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Electronic

Millsian scholar

Where tomorrow's DJs get rhythm

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Published 5/23/2007

At the Detroit Youth Foundation on Woodward Avenue in the New Center area, a lifelong Mills fan inspires young Detroiters to create electronic music at an after-school program.

DJ, producer and academic Alvin Hill (aka Munk) used to gaze down onto Mills from the upper level of the Nectarine Ballroom in the 1980s, soaking up the DJ's movements and sonic choices.

Hill remembers: "Two turntables and a drum machine, tapping and turning on knobs, going through records at a pace where he needed to hand them off to his assistant, scratching and integrating the drum machine as if they were all part of one night-long song," "It was mind opening and kept me on the dance floor when I could tear myself away from watching."

Now Hill believes that "injecting and expanding these ideas into the future" is essential for a young mind to grow. "I believe that it is important to give back and help children keep that same open mind," he says. "It is a blessing as an artist to work with young children. For as you give to them, they give back to you, tenfold. I feel, on a selfish level, that it makes me even more creative in my own work."

Despite using similar computer technologies, Millsian techno is far from these students' minds. During a recent tour of the DYF facilities, Hill reported that most want to produce beats for rap music. But in a city whose public schools have cut music programs, urban radio no longer mixes genres in the free-form way it did in the 1980s (or even 1990s), and mixed-youth rave culture has come to a grinding halt. Youthville, with its cutting-edge electronic equipment and its classically trained '80s club-kid teacher, might be Detroit's best chance for keeping the question of a 21st century Wizard open.

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