Get a B.A. in beatmatching at Voxbox

By Jordyn Marcellus

Flautists need not apply to Voxbox Studios DJ School. The studio and school is a place where wannabe DJs can load up their gear and learn the art of mixing and scratching from some of Calgary’s best.

Owned and operated by David Gale, a.k.a. DJ Damage, Voxbox has taught the art of mixing for five years, though its origin is a lot more humble.

“It started off as teaching my friends how to DJ,” explains Gale. “Now it’s a place to learn art, and an agency for our students — our guys are opening for big DJs and getting out and networking.”

Gale has big dreams for the school. As the owner, it’s his job to get out in the community and get his students DJ nights and build the business. After a growth of about “100 to 150 per cent each year” according to Gale, this year he wants to quadruple his business — which means more DJ nights and more students getting out into the community.

Even though most people seem to think anyone can be one by throwing in a couple of CDs, loading up an iPod and switching between the two.

“People of a certain age seem to think that DJing is just switching between tracks,” says Gale. “Now DJs integrate electronic in to [their performance — you see some with little keyboards that they integrate into their sets.”

Gale, a child magician, had a sideways introduction to the field. A former Regina resident, he took an apprenticeship with a DJ in his teens and abandoned magic. Eventually he worked his way up to Regina nightclubs by the tender age of 16, a fantastic job for a teenager — and one that his friends, with quite good reason, never believed.

“They would want to hang out, like, Saturday night and I’d say ‘sorry guys I gotta go to work,’ ” he says. “Of course, they didn’t believe me — I was sixteen and said I was working in a club.”

His teen apprenticeship has influenced the way the school works. There is coursework at the school’s location in Axe Music on Macleod Trail, where DJ and technical skills are taught.

Complementing the coursework, students get the opportunity to go out into the community with the instructors and learn the trade by hand.

While the gigs may not be the glamorous Ibiza shows that some fantasize about — usually weddings or high school dances — the experiences are essential in getting their feet wet and teaching them one of the most important skills a DJ can learn: reading a crowd.

“We still make people pay their dues,” he says. “One of the most important aspects of a DJ is to perform. When they go to a mobile gig, they get to see how to read a crowd.”

Voxbox not only offers students shadowing opportunities, but also gigs in bars and nightclubs all over Calgary that allow their students to spin. The feather in Gale’s cap is the collaboration with the Whiskey, where students perform every Saturday night in the D’Lux Lounge. Not only is this an opportunity for students to show their stuff, but it’s paid as well.

“We’ve had people perform in pubs, and when Tangerine existed we’d have our guys perform there,” he says. “We’ve even had a club in Airdrie bring our people out.”

Gale expains that because DJing is a musical profession, there needs to be a standard schoolwork for them to learn the craft.

“Let’s finally standardize the instruction of DJs,” says Gale. “DJs are musicians and like any musician, they need a school.”

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