Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Germantown Library mixes it up with disc jockey lessons

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Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
Germantown resident Azah Awasum, 16, a senior at Seneca Valley High School takes a turn at the DJ equipment last week. Carlos Marroquin (left) helped 30 youths learn tricks of the trade at the Germantown Library.
As the smell of pizza wafted through the Germantown Library, 10-year-old Brenay Davies of Montgomery Village stepped up to the mixer. After a quick tutorial and some coaxing from disc jockey Carlos Marroquin of Gaithersburg, she tentatively leaned into the mike.

‘‘My name’s Brenay and this is ‘Wall to Wall’ by Chris Brown,” Davies said shyly before flooding the library’s media room with the R&B jam.

Davies was just one of the 30 or so youths who gathered at the library July 17 for a free lesson on how to be a DJ. While many library events are aimed toward children or adults, this informal class was for an age group less likely to be down with the Dewey Decimal Classification system — teens.

‘‘A lot of libraries are reaching out to teens,” said organizer Lisa Nachman, the sole young adult librarian with Montgomery County Public Libraries. ‘‘It’s a population we need to focus on, and Germantown is a perfect spot because it’s such a young community.”

However, it’s not always easy to get high school and middle school students to hang out at the library.

‘‘Teens are a hard group,” said Mark Gochnour, manager of the Poolesville Library. ‘‘You have to find a program that matches their needs.”

Gochnour added that since the library’s teen events have been so sparsely attended in the past, it tries to focus its limited funding on more popular offerings such as book clubs and preschool films.

About 55 teens have enrolled in the countywide Teen Summer Reading Club at the Poolesville Library, he said, and 850 are enrolled at the Germantown Library, said Ann Stillman, senior librarian in children’s services. Poolesville Library may bring in a Japanese manga artist to help kids create comics, Gochnour said.

Back at the Germantown Library, last month’s session of the interactive dance video game ‘‘Dance Dance Revolution,” part of a countywide tournament that will culminate at the Wheaton Library July 31, drew 75 participants, and future offerings could possibly include karaoke night, Nachman said. The DJ demonstration was organized after Silver Spring’s Long Branch Library successfully hosted a similar event, she said.

Marroquin, an announcer with the Kensington-based Mid Atlantic Professional DJ Association, entertains at weddings, parties and clubs. He gave a brief talk to the assembled youths before giving them a chance to try for themselves.

‘‘Music can either make or break an event,” he said while standing behind the table housing his mixer, CD player and amplifier. ‘‘... You gotta constantly be listening to music, knowing what’s on the top of the charts.”

Those requirements were no problem for most of the youths in attendance, some of whom were as young as 4.

‘‘I like music a lot, and I just wanted to see what [DJs] do,” said Azah Awasum, 16, of Germantown, who said she was a big fan of classic rock and soul.

‘‘I came out because recently my dad purchased DJ equipment, and I want to learn how to use it,” said her friend, Valerie Cabrejo, 17, of Germantown.

Marroquin said technology has changed the tools of the turntable trade over the years. Some DJs now use iPods, and record scratches can be created with CDs using special effects, he said.

‘‘Most of the [DJs] using vinyl now are just trying to keep it old school,” he told the assembled crowd before helping the amateur emcees set up and introduce snippets of songs by such artists as T.I., Fall Out Boy, Sum 41, Salt-N-Pepa, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake.

Though the massive speakers and talks of how to keep a party flowing may have struck some more conservative library patrons as out of place, the organizers were happy to see teens spending their summer learning, no matter how unorthodox the skill.