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hip hop h o o r ay

At the top of Church Street, just above the Peace and Justice Center, is a little place called The Lab. Opened in the summer of 2007 by Zack “ZJ the DJ” Johnson and Derrick Brown, The Lab is Vermont’s Turntablism and Urban music production center. In other words, it’s a school for hip-hop. In a state where, for many, Phish lyrics might as well be scripture and Ben and Jerry could be the 13th and 14th disciples, it’s somewhat of a shock to know that there’s a school for hip-hop music perched atop the speakers pumping classical music on upper Church Street. But, if you’re truly in the groove, you’d know that this genre of music is rapidly making its way around our heady city – and that, for a number of locals, turntablism has taken the place of after school piano lessons. In Burlington, hip-hop music is not dead. In fact, it’s growing. Since opening in 2007, The Lab has seen over 100 “graduates.” Students, ages 11 to 35, sign up for either DJ or music production lessons, both of which are taught over a six-week period. Also the co-owner of Lotus Entertainment – a local music booking agency -- Johnson, 27, teaches the DJ lessons, where students learn everything from the history of turntablism (the art of mixing and manipulating beats and sounds on a turntable) to scratching and trick mixing. The Lab also offers lessons in music production, taught by Brown. Students learn the basics of creating music with Midi controllers and other software instruments. Johnson, who has been DJing for over 10 years, said that it was actually a Tom Jones record that got him hooked. After turning 16, he saved up all of his money to buy a turntable instead of a car. “It’s all about experimenting with music,” Johnson said. “The disc is jockeying me. I’m taking other people’s music and mixing it to how I want it to sound.” But, why is there a place for such a school in Burlington? George Mihaly, 22, who interned at The Lab this spring, suggests that the school’s growing success comes from the education that it provides locals about this particular genre of music, in addition to a constantly evolving inter-

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