For Francis Relly Quilatan and his colleagues at Burnaby’s Table Tutors DJ Academy, the abrupt onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was nothing short of catastrophic.
As a music business that brings over 25 years of collective experience to bear in service to its mission – improved economic, professional, social-emotional, and community outcomes via DJ and turntable mentoring and instruction – the pandemic’s attendant public health restrictions meant the cessation of nearly all the Academy’s programming as of mid-March 2020. With income depleted, events postponed, and recurring revenues impossible to predict, Table Tutors’ path out of the pandemic felt murky and unclear.
Now, two years later, the company is beginning to contemplate a brighter future thanks to a recent infusion of operational support from Amplify BC’s Music Company Development program. Designed to provide flexible, responsive, and unrestricted funding to companies battered by the pandemic, this support has represented a lifeline for operations manager Quilatan and his small team. Specifically, it’s ensuring the continuance of meaningful program delivery to participants who would otherwise not have anything approximating such a unique opportunity for learning, growth, and self-directed skills development.
As a music business, Table Tutors provides personalized mentorship and instruction in both individual and group settings for individuals interested in learning more about the crafts of DJing, turntablism, and beat production. Since taking flight in 2016, Table Tutors has also been particularly focused on providing opportunity and access for equity-seeking and historically marginalized groups and demographics: women, people of colour, Indigenous, and LGBTQ2SIA+ individuals, in particular. Table Tutors is also a Serato DJ Certified School. You can sign up here!
Through a mix of facilitated classes, drop-in sessions, after-school activity, youth-focused DJ day camps, collaborative community engagement programs, access to quality recording studio facilities, and other initiatives, the Academy enables individuals from all walks of life to grow skills, meet like-minded peers with similar interests, and incorporate valuable structure, routine, and rhythm into their schedules. Many of the Academy’s participants are also experiencing concomitant systemic life challenges: barriers to accessing other community resources, mental heath issues, and housing precarity, as but a few examples. Participation in the Academy’s intentional mix of structured and self-directed community programming can often represent a crucial bridge and backbone of consistency and stability.
At Table Tutors, this kind of social impact goes hand in hand with a desire to create professional and economic opportunities for participants. The company also offers a mix of drop-in and more formalized individual and group mentorships with established, working-professional DJs and mixers for those interested in progressing professionally in the industry. Alongside an established, permanent faculty of 12, special guest instructors are also engaged from global music destinations as timing and resources allow. Through its Foundations and Life After programs, aspiring DJs at various levels are paired with professionals in a work experience/internship-styled setting, and equipped with the foundational creative, economic, and business skills necessary for success. Each mentor has 10-15 years of experience to offer; participants learn the fundamentals of sound design, beat production, music theory, basic scratching, and industry-standard software and equipment. Participation fees are deliberately kept accessible, and – wherever possible – below-market, to facilitate broad access.
During COVID-19, Table Tutors continued in sustainable mission delivery by providing lessons and instruction online, maintaining limited in-person attendance at its studio and other facilities, and investing in PPE for program participants at no cost to them. The Academy has also presented online showcases of its emerging talent, and fostered new connections with new and existing partners – schools, community centres, and mission-aligned nonprofit organizations – to deepen its community and civic impact. All of this keeps staff engaged, and students of all backgrounds motivated. Funding from Amplify BC is enabling Table Tutors to continue in its sustainable and safe reopening plan – and, in doing so, continue to provide aspiring and established music and sound professionals from all walks of life with a safe place to connect with their communities and themselves.
Table Tutors also takes its role as a community steward seriously. Since inception, the company has forged lasting creative partnerships featuring live performances, mentorship, and training opportunities for the Canucks Autism Network, alongside many women-only music industry events and initiatives. The organization has also become a fixture at many community celebrations and commemorations, deploying resources and expertise in support of Metro Vancouver-based Filipino Independence Day celebrations, various all-ages/sober LGBTQ dance and social events, presentations at local youth and learning facilities and school districts, and – notably – the Burnaby RCMP. Table Tutors also maintains robustly reciprocal advocacy and in-kind partnerships with GlowTronics, Cut and Paste Records, and DJ City, ensuring that the interests and needs of these unique industry professionals are never far from the public eye.
As Francis explains it via the Table Tutors website, “DJing is an art. There is no right or wrong when it comes to creativity. In the same way that an artist might paint a picture without the intention of ever selling it, a DJ can create and play music without ever having to play a gig. If an artist decides to devote more time into their craft to [achieve] heightened professional goals, DJs, too, can also take their craft to that next level, as well. DJ for fun. DJ professionally! DJ … just because!”
Photos courtesy of TableTutors.com.