
Weiss said she also hopes to break down the stigma and the negative attitudes some people seem to have about electronic music.
"If we teach children to make electronic music and DJ in a family setting at a young age, it will mean that it doesn't have to be something you do at a club, where you may do something you will regret," Weiss said. "It can be one of the most beautiful things ever."
Children are ready for sonic complexity; it's the parents who aren't, she said. Weiss believes electronic music and DJ-ing will offer a challenge to children that will help stimulate their minds and encourage intellectual development.
"The act of listening to two different songs by two different artists from two different time periods, just listening to them both at the same time, deciding how you want to put them together, recognizing that it doesn't fit together, is very complex," she said.
There have been some Brooklyn residents who have accused Weiss's DJ-ing classes of trying to be too hip. One commented the Brooklynian website forum announcement of the classes: "Brooklyn used to be cool just because. Now it's cool because you can afford to pay $200 for your toddler to drool over vinyl."
ABC's Good Morning America was able to gain a sneak peek of the Baby DJ class in action. Weiss opened up a trial class on Friday before classes officially begin on Wednesday to see how her prospective students and parents would respond. Overall, the reaction was a positive one.
Parents enjoyed themselves while some babies simply "enjoyed the fact that he was actually able to touch," and that the DJing class was "interactive for the kids," said one parent. Another parent added, "I thought it was really creative and really fun," after the class session.
But not ever little one was quick to jump on the mixing table.
"She really didn't take to it, unfortunately. She loves music, but I think when it gets a little loud and a lot of people around, you get this reaction," a mother said, pointing out her child's fussy behavior.
"Kids are very good at finding activities that are appropriate for where they are in terms of their learning and development," said Celeste Kidd, a research associate in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester. "It's not just the motor development that's happening, but it's also the social interaction with parents which is very valuable.
Weiss said she did a lot of preparation work creating her lesson plans. Using the computer software Traktor Pro, which many professional DJs use, Weiss said she went to great lengths to program and assign the pads, sliders and knobs on the MIDI trigger to perform commands that are easy enough for a baby to use.
Because the children physically push the sliders and turn the knobs on their own, these toddlers will be able to experience the changes that come through their actions and ultimately create a mix, she said.
As the lyrics to a song that Weiss uses to promote the new program say, "MIDI trigger is connected to the laptop and the laptop is connected to the PA. We press play and we're on our way to being a baby DJ." The song also may help children that may be a little shy experiment with the MIDI trigger.
So come Sept. 18, step aside nursery rhymes and make room for the DJ turntable. Weiss hopes to eventually take this idea nationwide.