The Warhol remixes workforce development with its Teen DJ Academy

click to enlarge A Black teen with an afro and wearing a white T-shirt, and a white teen wearing a blazer covered in Batman logos and face mask, stand behind a table with Dj equipment.
Photo: Courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum
Teens DJ the LGBTQ+ Youth Prom at The Warhol
Workforce development for teens often conjures images of STEM learning designed to prep middle- and high-school students for careers in tech-centered industries. At the Andy Warhol Museum, however, a new program will help adolescent music lovers see the potential of being a DJ in and beyond the club scene.

After years of showing young people around the decks through various programming, The Warhol and its educational partner, the local nonprofit 25 Carrick Ave Project/Tech25, will host an ongoing Teen DJ Academy. The five-week workshop series will provide hands-on training for all aspects of DJing, including sound production, lighting, and more.

The first Academy, which is offered for free to participants, will begin on Feb. 6, with others taking place throughout the year.

Academy students will work with industry professionals like Jordan Gilliam, a professional DJ who also serves as the director of education for 25 Carrick Ave Project/Tech25. They will also receive stipends and get the opportunity to DJ various live events at The Warhol, including the Teen Fashion Show happening in late March.

Heather White, the associate director of learning and public engagement at The Warhol, tells Pittsburgh City Paper that the Academy stems from various teen programs the museum has done over the years. In the past, she says they hosted smaller workshops to prepare teens interested in DJing the annual LGBTQ+ Youth Prom and other events.

"So, it was kind of in the mix a little bit already," says White.

She adds that a number of local DJs have, at some point in their careers, worked for The Warhol, and were open to the idea of helping teens understand the art form. She cites Mary Tremonte, an artist who DJs under the name Mary Mack, Pete Spynda, and Ginger Brooks Takahashi as being among the instructors who have taught DJ workshops.

White says the Academy also fits in with the workforce development portion of Pop District, an initiative launched by The Warhol in 2022 as a way to expand its public art projects, programming, and other offerings. To that end, she says The Warhol team and 25 Carrick Ave Project/Tech25 focus on "quality over quantity" for teen workshops, meaning that they only accept anywhere from 8 to 12 students per Academy to ensure that each participant has a worthwhile experience.

She agrees that the workshops also demonstrate how to make a living as a professional DJ besides playing at dance clubs.

"They're showing kids how you could have this be a career, but it's not just the club kind of DJ, right?" she continues. "How do you DJ a community event? How do you DJ a wedding? How do you market yourself? How do you do sound for a community event that will also make you hireable? So, it's so much broader than that."

While the Academy introduces teens to a potential future, White believes it also serves as a way for them to meet peers, take advantage of valuable mentorship opportunities, and develop a deeper appreciation for music and the arts.

"For us, it's getting these young people in here and helping them to make connections with the broader community, and giving them reasons to either stay here or move on, but having that lifelong love of the arts and lifelong love of this arts community to carry them through," she says.

Know a teen interested in the art of DJing? Applications for the first Teen DJ Academy are being accepted through Mon., Jan. 30. Registration is required by emailing [email protected] with the subject line, "Teen DJ Academy."