Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Aspiring female DJs apply here

New women-only school hoping to make musical waves in Toronto's DJ scene

JJ Rock Bryan is the founder of She's a DJ Academy.
Jeannine “JJ Rock” Bryan’s new venture, She’s a DJ Academy, doesn’t just offer DJ classes for women: it puts emphasis on girl power.
 
But not the femme fatale variety – Bryan’s drive to boost female confidence behind the booth doesn’t involve teaching women to look like sexpots. It’s all about skill.
 
“I’m not a cleavage-out type, and I’m okay with that,” Bryan says. “Female DJs are sexual targets, and my battle has been tough, but I won’t settle. I consider DJing work.”
 
Bryan’s mission is to provide women with the tools necessary to become leaders in the music industry. She wants women to be self-assured behind turntables, especially since the DJ world tends to be saturated with men. 
 
“I want to pass down my skills,” she says. “And I don’t want women to feel intimidated. Confidence [as a female DJ] is particularly important because of the environment.”
 
Bryan, 33, was born in the UK and came to Canada in 1989. She has wanted to open a DJ school since 2004, though she opted to hone her talent before taking the plunge.
 
“Now is a good time,” she says. “There are more women in the music industry. But there aren’t enough of us; a healthy balance is what I want.”
 
The first time Bryan DJed was in 1998, when she was in Grade 12. She started spinning at residence pubs in university, and by the time she graduated, she was working at clubs on Church and Richmond streets in Toronto. In 2004, she made a splash in college radio, hitting the airwaves on CKLN, 88.1FM, with Canada’s only all-female hip-hop radio show.
 
As Bryan’s popularity grew, she got the opportunity to open for world-renowned artists such as Q-Tip and Ray J and supplemented her Toronto gigs with stints in Montreal, Washington and the UK.
 
Bryan already instructs kids at the Boys and Girls Club – which she says is especially enjoyable because they are less self-conscious than adults and tend to be more open.
 
As a lesbian, she says she is determined to create an inclusive environment at She’s a DJ Academy, and although she may eventually open the doors to men, for the time being she will limit her courses to women and youth.
 
She’s a DJ Academy is in a category all its own. As far as Bryan knows, it’s the only school in Toronto that is specifically for women. That, combined with her competitive edge, is sure to make some waves among music fans across the GTA.
 
Anika Jarrett, owner of the new Queen East vintage clothing shop Rebel Junction, has plans to host Bryan at her store, which doubles as a queer community space.
 
Jarrett has known Bryan for 10 years. They both studied at Carleton University, and because they’re both drawn to creative and strong-willed women, they have become fast friends. Jarrett is also a musician and teaches guitar lessons to women of colour at her store.
 
“I got JJ into the gay clubs here,” Jarrett says. “She is an amazing person and has always been into giving back. She is community oriented.” Jarrett appreciates Bryan’s versatile style and says she’s known for being able to turn up the heat at parties.
 
As for Bryan’s teaching, as far as Jarrett is concerned, the academy will be a success.
“JJ is the torchbearer and got the ball rolling. It’s gonna take off.”
 
The Deets:
She’s A DJ Academy
50 percent off DJ lessons until March 31
shesadjacademy.com