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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

DJ 101 at Groove University: scratching out a living and dancing to your own beat

Ever wish to DJ at the famed Studio 54 in Vegas or dream about being an MC at the Hard Rock Café in Sacramento? Were you destined for the music industry and just need an opportunity?

Surprisingly, at UC Davis, there is a way to learn and get into the industry through Groove University, the Experimental College’s DJ program.

Groove University offers classes throughout the school year, and an abbreviated program is available for Summer Session I. Classes begin Wednesday, providing a combination of lecture and hands-on training on the art of scratching and beat mixing while preparing aspiring students to work at A-list nightclubs.

Groove University is one of the few DJ programs in the nation associated with a four-year college. The DJ program is run by UC Davis alumnus Michael Cagley. Spinning as DJ Destiny, Cagley has worked the crowd at venues like Studio 54 and the Hard Rock in Sacramento. He has also served as the official DJ for the Sacramento Kings since 2006, and knows the business of DJing with his years of experience running his own DJ company, Destiny Entertainment, in Davis.

Originally, Cagley was destined for graduate school. He was only matching beats and scratching vinyl on the side while studying sociology and Asian American studies at UC Davis. But after graduating from UC Davis, he instead opted to work in his friend’s DJ company. However, his friend secretly took the GRE and got into graduate school.

“He said he was going to grad school,” Cagley said. “But he liked performing with me and he wanted to give me the company. In some ways, he wanted to establish a legacy.

Cagley’s wife Sindy encouraged him to take the business and follow his passion for music. She was even ready with his DJ name.

“She said we should do it,” Cagley said. “I know your DJ name. It’s our destiny to do this.”

They coined his stage persona as DJ Destiny and since then, Cagley has made a comfortable life playing at different venues and nightclubs. He has performed with Billboard chart-toppers like Boyz 2 Men, Ginuwine and Common.

With his connections in the industry, Cagley has been able to bring in top-flight talent to the classroom. He surprised his class with a guest appearance by famed turntablist DJ Qbert.

“I showed up and somebody said Q was here,” said Robert Brooks, who took five classes with Cagley and now is part of Destiny Entertainment. “He played a beat from slow to fast and I was like ‘ahh.‘”

Though he stresses the techniques of scratching, he devotes a large portion of class to breaking down the business aspect of being a DJ and getting into the music industry.

“I want to let my students know what’s going on,” Cagley said. “We teach about the business of mobile DJs and radio air jock. It would be a disservice if we didn’t teach about the business of DJing.”

Cagley’s manager Mark Storm said that the music industry is very competitive. He has seen many protective DJs who refuse to share the artform but said Cagley is one of the few people willing to share.

“He has over 15 years of experience,” Storm said. “How many DJs would let you into their studio? [With Groove University], it’s an open forum, a real luxury.”

Cagley is not shy about sharing his skills. He recognizes importance of introducing his knowledge to a new generation of fans and expand the interest in the art of DJing.

“I teach to give back to the younger generation,” Cagley said. “I just want to share the art of DJing. Why should I be afraid of sharing? We make our money on our own merits. I understand DJs compete, but if we have [the mindset] of competing with ourselves, it’ll take care of itself.”

Several of his students have graduated from the program and have been offered internships at Destiny Entertainment. Those select students who stick through the unpaid internship and excel become part of the company and join Cagley under the bright lights of popular nightclubs.

Cagley finished touring in South America last year. This year, he is slated to tour in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and Thailand, but he is adamant in running his enterprise at home in Davis.

“We run everything out of our house,” Cagley said. “It’s a family business. Everyone who works here has been on family vacations. We’re family here.”

Cagley said there are many opportunities for students to pursue their dreams and create their own businesses that are tailored to their passions – as long as they are willing to work hard and take the first step toward their destinies.

“You have to think big,” Cagley said. “Don’t think small. Life will always present you with something.”

Classes at Groove University begin Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The program costs $70. To enroll in the program for Summer Session I, pick up a course catalog for the Experimental College or go to asucd.ucdavis.edu/experimentalcollege.

JACKSON YAN can be reached at arts@californiaaggie.com.


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