By Molly Gibbs, Monterey Herald
May 20, 2022
SEASIDE — Students’ lessons at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School of the Arts Thursday featured scratching and blending — DJ techniques taught by their “Turnaround Artist” mentor, IZ Avila.
Monterey Peninsula Unified School District — which was recently named one of the best communities for music education in the United States for the third year in a row — includes two Turnaround Arts schools: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School of the Arts in Seaside and Marina Vista Elementary Arts Academy. Both schools are supported by Turnaround Arts: California, a nonprofit organization aimed at using the arts to engage, empower and transform historically marginalized schools and communities.
Avila works with several Turnaround Arts schools across the country. His return to Seaside and Marina this week was met with cheers and applause from the students and marked his first visit to one of his “adopted” schools since before the pandemic.
“At one point, I didn’t think I’d get an opportunity to be back because we didn’t know where things were at,” Avila said. “Honestly it feels somewhat surreal.”’
Avila joined the Turnaround Arts program in 2016 when he adopted Standing Rock Middle School in North Dakota. He said witnessing firsthand the students’ loss of hope, excitement and imagination because of the things they had gone through changed his life.
“I really bonded with those kids and they opened up to me and trusted me,” he said. “That was an incredible process for me because once I saw how interested they were with music, I started cultivating them and helping them understand what DJing was.”
Avila witnessed that excitement for music again Thursday at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School of the Arts.
In DJ workshops, he taught the students what DJing means, how to use the soundboard and how to blend two pieces of music together cohesively, which he said is the most important part of DJing.
“Just because you can put everything on your computer doesn’t mean you should play it,” he advised the students. “As a DJ, the last thing you want to do is clear the dance floor.”